Senior Omar Williams, senior Mike Hall, freshman
Rob Diggs, and junior Danilo Pinnock celebrate
March 4 after the team completed its first
perfect Atlantic 10 season with an 86-85 overtime
victory over Charlotte.
By Laura Ewald
Forget March Madness—this
year the GW men’s basketball team, which
finished 27-3, inspired strong fan support at
home and national media attention from the preseason
through the NCAA tournament, setting records
along the way. The depth of the team became obvious
as the season progressed; the experience of seniors
including Omar Williams and Pops Mensah-Bonsu
was complemented by the talent of rising stars
such as sophomore Maureece Rice. Coach Karl Hobbs
was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, a first
for a GW men’s basketball coach. Hobbs
also was among four finalists for the prestigious
Naismith Award. And, for the first time in half
a century, the Colonials earned a Top-10 national
GW men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs addresses the media following
the team’s 88-85 overtime victory against UNC Wilmington. Hobbs
was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.
Cause for such
excitement and attention is obvious. The Colonials
were 26-1 in regular season play and 16-0 in
the Atlantic 10. Single-season records were
set for most victories (27) and longest winning
streak (18 games). After overcoming an 18-point
deficit to defeat the University of North Carolina
Wilmington in overtime during the first round
of the NCAA tournament, the Colonials fell to
Duke, the tournament’s
overall number one seed expected by many
to win the Big Dance.
But for Hobbs, the team’s success wasn’t
measured by the numbers. Bringing out the best
in his players—namely the seniors, his
first recruiting class as the Colonials’ head
coach—and maintaining focus were his primary
goals. Despite the disappointing tournament loss,
Hobbs made it clear that the team was proud of
its extraordinary season and appreciative of
the support of the Colonials community.
“To go undefeated in the Atlantic 10 with
this group, to sell out many games at GW, and
the support they’ve captured around the
district … it’s just been incredible,” Hobbs
said. “The loss [in the second round of
the tournament] doesn’t diminish what these
kids have accomplished.”
Students, alumni, and a growing number of GW
fans across the nation are looking forward
to next season, hoping the Colonials will continue
to rise to new heights.
Six-foot-nine senior forward Pops
Mensah-Bonsu has been a key to the Colonials’ success
during the past four years.
Senior Mike Hall
and the Colonials defeated Maryland in
the BB&T Classic
in Washington at the Verizon Center.
Entering a season with seven new players
is a challenge under any circumstances,
even more so when playing the first five
games “against the Knicks, the
Lakers, the Celtics, and the Spurs,” which
is how Coach Joe McKeown described Virginia,
Purdue, Texas, Villanova, and Tennessee.
But trial by fire proved advantageous
for the GW women’s basketball team
as they gained strength and confidence
during a tough schedule, taking them
to a 23-9 record, co-champion honors
for the Atlantic 10 regular season, and
a victory against Old Dominion in the
first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The win against Old Dominion was especially
exciting because it was a battle fought
on the Lady Monarchs’ home court.
“They get great support here at Old
Dominion. It’s just one of the challenges
we are going to have to face—it’s
just part of the tournament,” McKeown
said before the game. But the Colonials
were able to neutralize that home-court
advantage, at one point leading the game
40-18. Despite a late run by Old Dominion,
GW won 87-72 and advanced to face Tennessee
in the second round. McKeown attributed
some of the team’s success to the
leadership and performances of senior Jessica
Simmonds and sophomore Kim Beck.
While the Colonials fell to the Lady
Vols, the team was proud of their
strong season and looks to enter
the next with more experience.
Coach Joe McKeown praised the leadership of senior Jessica Simmonds as part of
a successful season.
Photos by Julie Woodford
Kimberly Beck led the Colonials
in assists and was named to the
Atlantic 10 All-Conference First
Team, All-Defensive Team, and All-Tournament
Team in 2006.