Page 1

Volume 1 • November 30, 2011

COURTSIDE SEATS MENTEE TO MENTOR

How Ryan Pearson went from unknown to MVP candidate Page 25

Coach Hewitt’s New Form of Paradise Page 11

One Lucky Chair The Mertens’ lasting legacy Page 21

Coach Porter

Four Years of Trust Page 34

More Than the Dunk

How Mike Morrison floats above the competition Page 18


Winter Break Closing All residence halls will be closed December 21ST 12 pm – January 20TH 10 am. Please plan your travel accordingly. housing.gmu.edu Housing and Residence Life


COURTSIDE SEATS

NOVEMBER 30, 2011

Starting Five

Page 14

Top four CAA opponents for the men’s team

Page 17

The newcomers to Mason basketball

Page 28

One Lucky Chair

Roster & schedule for the men’s team

Entering their final season as president and first lady of the university, the Mertens are looking to add one more chair to their collection. By Cody Norman

Page 32

Roster & schedule for the women’s team

Page 21

A New Form of Paradise

After postponing a planned vacation to the Caribbean, Coach Paul Hewitt found a new paradise at Mason. By Cody Norman

Page 11

Page 36

Top four CAA opponents for the women’s team

Page 38

Coach Jim Lewis, the winningest coach in Mason history, makes his return

Page 40

Section 124: A View From the Platoon

Reserves

Cody Norman Editor-in-Chief

John Powell

Managing Editor

Stephen Kline

Photo & Design Editor

Daniel Zimmet Contributor

Kathryn Mangus

Ryan Pearson

Behind the guidance of his mother, the senior forward has established himself as a prominent player in the CAA. By John Powell

Page 25

Jeri Porter

The women’s basketball team has improved in every year that Porter has been on the bench. This is her team. By John Powell

Page 34

Cam Long

The former Mason guard tells how difficult it is to be playing professional basketball in an unfamiliar country. By Cody Norman

Page 39

Student Media Director

Jacques Mouyal Business Manager

David Carroll

Student Media Associate Director

Aram Zucker-Scharff

Student Media Assitant Director

Samantha Gray

Public Relations Manager

Leslie Steiger

Manager, Communications Team

Courtside Seats • 1


Time Out In his first season at the helm, Coach Paul Hewitt brings an entirely new pace to Mason basketball. Hewitt inherits a team that won 27 games in the 2010-11 season.


Game Point With senior Andre Cornelius out for the first 10 games, sophomore Bryon Allen (above) and freshman Corey Edwards (below) have been thrust into an alternating role at point guard this season.


More Than a Game The Mason women take time after a win to pray with their opponents from Oakland. They put scores aside, knowing that basketball is more than a game.


Dream On After his semester-long sabbatical, Doc Nix will return to lead the Green Machine for his sixth season. Fans should expect more “Party Rock” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” this year.


Welcomes Coach Hewitt to George Mason

TM

welcome-coach-ad.indd 1

11/16/11 9:41 AM

Pyschology welcomes Coach Paul Hewitt to the MASON NATION. Best wishes for a SLAM DUNK SEASON! Follow us on Faceboook: Department of Psychology @ George Mason University

Welcome to Mason, Coach Hewitt! Here’s to an amazingly magical season with the Patriots - The Office of Student Involvment. Follow us on Facebook: Mason-Involvement Twitter: Mason-Patriots

Welcome, Coach Hewitt, to George Mason University. Connect2Mason.com looks forward to watching and covering your first year with the Patriots. (We also like your burger at Brion’s. Good taste.)

Our motto at Mason Cable Network is, “Your face. Your voice.” We look forward to seeing your face and hearing your voice over the years to come. Let’s go, Patriots!

The season outlook is quite bright as WGMU eagerly welcomes Paul Hewitt as the new men’s basketball coach. The NCAA tournament should prepare for a stampede of Patriots fans!

