May 16, 2012
WASHINGTON - Five years ago, former Georgetown University men's basketball All-American Jeff Green walked across a stage and became an NBA Lottery Pick. This Saturday, Green will walk across another stage and will become a graduate of Georgetown University.
It's been a long road for Green, who was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year and led the Hoyas to the 2007 Final Four, but it is one that has been incredibly rewarding.
And on Saturday, Green will walk across a stage on the lawn of the Georgetown campus and earn his degree in English, with a minor in theology.
"The reason I made the decision to come back was because I played three years here and was so close to graduating," Green said. "Coming back and watching the guys I played with all graduate - Roy (Hibbert), Tyler (Crawford), Jon (Wallace) and Pat (Ewing) - when I was watching them, I was upset that I left at the moment. But I was happy for those guys. We formed such a great bond that for me to come back and get my degree, it will be something that we all did together.
"They pushed me to come back and finish. It was a no-brainer, especially for my mom and dad. It was important to them for me to keep coming back for the last four years to get my degree. It's a wonderful feeling to come back and finish. It's a weight lifted off my shoulders, so I'm happy I came back."
Green spent three years at Georgetown, being named the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year in 2004-05 and leading the Hoyas to the National Invitational Tournament. A year later, Georgetown not only went to the NCAA Tournament but advanced to the Sweet 16. And during his junior year, Green helped lead the Hoyas to the 2006-07 BIG EAST Tournament title and to the Final Four.
Following the 2006-07 season, Green declared for the NBA Draft and was the fifth overall pick of the Boston Celtics. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he averaged over 13 points and five rebounds a game before being traded back to Boston.
All during the first four years of his professional career, Green made it a point to come back and take classes, going through lectures and two hour classes, all so he could get to this point.
"When I came back, it was a challenge," Green said. "Being in the NBA, you develop a routine where you have practice and then you have days where you can do whatever you want. You can come and go as you please. You don't have to sit through lectures for two hours.
"That first year was tough, taking two classes, two hours each, five days a week, two hours of lectures. I had to sit and focus and it took me a while to adapt to get back into that college lifestyle. Eventually, I got used to it and it became a routine for me. There were times I wanted to quit, but the motivation from my peers was what got me through it."
He also had the motivation of his former head coach, John Thompson III, who he remains close to today and was a major factor in his coming back to school.
"When I came here he was the main one who formed me into the man I am today," Green said. "He taught me about presenting myself well and being respectable to others and being a respectable man. That's a big part of why I am the way I am today."
When Green was first recruited to Georgetown, he had never even stepped foot on the campus, but when he did, he knew he had found a home.
"The reason I came to Georgetown was because of the history behind it and partly because of my mom," Green said. "The educational side I know that was big for her. But when I came on my visit, the guys - Roy, Tyler, Jon and Pat - we formed a close bond. I'm about family and when I met those guys, and the atmosphere here, that's what I felt. It was a no-brainer. I'm here today and I'm happy I made the decision."
Green knew about the history of Georgetown basketball, the numbers and the championships, but there was also another number that stuck.
"There were guys I looked up to - Alonzo (Mourning), Dikembe (Mutombo) and Allen Iverson - that came through here with the basketball history and you have the educational side where 90 percent of the athletes that come through Georgetown graduate. That was big for me. It was very important."
It was so important to him that even after he had been a lottery pick and played in the NBA for four years, he was determined to walk across that stage on Saturday.
"You create these goals in your own life and this is one of them," Green said. "Graduating from Georgetown, this degree can take me so many places and it can open so many paths for me after basketball. That was the reason I came back to graduate.
"There's more to my life than basketball. I want to do things after that, I want to be able to open up a business or create a fashion line. There are so many opportunities I have with this degree."
Since he has been coming back to campus, Green has also been able to continue to be around the current members of the team and share with them his experiences.
"I talked to some of the guys on the team now and they just found out I was graduating and I saw the look in their eyes," Green said. "They were like, `Wow, he really came back and he's graduating and he's in the NBA. Four years in and making x amount of money and he's still coming back to get his education.'
"Hopefully it rubs off on them. I hope they think further on than basketball. I hope they can look at me as a role model. I try to do the best I can to help them along the way. College was tough, it is tough. And you go through so many things coming from high school and from different cities and coming to Georgetown, you experience a lot because Georgetown puts so many spotlights on you. Hopefully, I can help them and they can see what I had to go through and what I'm doing with my life now and it can motivate them."
Green has great memories from his time at Georgetown, too many to recount. From the interaction he had with people and the friendships he made off the court to playing in the NIT, the Sweet 16 and the Final Four on the court, he says that he has memories that will last a lifetime.
"It's hard to try to talk about all of them, but those stand out a lot because it wasn't just me, it was my teammates and my friends and peers around me," Green said. "Coming here, I met so many people and so many professors that helped me along the way. You create a wonderful bond with them and you never forget that. They helped me form and become the man I am today."
Green's family will be in attendance on Saturday during graduation ceremonies and while they are busy planning what will happen after his graduation, he is looking forward to walking across another stage.
"When I walk across that stage, it's going to be all smiles because I accomplished a goal that I set out years ago," Green said. "It's tough to put into words how I'm going to feel, but to finally be able to say I'm done and have a degree with my name on it from Georgetown will be breathtaking. I'm going to be speechless. I'm the first in my family to graduate from college and it will be memorable."