April 21, 2012
WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University Hoya Hoop Club Banquet is a night for reflection, and it was definitely the case for a pair of seniors honored on Thursday night as nearly 300 people gathered in the Leavey Center to honor the Hoyas, highlighted by Jason Clark (Arlington, Va./Bishop O'Connell) and Henry Sims (Baltimore, Md./Mount St Joseph).
It was an emotional evening for the seniors, and for junior forward Hollis Thompson (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola), who is leaving school this season to pursue professional opportunities. All three had a chance to address the crowd from the dais after receiving their class awards and each of them spoke from their heart, expressing their love and gratitude to the fans, the coaches and staff and, most of all, to their mothers.
At one point, as basketball staff member Kevin Broadus was introducing each player, Sims and Clark led a standing ovation in recognition of the support that trio received from their families.
The evening started at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour, before dinner at 7 p.m. After a welcome from Hoya Hoop Club President Alfred Bozzo, Jr. (B'85), the dais was handed over to Joe Lonardo (C'69), who served as the master of ceremonies. During the invocation, Fr. William McFadden, S.J. said that "we're here to celebrate a team that surprised everyone but themselves."
Picked to finish 10th in the BIG EAST, Head Coach John Thompson III guided the Hoyas to a 24-9 record, earning a bye in the BIG EAST Tournament and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. At one point this season, the Hoyas were ranked among the top-10 teams in the country and were one of only four schools who could claim to have reached the top-10 at least once in six-straight seasons.
Director of Basketball Operations Scott Greenman and Othella Harrington took care of the many thank-you's the team had for people in the audience. Greenman handled thanking the support staff and athletic department personnel who work in the day-to-day operations, while Harrington thanked the cheerleaders, band and the members of the Jack crew.
Bozzo was also presented with the Fernicola Award for Service to the Men's Basketball program and the Hoya Hoop Club. The award is presented in honor of Dr. Anthony Fernicola, a 1942 graduate of the College and 1945 grad of the medical school who served as the Hoya Hoop Club President from 1980-82.
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia (C'79, G'95) addressed the crowd before the introduction of players, thanking everyone for attending the event and recognized Bozzo for his award.
"I'd like to join with all of us here this evening in thanking Al Bozzo," DeGioia said. "There is no one more deserving of this recognition than Al, and few who engage so deeply in the life and promise of our basketball program. Al, you've made a tremendous impact on our entire community."
DeGioia thanked everyone for attending and said this was a night to honor the team and to "thank them for their integrity, spirit and leadership, and to share memories of another excellent season." After thanking the fans their great attendance during the season, he also recognized the support groups - the cheerleaders and band, the Hoya Hoop Club and staff - before speaking of the team's seniors.
"It would be difficult to underestimate the role that our seniors played this season," DeGioia said. "Henry Sims and Jason Clark became the cornerstones of this team's trademark offense and its stifling defense. In their four years here, Henry and Jason have shared their talents, embodied hard work and determination, and provided the program with some impressive victories and exciting memories. But what we remember most and celebrate tonight is the quality of their character and the strength of their leadership. Thank you Henry and Jason; it's been a privilege to watch both of you develop, grown and succeed in tremendous ways."
The team's 2011-12 highlight film was played in the middle of dinner and then Broadus took over the duties of introducing each player. He joked that he was glad to be back and to handle the introductions, which he grew famous for with his many one-liners during his original stop at Georgetown starting in 2004-05.
Broadus jokingly referred to Greenman as an "elf" and said that Harrington's name was "Otella," as any time Head Coach John Thompson III heard something it was usually through him.
Before Hollis Thompson was introduced, Broadus said he was "one of the hardest-working guys and one of the most good-natured guys" that he'd been around. When Thompson was given a chance to speak, the junior thanked everyone in the crowd for their support. "It was an enjoyable experience," Thompson said. "One of my favorite parts of every game was hearing the crowd and having one side saying `Hoya' and the other `Saxa.' That's one of the things I'll always remember."
The seniors were the next up and afterward, each had a chance to address the crowd.
Clark said that he remembered his first banquet and how he wondered what he would say when he was given the chance. And while he said he did not want to speak too long, he spoke eloquently and from the heart for more than six minutes.
"I want to thank my coaches for pushing me to be a leader," Clark said. "I want to thank them for naming me as a captain of this team. Not many guys get to thank their coaches for naming them as a captain, but I do want to say thank you because that helped me become a man and it helped me become a better person.
"Being a captain isn't all about being the oldest player on the team or being the best player on the team. Being a captain helps you prepare for life. As the leader of a team, you're faced with obstacles that the younger guys are going to look for you to solve. And in solving those obstacles, you figure out what type of a person you are. And that's one thing I did this year, I found out what type of person I was, just by having you guys have my back and being there to lead you guys."
When Sims took the microphone he said that Clark didn't know what he was going to say and spoke for a few minutes, but "I really don't know what I'm going to say." And while starting with a thank you to his mother, the 6-10 senior broke up and said, "I'll leave it at that, thank you mom."
Sims enjoyed the best season of his career as a senior, earning All-BIG EAST Third Team honors. "This year was a rollercoaster," he said. "Not this year, but the last three years, trying to find myself and finding out where I belonged."
He thanked the coaches and the staff, especially former Hoya Harrington. "I didn't understand what hard work was when I got here," Sims said. "You can tell when he talks about it, when he talks about the game, that he loves basketball and that rubbed off on me."
One passage from Clark, however, summed up the night, as he spoke of himself, everyone in attendance and, most importantly, his teammates. He talked of a trip he took to the estate of Frederick Douglass, the leader of the abolitionist movement during the Civil War, with Fr. Raymond Kemp, S.J., a theology professor at Georgetown.
"There's this quote, he picked it out," Clark said. "It's a bookmark that I still have. I place it in front of my bed and there's a picture of my grandmother and as you all know, she was a huge part to my life, so nothing gets placed near that picture, but this did. You might know who it is, but I'll tell you after. It reads: If you are tired, keep going. If you are scared, keep going. If you are hungry, keep going. And if you want to taste freedom, keep going. This quote is by Harriet Tubman and obviously she was speaking toward slaves and wanting to be free and tasting freedom.
"Whenever I read this quote, I see freedom as something different every single time. Freedom can be anything for anybody, any different person. Freedom can be something else. Freedom, for you guys, can be winning the NCAA Championship or winning the BIG EAST Championship. Freedom for me could be making it to the next level.
"This quote gave me a lot of courage to keep pushing, but most of all, I think it reminds me of you guys. There are going to be times where you guys are tired, times where you are scared and I can tell you from my point, there were times when I was very scared. Being the leader of this team, you get scared, but my thing was that I couldn't let you know that because I'm your leader and I'm supposed to stand strong. This quote reminds me of you guys because if you guys don't let any of these things hold you back, being scared, you guys will be a hell of a team."