A Banner Night in Charleston



Nov. 24, 2010

            When Rob, Drew, and I tell the story years from now, we’ll probably embellish a bit.   We’ll say that on our sixth annual road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to a Hoyas away game, we stole a tournament banner right out from underneath the noses of a wave of vicious security personnel armed with shotguns and Dobermans.  Just to make ourselves seem a bit more cool.


            The truth is that the security guards helped us take it down.  In our defense, it was attached pretty well and none of us had scissors or a knife.  I think the security guards figured that giving us the gigantic banner displaying an updated Charleston Classic bracket was actually the fastest way to get us out of the building so they could lock up and go home.  They were probably right; our road trip crew was definitely soaking in the positive vibes even after the team had finished celebrating with the tournament trophy on the court.


            On second thought, we won’t need to embellish, as the truth is pretty cool in itself.  After securing the banner and a quick side trip to a quick-e-mart for a marker, we waited by the bus for the team to depart the arena.


            Markel Starks was the first player we saw.  He came over with a gigantic smile and happily signed, but when we asked if he’d fill in “HOYAS” in the winner’s spot on the bracket, he asked us, “Don’t you want Chris to do that?  He was MVP.” 


            Markel had a good point.


            One by one the players exited and signed (except for a couple, who must’ve already been on the bus).  Chris signed and wrote in “HOYAS” in the winner’s spot.  Austin was still carrying the trophy.  Most interesting, though was the fact that (aside from some good-natured complaining that Julian took the best spot on the banner to sign) you can tell this is a Team, in that sort of sense that makes you know that you should capitalize the word.


            In fact, I had been planning this post all week and the blog kept changing in my mind.  On Thursday, the focus was going to be on Austin Freeman’s dominance.  He wasn’t necessarily the player with the best numbers against Coastal Carolina, but it really was a man against boys.  When he chose to, he simply dominated.  No one could stop him, either from outside or inside.  At that point, my mind was made up:  Austin would carry us this year.


            On Friday, it was a different story.  Against a better-than-most-people-think Wofford team, the Hoyas generally kept a comfortable lead by pounding the ball inside (in sharp contrast to the three-fest that was the Coastal game).  But every time that Wofford challenged, it was Chris Wright who responded.  He simply controlled the game.  Add in twelve assists from the first game, and the story was that this team would be carried by Chris Wright.


            But after the NC State game, it’s clear this team is deeper and is more of a complete team that most of the fanbase had supposed, including myself.  It’s not just the burgeoning emergence of Henry Sims – whose snazzy passing and active defense reminded my friend Rob of Jeff Green in Sunday’s game. 


It’s not just the fact that we go five deep in quality at the guard position at minimum.  Despite the fact that our big three are all guards, there’s not a huge drop-off when players like Markel Starks and Vee Sanford enter the game.


It’s not just that Hollis Thompson is obviously transitioning from a shooter to an all-around scorer.  He slashed to the hoop several times during the tournament, showing a new part of his game.


It’s not just the energy and rebounds that Nate Lubick adds.  It’s not just the defensive intensity that seems a step up and the higher pressure defense.  It’s all of those things and more. 


            And that’s why we were standing around at 10 pm or so waiting for John Thompson III to come out and sign a “stolen” banner.  He was smiling and gracious, thanked us for our support and signed. 


            We’re hoping we get to do this exact sort of thing again fairly soon.  Maybe, say, once in March and again a month later?  See you there.  We’re bringing scissors next time.






Alan Greene (MSB ’99)

Drew McGowan (MSB ’95)

Rob Lartigue (COL ’96)


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