We’re honored you have decided to embrace the Patriot spirit — what you have undoubtedly encountered is an invigorated commitment to excellence in all arenas of higher education. Broadside wishes you good luck out there.

We are optimistic for the future of Mason basketball under your helm. We look forward to many winning seasons and, on behalf of the Mason Nation, The Morning Breakdown welcomes you to our family!

Student Media welcomes Coach Hewitt to the Mason community. We are excited to have the opportunity to cover you and the Patriots as you fight through the tough CAA gauntlet.

YELLOW - PMS 129

GREEN - PMS 349

10 • Courtside Seats


Courtside Seats • 11


Paradise in a Coach Hewitt’s move Different Form from ACC to CAA

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hrough chaos and uncertainty, true champions arise. Paul Hewitt coached 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, compiling a 190-162 record and finishing 17th in all-time career victories. But, after several ineffective and chaotic seasons, he was dismissed from the program, mentally and physically drained, and uncertainty set in. Hewitt needed a break. He and his wife planned a vacation to St. Maarten, a small paradise in the Caribbean, as they began adjusting to life without basketball. He knew almost immediately that he couldn’t leave the game that he had come to love, but thought he may be set to view the game in a different light. Maybe he could get an opportunity in the NBA. Or maybe, just maybe, he could make the move to radio or television

THE TRANSITION FROM LARRANAGA TO HEWITT 12 • Courtside Seats

by Cody Norman

and talk about basketball without actually living it. Nobody would have believed he would return to the bench so soon. “College coaching was third on the list,” Hewitt said, “if it was even on the list. I was taking a year off.”

T

hen Mason called. After a brief courtship, paradise took a different form. “I traded one paradise for another,” Hewitt said. “This is one of the best jobs in the league.” Just months after his dismissal from Georgia Tech, there he was, sitting in front of an excited crowd to be introduced as the ninth men’s coach in Patriots history. Even though his coaching resume speaks for itself, it was Hewitt’s personality that drew athletic director Tom O’Connor to Hewitt. “He’s a tremendous human being,” O’Connor said. “I know he’s a great X and O guy, but he has the whole package.” Away from the court, Hewitt became deeply involved with the Atlanta community. He conducts an annual golf outing and auction to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Boys and Girls


Clubs of Atlanta. He also serves on the board of directors for Hearts Everywhere Reaching Out for Children (H.E.R.O.), which organizes activities and benefits HIV-infected children and Camp Twin Lakes, which works with children with serious illnesses and special needs. “When you have an opportunity to give back, I think you should,” Hewitt said. “You owe it to yourself, as well as the profession, to be as active as possible.” Because of his personality and direction, Hewitt made a name for himself as a natural recruiter. He attracted some of the top players – players like Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack and Thaddeus Young – to Georgia Tech over his 11 seasons. He maintains a relationship with each of those players, refusing to let go of that family bond even in the toughest of times. “When you sign them and they come to play for you, you’re signing them for life,” Hewitt said. “There are going to be some times that test that togetherness. But when tough times are around, that’s when you’ve got to be there.”

C

oming from the ACC, one of the premier conferences in college basketball, he believes that the lines of disparity between conferences has nearly vanished. While he likely will not get the same one-and-done players he courted at Georgia Tech, Hewitt will now have the opportunity to develop his young players. “One thing I’ve always emphasized is player development,” Hewitt said. “I want to make sure these guys are prepared for life after college basketball, whatever that may be, because there is something after basketball for them.” Regardless, Hewitt won’t lower his expec-

tations. He will go after the best players and aim for the highest rung as Mason and the CAA increase their notoriety throughout the nation. During his time at Sienna College, Hewitt legitimized the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and led his group into the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2000. After moving to Georgia Tech, Hewitt guided the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Championship in 2004, something no other coach in Mason history can boast. Upon coming to Fairfax, he inherited a team with experienced veterans. He was handed a roster that returned three starters from last year’s 27-win team, won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and reached the NCAA tournament before losing to top-seed Ohio State. “I studied the roster before coming here. I talked to a lot of people in the league,”

Hewitt said. “Jim [Larranaga] left a great team.”

