TOP SCORERS: Brandon Bowman (12.1 ppg), Jeff Green (12.0), Roy Hibbert (11.2)
TOP REBOUNDERS: Green (6.4), Hibbert (5.9), Bowman (5.6)
Washington, D.C., is college basketball's hotbed of 2005-06, with the nation's No. 7 team (George Washington) and No. 17 team (Georgetown) leading a local hoops renaissance. SI.com's Luke Winn visited the nation's capital for two days last week with the Colonials and Hoyas. (For part I, click here).
PART II: THE RETURN OF GEORGETOWN
The most authentically Georgetownian mode of fan transportation? The school bus. And that is why I'm riding in the second row of this yellow boat through the streets of D.C. at 7:50 p.m. last Thursday. Nondescript save for the number "425" on the side, its seats are filled to capacity with one driver, one journalist (me) and row after row of GU students on their way to the MCI Center for a 9 p.m. tipoff against St. John's.
The 20-minute trip, which begins alongside the tennis courts on Georgetown's hilltop campus and drops off outside the Washington Wizards', Capitals' and Hoyas' home in Chinatown, is required because GU has no suitable on-campus arena for Big East men's basketball. (The 2,500-seat McDonough Center would be paltry even in the Atlantic 10.) A No. 17 ranking and a 17-5 record -- the tangible evidence of second-year coach John Thompson III's astonishing turnaround -- wards off apathy that could easily thin the ranks that arrive on a fleet of these yellow rigs for each home game. In a season when Georgetown has already beaten two teams in the top 10 (Duke and Pittsburgh) at home, the kids are more than willing to endure the ride.
Senior Nihal Shah, who is sitting across the aisle from me, says that on the buses' return voyage from the Jan. 21 upset of then-No. 1 Duke, "there were cars with Georgetown fans pulling up alongside us, just screaming along with the students." Tonight, however, the passengers are anything but rowdy; the Johnnies, at 13th place in the Big East, are hardly viewed as a threat. As our caravan crawls east, downhill on Prospect Street, then over to M Street and eventually Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving the picturesque district of Georgetown behind, conversations about internships and grad-school applications -- this is, mind you, also a top 25 academic university -- are more prevalent than hoops chatter.
We roll to a stop near the MCI Center box office on F Street; Chinatown seems oblivious to the event at hand, the lone clue being scores of kids in "We Are Georgetown" shirts (and one neutral observer) pouring out of the bus. A homeless man accosts me for a "donation" but soon diverts his attention to a group of deboarding coeds. "Hey, it's Charlie's Angels," he says, and they do not look amused.
Jeff Green's mom, Felicia (right), with his aunt, Vivian Stallion, both wearing Green's number 32 jersey.
Sophomore Jeff Green leads the Hoyas with 6.4 rebounds per game and is their second-leading scorer.
In the final 20 minutes before game time, the riled-up Georgetown student section, Hoya Blue, is pointing toward the players' family section and chanting: "Jeff Green's Mom! Jeff Green's Mom!"
It's no taunt; Felicia Akingube, the mother of the Hoyas' second-leading scorer, obliges the gray-shirted masses with few hearty waves and a wide grin. She is, one student explains, "a minor celebrity" at the MCI Center.
This is due in part to the achievements of her 6-foot-9 son; the locally raised (in Hyattsville, Md.) Big East co-Freshman of the Year in 2004-05, Jeff guided Georgetown in the Duke upset with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. But Felicia's cult-celeb status is mostly something that she has earned: She is at every home game, wearing the same sea-blue, number 32 Hoyas jersey, with "Green" custom-stitched onto the back. She's an animated fan, and in Jeff's first year, she says, "I had my sign that said, 'No. 32, My Son, Jeff Green.' I started getting my props ever since then."
Props, and her own song, an "underground" parody of the Fountains of Wayne hit "Stacy's Mom" written by a Hoya Blue member. The chorus:
Jeff Green's mom has got it goin' on Jeff's all we want and we've waited for so long As anyone can see she's the Fan of the Game to me I know it might be wrong but I'm in love with Jeff Green's mom ...
Kurt Mullbauer, president of Hoya Blue.
Kurt Muhlbauer has a far more extreme game-day uniform than Green's mom: He dons a blue wig and blue-and-silver facepaint. Muhlbauer, a junior from Long Island, is a front-row occupant of the Hoya Blue section and also the group's president; he had been at the arena for two hours by the time I arrived, distributing foam fingers and cheer sheets ("When Coach Thompson is introduced," tonight's reads, "Chant JT III and put up 3 fingers"). Muhlbauer had the idea, last season, to put the giant Roman numeral III on the back of the section's T-shirts, which in Thompson's 19-12 debut season featured the slogan, "Some have forgotten. We will remind them." This year the shirts were updated to "Respect is back, fear is next."
Muhlbauer arrived as a freshman in '03-04, Craig Esherick's miserable final season, a 13-15 campaign that was the school's worst in 30 years. Muhlbauer says that back then, "we were having trouble filling the lower bowl [at the tri-level MCI Center]. It's completely changed since JT III got here. The excitement is back."
The butts are back in the seats, as the students fill the sections behind both baskets against St. John's, but the game is a bore -- a 64-41 Hoyas win in which junior guard Brandon Bowman and sophomore center Roy Hibbert combine to shoot 12-of-16 from the field for 30 points while GU's long-armed, mostly matchup-zone defense holds the Red Storm to just 32.7 percent from the field.