The Van Buren Boys

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Basketball on the Hilltop

A topic that Jester touched upon earlier has been further expounded upon by Mike Hume in the Falls Church News-Press: the impact of winning basketball on the students of Georgetown. When the VB Boys entered the Hilltop in 1996, the men's basketball team was like an NBA squad appended on to the student body. I recall a student noting how, in the year pior when the Hoyas went to the Elite Eight, there wasn't all that much excitement among the students. It is clear that this cannot be said of the support for the Hoyas under JTIII. Students ticket sales are at an all-time high and spontaneous happenings, like the second incarnation of Thompson Town in front of McDonough are a testament to the new found student spirit. While much of the apathy students felt for Georgetown basketball can be linked to a presumption that the Hoyas would and should always win a lot of basketball games and anything less was uninteresting and unworthy of support, I think a great deal of it can be attributed to the lack of interaction between the players and the students, as well as the coaches and the students. The recent events of Thompson Town illustrate the shift in culture beautifully and show that JTIII and his team are building a foundation for lasting success. Just imagine what an on-campus area would do.....

School Spirit Makes March a Time to Remember at GU

During the Craig Esherick Era of the early millennium, The Hilltop was virtually bereft of school spirit. . . . Student spirit organizations tried in vain to rally their classmates, but with limited results. Now, almost three years after John Thompson III took over the program, comes this scene from McDonough Gymnasium: With Sweet 16 tickets for the East Rutherford, N.J. bracket being made available Tuesday morning (okay, so I guess you can’t entirely forget about the Sweet 16 appearance), approximately 90 students crowded in to camp out by McDonough Monday night. Over the course of the evening, juniors Tyler Crawford and Jeff Green (guess you can’t completely forget about the Big East Player of the Year either) stopped by to thank the students for their support and posed with them for photos. A little while later, Crawford returned with Patrick Ewing Jr., who joined several students for a game of Horse on the courts outside the gym. Rumor has it he even resisted throwing down one of his signature reverse baseline jams, sticking to jump shots instead. Tuesday morning the students rose to the sight of John Thompson III hauling in a load of 150 McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Better than waking up with that creepy Burger King in your bed, if you ask me. Georgetown players interacting with students during the basketball season? A Naismith Coach of the Year finalist turned drive-thru delivery man? So much for Hoya Paranoia. “They’re still campus celebrities. When you see a basketball player, heads turn. But you see them eating at Leo’s [Georgetown’s main cafeteria] with non-basketball players and at parties with non-basketball players,” says Bailey Heaps, the Senior Sports Editor of The Hoya, Georgetown’s newspaper of record, who was in attendance at McDonough. “Stuff like Monday night, it really fits with the character of guys like Jeff and Tyler.”
. . . .

This isn’t to say that the Pre-JTIII Hoyas was “the wrong way,” but this team is much more media and fan friendly than some of the teams of yesteryear. These aren’t your father’s Hoyas. These aren’t even your older sibling’s Hoyas. And that openness, that unity this team is creating on Georgetown’s campus, is one of the things that makes college athletics so pleasurable to saps like me. From the minute Thompson III took the position, there was a resurrected sense of community. He rekindled the memory of the “We Are Georgetown” chant at his inaugural press conference, then led the cheer himself, as he cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden after the Big East Tournament. (Okay, so I guess you can’t entirely forget about that either.)
The latter scene played out in front of a boisterous contingent of Georgetown students and fans that traveled to New York for the tournament. There was a time not too long ago when the majority of students that fashioned themselves as basketball fans wouldn’t even make the manageable trek to then-MCI Center. Now, in analyzing the crowd factor at the East Rutherford Regional, states Georgetown boasts “one of the more dedicated student sections in the country, so the Hoyas should have an advantage in fan support.” To those that have followed the program over recent years, it is astounding to see those words in print. Credit undoubtedly goes to renewed (and infinitely more effective) efforts by the university’s spirit organizations and other promotional efforts, but the main acclaim must be handed to John Thompson III.


Jester of Magellan said...

Great article. I think that there are a number of factors that have contributed to the resurrection of a dedicated fan culture among GU's students. In addition to the factors discussed in this piece, I think you also need to consider the role that Hoya Blue (founded in 1997) has played in organizing student support. But I think the most important thing is the players that are part of the program. Having individuals who appreciate the student body (like Jeff, Tyler, and Pat) goes a long way to making the student body appreciate them. That simply wasn't the situation "back in the day."

Italian Stallion said...

You mean AI didn't express his appreciate for the fan support as he left campus in his new pimped out mercedes?

I agree, this team is not the Van Buren Boy's era Hoyas when the basketball team operated under more secrecy than the CIA.