U

nlike Larranaga, Hewitt brings an offensive philosophy that allows for an up-tempo, fast-paced style of play. He encourages his team to push the ball up the floor, giving them the first seven seconds of the shot clock to run in transition. “I have found that most players would prefer to play in that system,” Hewitt said. Hewitt’s style will play right into the strengths of his team, allowing seniors Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison to use their size, strength and athleticism to get out in space. And even through all of the chaos and uncertainty this offseason, Mason landed a true champion in Paul Hewitt.

Courtside Seats • 13


The Competition “The expectations are a little bit different, so we’ve got to be ready to have that bullseye on our back.”

Drexel Dragons With four starters and two key reserves coming back from last year’s 21-10 squad, Drexel will be among the favorites to capture the CAA title. Senior Samme Givens, a second-team All-CAA pick in 2010 and this year’s preseason Player of the Year, led the conference in rebounding and

was the only player in the CAA to average a double-double. Junior guard Chris Fouch averaged a team-high 14.9 ppg off the bench and was named to the All-CAA third team. Forward Dartaye Ruffin and point guard Frantz Massenat were selected to the All-Rookie squad.

Bruiser Flint

VCU Rams The Rams will look to build on the momentum generated from last year’s unexpected run to the Final Four. They will be without four of their top five scorers from last season, but return several players who played key roles in their 28-12 squad. VCU

14 • Courtside Seats

will be led by senior forward Bradford Burgess, who ranked in the top 15 in the conference in scoring and rebounding a year ago. They’ll also return a pair of talented sophomore post players in 7-foot D.J. Haley and 6-foot-9 Juvonte Reddic.

“I don't sit there every night and look at my Final Four ring and dream about last year. I want to focus on having that success again." Shaka Smart


A breakdown of some of the strongest men’s teams in the CAA

ODU Monarchs After earning his second straight CAA championship and his fourth NCAA tournament bid in 2011, Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor will be counting on several players to fill new roles this season. Leading the way for the Monarchs will be senior Kent Bazemore, who,

after making a leaguebest 76 steals last season was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Year. Old Dominion, which led the nation in rebounding last year, has two of its top front court players back in senior Chris Cooper and junior Nick Wright.

“We’ve got to protect our home court. And if we can do that, we can compete in this conference.”

“The league race and our conference tournament is a show. And it’s turned into a really good show over the last half-dozen years.” Blaine Taylor

JMU Dukes For the first time in his four seasons at James Madison, Matt Brady has a core group of upperclassmen returning. That nucleus begins with senior Julius Wells, who entered the season ranked 11th in school history in scoring with 1,311 points. Junior guard Devon Moore, who averaged 11.4 ppg

and notched 137 assists in 2011, has continued growth as the team’s floor general and will be crucial to the Dukes’ success this season. Rayshawn Goins averaged 9.7 ppg and 6.8 rpg a year ago and will be key in helping to fill the void left by former first-team All-CAA forward Denzel Bowles.

Matt Brady

Courtside Seats • 15


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December 7TH – January 20TH General waitlist assignments released on a rolling basis.

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Housing and Residence Life


Corey Edwards Favorite TV Show: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Basketball Idol: Chris Paul

Vaughn Gray Pro Sports Team: OKC Thunder Pregame Meal: Pasta & Chicken

Rachel McNair

THE NEWCOMERS

Annie Lawler

Pregame Meal: Spaghetti and Meatballs Pro Sports Team: Boston Celtics

An introduction to the newest Mason basketball players

Basketball Idol: Larry Bird If I could play for any coach, I’d play for... John Wooden

Anali Okoloji

Erik Copes Pro Sports Team: Philadelphia Phillies If I could play for any coach, I’d play for... Phil Jackson

Talisha Watts

Favorite TV Show: Spongebob If I could play for any coach, I’d play for... Paul Hewitt

Basketball Idol: Kevin Garnett Favorite TV Show: Pretty Little Liars

How would you rate the crowd support at Mason?

