One Big Gentle Man

May 13, 2008

At the NCAA women's lacrosse game (Hoyas vs. Duke) last Sunday on campus, two of the men's basketball soon-to-be-graduates, Jon Wallace and Tyler Crawford, stood next to the field watching the Hoya women perform. Jeff Green, back from his first season in the NBA and about to begin taking courses toward his degree, was also on hand. Hard-to-miss Roy Hibbert was not in sight. It will be another month until this latest of talented Hoya centers learns the details of his future in professional basketball via the NBA draft.

In the fall of 1975, a 6-11, 240 lb. freshman arrived on campus, recruited out of then powerhouse St. Anthony's in the District of Columbia, the high school coaching alma mater of head coach John Thompson. Tom Scates '79 was a mountain of a man and was soon dubbed Mount Scates by admiring Hoya fans.




Though he preceded Georgetown's better-known big men and use of the Big Man U label, he was a visible link in the line-up of big centers to play for the Hoyas, having followed fellow St. Anthony's grad and star center Merlin Wilson to the Hilltop. Tom was not only tall but well-developed, or as they say now, "cut."

When he enrolled, it was still early in Coach Thompson's tenure and the program was evolving toward greater distinction. Along with big Ed Spriggs '82, Tom was one-half of the two-headed center that helped Craig "Big Sky" Shelton and John "Bay-Bay" Duren take the Hoyas to the ECAC South championship in 1979. That achievement led Georgetown to its fourth NCAA tournament berth during the final year of competition prior to the formation of the Big East Conference.

With his trademark scowling facial expression, Tom was best known for his shot-blocking ability. He was an intimidating force on the defensive end. Because of his presence, very few teams chose to drive to the hoop against the Hoya zone defense. However, most never knew that underneath this sizable fierce-looking Hoya captain was such a soft-spoken gentle man.

During this past Mother's Day weekend, Tom's big heart quietly gave out and he passed away while on the job. A supervisor at Comcast Cable where Tom worked wrote to me to tell me that he talked about his years at Georgetown every day and that he just loved his time on the Hilltop.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, May 17 at Mt. Jezrell Baptist Church, 317 N. Payne Street, Alexandria, Virginia:
                     viewing    11 am - noon
                     service    12 noon.

In addition, a memorial service will be held at Tom's place of employment on Wednesday, May 21 at 1 pm at the Comcast building, 508 D South Van Doren Street, Alexandria, Virginia. All are welcome to attend.

Requiescat in pace.





PJM - View From The Hilltop



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