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Make Georgetown Kente Again: The Saga of Georgetown's Failed New Court Design Contest

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One year ago, Georgetown asked for and received input from the fans for a new court design for the Hoyas court at the Verizon Center. But what happened to it?

Today is June 9, 2016.  My guess is that it is just another unremarkable date on your calendar, perhaps one in which your biggest decision will be what you’re doing to waste time at your desk at work or, more importantly, what you’re having for lunch.  Today, however, is important to me because it represents the one-year anniversary of the end of a contest that Georgetown held last offseason to select a new court design for the Hoyas to play on at the Verizon Center.  A contest, which, despite the efforts of many to improve Georgetown’s court, ended in failure.

First, some background.  The contest to design Georgetown’s new court was certainly well-intentioned.  Spearheaded by the Athletics Department, the contest was welcomed with open arms by Hoyas fans and I had hoped would go a long way in lessening the existing disconnect between the fanbase and whatever it is that occurs behind the walls of McDonough Gym, a place so secretive that some that cover the team refer to it as the Kremlin. You know, lovingly, of course.  Like a loving Kremlin.

This contest not only sparked a rare connection between the McDonough brass and the Georgetown fanbase, it brought global attention. With the two-month-long contest, there were national headlines and features in well-known media outlets such as the Washington Post, Comcast SportsNet, The Sporting News, NBC Sports and several national blogs. In fact, in the week after June 9th, 2015, at least two dozen articles were written and published about the contest and winning design! That type of marketing is priceless, especially in the off-season when that amount of buzz is rarer than a unicorn. Georgetown Athletics Marketing guru Chris Grosse deserves a ton of credit promoting the contest, and, to be honest, he's probably the best thing to happen to the Georgetown program in the last few years.  But back to the issue at hand...

The contest got the creative juices flowing in a number of Hoyas fans and the casualhoya@gmail.com inbox was rapidly filled with some really great designs.  For months we gathered submissions from Hoyas fans near and far and vetted them on this very site so people could comment about individual court designs that they wanted to see become a reality.  Here are just a sample of some of the unique entries:

The designer of three of these entries, blog name "whipple", was then contacted by a member of the Georgetown athletics community that shall be nameless, who really liked the kente lane and asked whipple if he could tinker with the above designs (e.g., lighten the key and alter baseline and Big East logo colors) to ultimately produce an entry that the Athletics Department would roll with.

Lo and behold, on June 9, 2015, the winner was announced and we ended up with this selection:


Though the reaction to the above was met by a rather "meh" response by the fanbase especially in the face of all of other out of the box options, it did incorporate the one thing that most Hoyas fans really wanted to see on the court: the kente cloth pattern in the paint.

For those unaware, the kente cloth pattern became part of the Hoyas uniforms in the Allen Iverson era and remains unique and, for lack of a better word, awesome.  From this article on the backstory between Georgetown and the kente cloth pattern:

"In the basketball swag world, we felt as though we had the best jerseys in the NCAA," said former Hoyas forward Jerome Williams over the phone from Las Vegas, where he runs the JYD Project and works as the Director of Player Development for Findlay Prep’s basketball team. "It meant something to wear that Georgetown jersey."

Williams and his teammates – among them Iverson, Othella Harrington and Jahidi White – came to Georgetown to carry on the legacy laid out before them by the likes of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikemo Mutombo. Maintaining a winning tradition was one aspect of that. But they also put a twist on that with their on-court style.

"We were the first team to rock the Jordan patent leathers and we had these new uniforms," Williams said. "It was our own identity. It was about the Georgetown brand and what it represented … We definitely had a serious swag about us."

The patterned fabric made of interwoven cloth strips was originally worn by West African royalty as a sign of wealth and authority, kente cloth came to represent West African strip cloth in general.

When Thompson had Nike add a kente cloth-like pattern to the Hoyas’ uniforms prior to the 1994-1995 season (Williams’ first at Georgetown), it was an overt acknowledgement of who they were: black America’s favorite college basketball team.

"We tried to treat it [the pattern] to be fashionable as well as derivative and be careful of the idea of meanings behind it," then-Nike designer Ken Black told The Washington Times in 1994. The Hoyas also donned warm-ups with a black-and-white kente pattern all over it."

Kente, kente, kente.

We were getting our kente!

A now relatively excited fanbase awaited the big reveal of Georgetown’s new court at the first home game last season against Radford (WHICH WE LOST BY THE WAY). However, the court, at least to a casual viewer watching at home, looked like the exact same one from last season but with the word "Georgetown" on the baselines now in a wood color.