6.0

Amber Epps “It’s not like one of the big schools.”

9.5

8.0

Mike Morrison “The people that are here are great but there’s still open seats.”

Ryan Pearson “This is my home right here. I’m happy with my home.”

7.0

6.0

Evelyn Lewis “I transferred from Penn State, so I’ve seen great support there.”

Taleia Moton “If 5 is average, 7 is a little above average.” Courtside Seats • 17


Mike Morrison: More Than the Dunk by John Powell

H “ “Just keep on truckin’ man, everyone has their obstacles.” 18 • Courtside Seats

ancock. Front court. Morrison! Exclamation point George Mason!” came the call from Gus Johnson. Mason fans remember the call almost as well as they remember the play. After tipping a shot, Luke Hancock sent the ball down the court to Mike Morrison – alone – for the dagger of a dunk to end the game and send Mason to the third round of the NCAA tournament. A testament to the moment, Morrison was running on so much adrenaline that his perspective was a bit less detailed. “All I know is I contested the shot, the ball bounced to one of my players and I ended up with the ball,” he said. “Once it came to me, I don’t remember dunking it. All I remember is mouthing ‘we got it, we got it.’ Apparently I dunked it too.” His dunks are known around Fairfax and it is a skill to which he is dedicated. Morrison practices so he can be the best dunker wherever he plays and fans love the theatrics; he realized that very important fact when he made his first dunk as a Patriot. “I just got in the game with two minutes left in the first

half,” Morrison recollected. “It was a buzzer-beater at the end of the half. It was cool. [Andre Cornelius] dropped it off to me in the break, and I sort-of quickdunked on somebody.” He is the first to admit that sometimes his emotions get the best of him, but his game is for the fans. And he has had to overcome some difficulty to be that crowd-pleaser.

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he week before his sophomore year of high school, Morrison tore his patellar tendon, the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. The injury generally requires full surgery to be

repaired. When people see him on the court, though, they do not see a crippled forward for a reason: his dedication to getting back to full strength took a long journey. “I rehabbed. I missed most of the season,” he said as he thought through his sophomore season. “But I didn’t finish rehab and I rushed back because I wanted to play. And that’s why I never got strong again.” When asked if he would do anything differently, he was adamant. “I wouldn’t play that whole season,” he said.

Running Speed: 8.9 ft./sec.


Height to ball: 10.9 ft.

Acceleration of ball: 260 ft./sec. Average speed of ball slam: 18 ft./sec.

2

“I’d let that season go.” Through the rest of high school and his first three years of college – six basketball seasons – he did not realize the damage it caused. Only after his junior year he realized how the stopped rehabilitation hurt his chances at regaining that strength. He even feared he could never regain it completely.

It took a lot to balance his sheer love for the game with an effort to keep his body strong and healthy. “Right now, I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said.

I

n his final season, fans and administration alike have recognized that dedication to his craft and to his team.

When the Patriots lost their head coach and Luke Hancock – members of their tight-knit family – Morrison kept the team calm and upbeat, not missing a step. “I ran into Michael Morrison over at the field house,” said Tom O’Connor, Mason’s athletic director, at the press conference announcing Larranaga’s departure. “Michael was very – I love Michael – he was very upbeat. He understood Coach Larranaga was leaving. He handled it in a very mature way.” It is a side that fans do not often see of Morrison. They see him get rough on the court, throw down dunks, and get mad about fouling out. But they do not see his non-game-time persona. He is relaxed off the court, and a leader on the team. Through dealing with surgery that threw his playing career in flux, the departure of a head coach, and the exit of a starter, he knows that life goes on. “Just keep on truckin’ man, everyone has their obstacles,” he said. “Everybody has problems, family stuff. Just keep going.” Courtside Seats • 19


20 • Courtside Seats


One Lucky Chair

by Cody Norman

Heading into their final basketball season at Mason, Alan and Sally Merten have one last goal: to add another chair to their collection.


