Yesterday, the day I had looked forward to ever since I received my acceptance letter to Georgetown finally arrived: the day of the Hoyas' men's basketball season opener. I rolled out of bed around 10 A.M., washed the sleep out of my eyes, ate my Chipotle leftovers from the previous night, and threw on my "We Are Georgetown" t-shirt, ready to make the first of many trips to the Verizon Center. After a brief debate about which form of transportation would be most effective, my friends and I eventually decided that splitting a cab would be the best way to get there. We found an open cab outside the Georgetown Hotel and started the journey. When we were about halfway to the arena, our cab driver joined our basketball decision in order to decry Georgetown's weak out-of-conference schedule. A few minutes later, we discovered that this random D.C. cab driver was actually Shaka Smart's uncle. He told us about how Smart had the opportunity to go to some of the best academic schools in the nation, but chose Kenyon College in order to play basketball and learn the coaching profession. You never know who you'll run into in Washington, D.C.
We arrived at the Verizon Center around 11 A.M., and were surprised to find that there were seats available in the second row of the student section. Apparently, college students aren't that active on Saturday morning. Who knew? After we reserved our seats with our sweatshirts, we spent approximately 15 minutes searching for a water fountain. The Verizon Center makes a concerted effort to hide water fountains, in order to incentivize people to spend $4.50 for a bottle of water, but being college kids, we were not going to be denied in our search for free hydration. After finally finding a fountain, we headed back to our seats and took in Georgetown's three separate warm-up sessions. We marveled at Aaron Bowen and Jabril Trawick's athleticism, watched as D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera did not miss a single shot (at least not when I was watching him) and admired the immense size of the Joshington Monument.
Finally, the starting lineups were announced. As the Terriers were introduced, the student section turned our backs to the court and chanted, "Let's Go Hoyas", because who cares about St. Francis of Brooklyn? Finally, the Hoyas' starting five was announced, and I was thrilled to see that L.J. Peak was starting in his first game as a Hoya. This was partly because I believe that L.J. is the best fit for the starting lineup, but also because I won a bet with my friend, who had predicted that Aaron Bowen would start.
During the game, the crowd was overflowing with delusion. With every L.J. Peak bucket, the admiration of Peak's raw ability grew. By the end of the first half, the general consensus in the student section was that he was going to score 20 points per game this season and leave for the NBA Draft. Paul White was going to be the next Otto Porter, and Tre Campbell was the next Kemba Walker. As Peak, Bowen, and Trawick repeatedly attacked the rim with great success, visions of a deep NCAA tournament run were running through many of our minds.
However, the crowd reaction was not all positive. Mikael Hopkins was ridiculed as his dunk attempts were repeatedly blocked by St. Francis's undersized big men. Josh Smith's inability to run the floor, box out, or avoid lazy fouls were probably the biggest disappointment for me, as I had heard for weeks that Smith was in great shape, and ready to dominate. In addition, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's shot was not dropping, as he only scored eight points, when we had been conditioned to expect 20 per game from him.
The focus of the student section was not entirely focused on the on-court action. Throughout the game, the kids in the first few rows were chirping at the St. Francis bench, which was clearly not used to playing in a venue like the Verizon Center. The Terriers' Head Coach, Glenn Braica, bears a remarkable likeness with Martin Scorsese, which was repeatedly noted by the Hoya fans. In addition, each St. Francis bench player received personalized heckles, thanks to the Georgetown fan section Hoya Blue, which had handed out information sheets on St. Francis's players. Freshman guard Gunnar Olafsson heard joke after joke about his Icelandic heritage, and many of the St. Francis players were clearly listening to what the student section had to say, occasionally holding back laughter at some of the more crude comments. At one point late in the game, as the clock wound down, the crowd broke out in a "CAP-RI-O" chant, to the amusement of the former Hoya walk-on turned scholarship player. In addition, former Hoya Otto Porter received an enthusiastic standing ovation when he was pictured on the big screen.
During the game, a Georgetown student had the opportunity to win free books for a year at Georgetown's wildly overpriced bookstore by making a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer, and a half-court shot within 30 seconds. After he buried the layup, free-throw, and three-pointer on his first attempts, the student section got to its feet in excitement, only to watch several consecutive half-court attempts fall several feet short. However, by far the best entertainment was the halftime show, during which a group of kids performed some tricks and stunts involving basketballs that truly defied logic and physics. The crowd was truly amazed as the kids spun basketballs on their fingers, legs, heads, and, on a couple of occasions, chins and noses. In addition, they performed absurd stunts, including one-armed pushups and somersaults, while keeping basketballs spinning on their fingers. On the whole, the in-game entertainment was very good for a collegiate sporting event.
While the game wasn't perfect, what was important was that we got to sing the fight song after a Hoyas' win, the first of hundreds that I will get to enjoy as a member of the Georgetown community. Although Josh Smith may not be in shape, and although Mikael Hopkins may never figure out how to make a layup, there is absolutely no reason, at this point in the season, why we can't make the Final Four this year.
After all, what are sports without hope?