It took three years, but Karl Hobbs certainly has the George Washington Colonials back on the basketball map. Under Mike Jarvis, GW was an Atlantic 10 power through the 1990s but the program slid in recent years. Hobbs, a top recruiter at Connecticut, has rebuilt the program by attracting some outstanding talent to Washington, D.C. In fact, the Colonials may have the best set of young players in the conference, and that makes the program a strong contender in the A-10 West this season.
Had it not been for a mid-season slide last year, Hobbs could've led his team to the NCAA tournament. The Colonials began the year 6-2, but then lost four straight, including games at Texas and Saint Joseph's. An 11-1 overall home record helped the squad to an 11-5 conference record, good for second place in the West -- ahead of eventual NCAA tournament teams Xavier and Richmond. The Colonials' 18-12 final mark was a six-win improvement over the 2003 campaign.
"Last year we came together and proved we can play with anybody in the conference," said Hobbs. "This year we think we can be as good as anyone."
While underclassmen remain the key to the season, a senior will lead the way. T.J. Thompson has been the Colonials' starting point guard since he arrived on campus. Thompson teams with strong, aggressive Carl Elliott to give Hobbs two good ball-handlers who can score. Elliott and J.R. Pinnock both were chosen to the A-10 all-rookie team; Pinnock came off the bench and injected some athleticism and excitement into the Colonial attack.
Hobbs has plenty of depth behind those three guards. Senior Lafonte Johnson can help at the point, while sophomore Ricky Lucas and explosive freshman Maureece Rice can play off the ball. Rice promises big things after breaking Wilt Chamberlain's high school scoring record in Philadelphia.
Up front, Hobbs named Mike Hall and Omar Williams the team's MVPs a year ago. Hall is one of the A-10's most versatile players, offering scoring (10.3) and rebounding (7.8). He also shot 51.6 percent from the field. Williams is a long (6-foot-9) forward who rebounds, blocks shots and is a stout defender.
Hobbs will also look to another junior, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, for more frontcourt depth. He also has 6-11, 254-pound Jaaron Greene ready after missing most of his freshman year with a thumb injury.