I

n the far corner of Mason Hall office D103, there sits a modest-looking bar stool. It’s an old chair with nicks up and down the legs and a flattened cushion on the seat. Certainly not an object with pristine visual appeal, but an object with as much history as its body alludes. “I bring all the new recruits into my office to show them this chair,” said President Alan Merten. “I tell them that I need a few more like it.” Back on March 26, 2006, right in the midst of the Patriots legendary run into the Final

headed down to the floor, I told Mr. Pollin, ‘That’s my lucky chair,’” Merten said. “And it showed up in my office sometime the next day.”

W

hen Merten and his wife Sally took over as president and first lady of George Mason University in July of 1996, the university schooled just 24,000 students, most of whom commuted from within the Northern Virginia area. It has since become the fastestgrowing university in Virginia, eclipsing the 30,000-student

ship between the university and athletics,” Merten said. Shortly after the search began, Jim Larranaga, coach of Bowling Green State University, met with Merten and was offered the coaching job at Mason. “Jim told us that he was going to build a program and that he wasn’t here for the short term,” Mrs. Merten said. “He said he would take us to the NCAA Tournament in three seasons and we made it in two. So he made good on his promise, just as he makes good on all of his promises.” The new coach and president,

“Sally was always there with him. It was a team effort.”

A

s their friendship off the court progressed, Larranaga’s success on the court was incredible. With one week left to play in his second season as head coach, Larranaga and the Patriots clinched at least a share of their first CAA title in the history of the university. Without hesitation, Merten ordered an airplane and had it fly around the university with a banner that read, “George Mason University: CAA Champions.”

“Sally was always there with him. It was a team effort.” Jim Larranaga

Four, Merten sat in that chair as he watched his team knock off the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Huskies in their Elite Eight match-up in D.C. He was seated in the late Abe Pollin’s box at the MCI Center, taking in the game from what would become his lucky chair. That same lucky chair that now sits in his office. “Before I left the box and 22 • Courtside Seats

mark. One of his first duties as president was to replace the men’s basketball coach, Paul Westhead. While he was not directly involved with the search process, Merten made it clear to the athletic department that any potential hire had to interview with him first. “I believe, and Sally believes, that there is a strong relation-

along with their wives, developed an almost immediate friendship. “My wife and I were very impressed with President Merten’s leadership ability,” said Larranaga, the Patriots’ head coach for the last 14 seasons. “He would interact with deans of the colleges and then come out and be a huge fan of the basketball team.”

“Most people would have waited to see if we won it outright,” Larranaga recalled. “But his thinking was that, whether we won or tied, we were going to win our first regular season conference championship and we should be proud.” The Mertens have attended nearly every home basketball game throughout their tenure, sitting in their courtside seats at


half court. “Long before everybody else jumped on the bandwagon, he was promoting how good we were,” Larranaga said. “He talked to the national media about how proud he was, not just of the basketball success, but of the success academically.”

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hen, the unthinkable occurred in March of 2006. The Patriots rode a hot streak throughout the NCAA tournament, reaching the school’s first and only Final Four. They were in the midst of an incredible run and the Mertens were there the entire way, flying on the plane with the team to almost every game. “Most presidents don’t fly on the planes because they don’t have that kind of relationship with the coach or the players,” Larranaga said. “But President Merten would come out to our practices. He cared that much about our program.” Through all of the noise surrounding the men’s basketball program, Merten and his staff were primed to take advantage of the spotlight and morph the university into one of the biggest, fastest-growing universities in the state of Virginia. “People wanted to write about us and they’d run out of things to say about our basketball team,” Merten said. “Every morning we would meet and discuss how we were going to take advantage of all the media attention, how we were going to get our academic programs out there. And, somehow, we did. We were in newspapers and on televisions all over the world.” With all of the exposure came a rapid inflation in admissions requests. There were 350 percent more inquires, 54 percent

of which came from out-ofstate students. More and more people flooded the Internet, applying for the chance to enroll in Mason. “March of 2006 was the best [public relations] month that George Mason, the man, ever had,” Merten said. “He had more attention in one month than he did in 250 years.”