Check it out:


Hoyas home court in 2014-15 (in a length of the court GIF so you can see the whole thing):



Hoyas "new" home floor in 2015-16:

Wait, what? What the heck is going on here?

Why are we now suddenly a deeper shade of blue that's borderline purple!  

And hey, WHERE'S THE KENTE?


In response to a tweet regarding same that I made while watching the Monmouth game (WHICH WE ALSO LOST BY THE WAY) came this:


And here, another pic that was sent to me from a fan on the floor:


So...it's there, but can anyone actually see it? Judge for yourself. This is what our games looked like on TV.



Tough to see, no?  But hey, those TV cameras are far away!

OK, but this isn't:

Kente, kente, kente.

We didn't get our kente.

Now, I know what you're thinking: We live in a world without Prince and without Muhammad Ali.  We live in a world in which gorillas are being shot at zoos and one in which the Hoyas have won a single NCAA Tournament game in nearly a damn decade.  Hey blog guy, don’t you have anything better to do than complain about the paint job on Georgetown’s court at the Verizon Center? A court that is used like fifteen times each year?

I see what you’re getting at, and while the answer is certainly "no", there's just something that really bugs me about what Georgetown did here.  And I use the word "Georgetown" loosely, as I really don’t know who ultimately made the decision to consent to the awful paint job with the muted kente cloth pattern in the paint, or perhaps worse, simply turned a blind eye to the finished product without demanding it be done correctly.

What it comes down to is pretty simple:

1) The school asked the fans for new designs;

2) The fans produced a design that was chosen by the school; and

3) The court that the Hoyas play on is not the design that was chosen.


So, what happened?

I have no idea, and ultimately, this isn’t a witch hunt or about pointing fingers in order to find out who is responsible for the paint job.  The goal is to get the court painted properly so that Georgetown fans can have their voices heard.


Here's contest winner "whipple":

Overall, the Verizon Center court looked adequate this year, and I'll love the Hoyas no matter what, but I think everyone will agree that the design could have been painted better. The implemented paint job was clearly lacking the design's Pièce De Résistance—i.e., the kente-cloth patterned lane area.

Participating in and winning the contest was a tremendous experience last off-season, however, there is no denying that my fairly simple court design only won because of kente-supporters in the blogs and message boards. I had to answer dozens of questions this season about the ostensibly navy-blue lane and confirm that, yes, up close the designs are really visible. Whether the too-subtle kente pattern was due to a combination of the darker navy blue color, the shiny court lacquer, and/or the intense arena lighting—all of which were reasonably foreseeable issues for the painters--I don't know if the paint job could have been fixed mid-season.

However, on the off-chance that the University and the Athletic Administration are waiting for fan- and alumni-outcry before remedying the design (or incorporating kente on the Thompson Athletic Center courts), I will proudly join in the casual chant to #MakeGeorgetownKenteAgain!

Considering the buzz of the court design contest, let's hypothesize what would have happened if the kente design was able to be seen by the naked eye. With one good preseason photo of the lane, perhaps another 20-plus articles would have been written about Georgetown basketball. Perhaps Georgetown or the Washington Post brings together legends of yore such as Othella Harrington and Jerome Williams to do a photo-op and feature on the importance of the kente to the team, tradition, and the DC community.

Or what if the kente was actually apparent on the HDTV of the average channel surfer? Perhaps Fox Sports gains more viewership or a 5-star recruit retweets a gif involving the kente pattern on the court to all of his fellow AAU teammates or friends that might consider coming to Georgetown. While these scenarios may be "what ifs," it's ridiculous to think the chance for extra exposure wasn't there--and more importantly...still is there!

....................................

The 2016-17 season starts in roughly 155 days.  For a school that has seen men’s basketball attendance drop precipitously over the last few years yet still asks alums to come out of pocket for various on-campus endeavors such as the new Thompson Center set to open this Fall, I would think that a simple gesture to the fans like painting the court to properly reflect the kente cloth pattern would be an easy fix.


And, since it would be very easy for the Athletics Department to gloss over this post, a reminder to #MakeGeorgetownKenteAgain will be tweeted from me (@CasualHoya) to the powers that be at the Georgetown basketball program (@GeorgetownHoyas) each and every day until the court is painted correctly or we receive some indication that a fix is underway.

Otherwise, what was the point of the contest to begin with?

Kente, kente, kente.

All we want is our kente.

Can we please have our kente?