S

ince then, the university has continued its hasty growth, consistently appearing in the U.S. News and World

to a thunderous ovation from the student sections. He points his air-powered gun into the stands and sends a t-shirt into the hands of one lucky fan. “It reminds me of what I’m here for. And that’s the students,” Merten said. “This is a very special place and a very special university. It has meant a lot to Sally and me to be able to play a role in making this a better university. To see what we’ve created, particularly what we’ve created in respect to the enthusiasm from the student body, it’s just been incredible.” As the time nears that the

Mertens’ tenure as president and first lady will end, so too does their time sitting courtside at Mason basketball games. This is their last basketball season, their last CAA tournament, and their last NCAA tournament. But it is also their last chance to find another seat to place in the far corner of Mason Hall office D103.

R e p o r t ’s list of Upand-Coming Schools in America. The campus has now branched out to Arlington and Prince William as Merten and the administration have poured more than $450 million into construction. Over the last five years on the court, Mason has compiled a 107-57 record. They’ve helped legitimize the CAA, earning a trip to three postseason tournaments. The 2010-11 Patriots notched the longest win streak in school history, winning the regular season conference title on their way to a third round appearance in the NCAA tournament. Yet, with everything that Merten has accomplished while employed as president of Mason, he remains humbled by the pace at which this university has grown. Each game, with four minutes left to play in either half, he rises Courtside Seats • 23


24 • Courtside Seats


FROM MENTEE TO MENTOR by John Powell

A

t the beginning of February, Ryan Pearson was named ESPN’s Player of the Week. He was on the front page of the media enterprise’s college basketball section, went on television shows to give publicity to the team, and started the team’s hair club, going unshaven as the team continued to win. After a 16-game winning streak, Mason electrified the nation again, and

Pearson was the perfect ambassador. He credits his success to a lot of people, holding Jim Larranaga, the coach that recruited him, in high regard. Even before running through a full practice with the current coach, Paul Hewitt, he knew the new coach was a good fit. He credits his high school coaches for getting him recruited to a D-I program. But their influences all pale in comparison to the influence of

the woman that raised him. “My mom, she really fell in love with the campus, with the area,” Pearson said. “When I came for my visit, I just felt like I was at home, like these guys treated me like I was on the team.”

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hen Pearson left his home in Far Rockaway, New York, he was looking for a mentor. He found a leader in John Vaughan, a guard that took the Courtside Seats • 25


“I’m not going to go out there and get selfish. I’m going to go out there and play a team game.”

young forward under his wing. Vaughan’s forte was clearly not in teaching Pearson how to be a better forward – coaches were for that – but on how to lead a team. “JV my freshman year, John Vaughan, basically took me under his wing and basically told me that I was talented and to just keep working hard,” Pearson said. “Just don’t get discouraged the way things were going on, that I was a freshman and I got a long way to go. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He and Darryl Monroe, I just tried to watch them and learn from them.” It was clear from day one that Pearson would have a big role. In his rookie year, he played in 26 • Courtside Seats

every contest when he was healthy, a total of 32 games. He shot just under 50 percent from the field and his strong play throughout that campaign led to a CAA All-Rookie Team nod. Vaughan and Monroe left, but their message proved to pass the test of time. Alongside Louis Birdsong and Cam Long, he stepped up as a leader of the sophomores and a leader of the team. “My sophomore year, I stepped into a leadership role,” Pearson said. “We only had one senior in Lou Birdsong, and it was Cam, but I knew that I was going to be playing a lot more minutes my sophomore year. I had to become more vocal.” Pearson delivers the same

message that Vaughan gave him. But if anyone on the team had an excuse to pass the baton of leadership off, it might have been Pearson. “Scarred but not slowed” was the title of last year’s Washington Post feature on the headline-stealing forward. Pearson had a childhood accident in 2001 that left him with 32 pairs of staple marks, a right leg that is shorter than the left, and a basketball career that appeared to end before it could begin. But when he was given an opportunity to play again, he made the most of it. With hard work and dedication, he is renowned as one of the more unorthodox forwards in the CAA, but the change of pace keeps teams off guard and he gets the ball in. He knew what it took to get there, and he does not let any of his teammates off the hook. “These [freshmen], when they came to visit, they chilled with us and they basically look up to us,” Pearson said. “They need us to show them the ropes and that’s basically what I’m going to try to do, deliver the same message that John Vaughan, Darryl Monroe and those guys

delivered to me.”

P

reseason CAA Player of the Year was Pearson’s expected title from the team’s fans all across the country. Even with Cam Long on the team, who was projected to be taken in the NBA draft, Pearson was one of the central facilitators of the offense last season. If given the ball on the blocks, he would find a way to get it in the net, with a pair of arms and legs flailing in the process. A double-double average would not catch anyone by surprise, but even with all the work, he never wants to take the credit. “It’s a great honor,” he said of the possibility to win the Player of the Year award. “I’m about to have an MVP-type season for my team, whatever that means. I’m not going to go out there and get selfish. I’m going to go out there and play a team game. I’m going to rely on my teammates just as much as they rely on me.” That is why he is the team leader. He steps up to make plays and gives the credit to everyone around him. The respect, he has shown, is deserved.


“I got it basically just to represent where I’m from. I always wear it and whenever anybody asks me - in any room I step in - I’m always the first to say ‘I’m from New York.’ I’m proud of it.”

L

inked

eslie Pearson did not seem too big into the idea of her 15-year-old getting his first tattoo. But, wearing her down slowly, her son was able to change her mind. “My fifteenth birthday, I really wanted a tattoo. My mom wasn’t with it at first,” Ryan Pearson said. “But then I was bugging her so much she just took me and was like, ‘You know what, here.’ And then next thing I know I just went tattoo crazy.” Years went by and his body was slowly filled with messages.

“I always put family first. I do this for my family, I play the game for my family. I just go out there and represent my family name.” by John Powell

“Wisdom” and “Faith” are on the inside of his biceps. He has a throw-back to his hometown with “NYC” and tells Mason fans who he plays for with his “Family 1st” tattoo. Even mid-season, the tattoos change. Last year, he had to protect his new elbow tattoo by wearing a faux-sleeve over it. Pearson knows that basketball may not be his income-earner forever, and that tattoos are not as accepted in the office as they are on the court. But is he stopping any time soon? “As of right now, nope,” he

answered. “When I’m done bouncing basketballs and I want to get a real job and stuff like that, I think I’m going to be out of the tattoo business.” Getting the team on its feet is his first priority but, if history proves to be true, fans should be seeing more ink on his arms in the near future. However, he has no specific plans for his next tattoo. “It’s still in the making,” Pearson said. “But it’s coming soon, I can guarantee that.”

Courtside Seats • 27


0 15 4 13 30 22

Bryon Allen

6’3” - Sophomore - Guard Largo, Md.

Jordan Baird

5’11” - Junior - Guard Gainesville, Va.

Erik Copes

6’8” - Freshman - Forward/Center Philadelphia, Pa.

Corey Edwards 5’11” - Freshman - Guard Middle Village, N.Y.

Jacob Hoxie

6’3” - Sophomore - Guard Garner, N.C.

Mike Morrison 6’9” - Senior - Forward St. Petersburg, Fla.

28 • Courtside Seats

5

Jonathan Arledge 6’9” - Sophomore - Forward Silver Spring, Md.

1 45 12 2 14

Paris Bennett

6’6” - Redshirt Sophomore - Forward Linden, N.J.

Andre Cornelius 5’10” - Senior - Guard Charlotte, N.C.

Vaughn Gray

6’5” - Freshman - Forward Elmwood Park, N.J.

Bryce Lewis 5’9” - Junior - Guard Union, N.J.

Anali Okoloji

6’8” - Sophomore - Forward Brooklyn, N.Y.


24 11 32 10

Ryan Pearson 6’6” - Senior - Forward Far Rockaway, N.Y.

Vertrail Vaughns

6’2” - Redshirt Sophomore - Guard Dallas, Texas

Johnny Williams 6’8” - Junior - Forward Memphis, Tenn.

Sherrod Wright

6’4” - Redshirt Sophomore - Guard Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Roland Houston Assistant Coach University of Rhode Island ‘82 Philadelphia, Pa.

Mike Wells

Assistant Coach Mount Vernon Nazaraene, ‘93 Mount Vernon, Ohio

Bucknell Towson Virginia Radford Duquesne Manhattan C. of Charleston William & Mary Old Dominion Georgia State Drexel James Madison Delaware Towson UNCW Hofstra James Madison Delaware Old Dominion Hofstra UNCW VCU Bracketbuster Northeastern VCU CAA Championship

11/30 7 p.m. 12/3 7 p.m. 12/6 7 p.m. 12/10 4 p.m. 12/21 7 p.m. 12/23 7 p.m. 12/30 7 p.m. 1/2 12 p.m. 1/4 7 p.m. 1/7 7 p.m. 1/12 8 p.m. 1/14 7 p.m. 1/18 7 p.m. 1/21 4 p.m. 1/23 9 p.m. 1/25 7 p.m. 1/28 2 p.m. 2/1 7 p.m. 2/4 5 p.m. 2/8 7 p.m. 2/11 7 p.m. 2/14 9 p.m. T.B.A. 2/17-19 2/22 7 p.m. 2/25 4 p.m. 3/2 T.B.A.

Paul Hewitt Head Coach St. John Fisher ‘85 Kingston, Jamaica

Chris Kreider

Assistant Coach Lebanon Valley College ‘03 Hummelstown, Pa.

Marquis Webb

Director, Player Development Rutgers ‘07 Paterson, N.J.

Courtside Seats • 29


14 4 55 2 11 23

Melissa Collier

5’6” - Redshirt Junior - Guard Chicago, Ill.

Amber Easter

6’0” - Junior - Guard/Forward Hampton, Va.

Annie Lawler

6’0” - Freshman - Forward Wakefield, R.I.

Rachel McNair 6’0” - Freshman - Forward Valley Cottage, N.Y.

Janaa Pickard

6’1” - Redshirt Sophomore - Forward Philadelphia, Pa.

Cierra Strickland 5’10” - Sophomore - Guard Forestville, Md.

32 • Courtside Seats

1

Shavonne Duckett 5’10” - Junior - Guard Landover, Md.

3 32 5 15 33

Amber Epps 5’8” - Senior - Forward Manassas, Va.

Evelyn Lewis

6’3” - R. Senior - Forward/Center Hampton, Va.

Taleia Moton

5’6” - Redshirt Senior - Guard Fort Washington, Md.

Rahneeka Saunders 5’6” - Junior - Guard Washington, D.C.

Joyous Tharrington 5’11” - Redshirt Junior - Forward Lynchburg, Va.


20 10

Talisha Watts 6’2” - Freshman - Forward Lynchburg, Va.

Christine Weithman 5’9” - Sophomore - Guard Silver Spring, Md.

Jeri Porter Head Coach Liberty, ‘91 Capital Heights, Md.

T.B.A.

Jana Ashley

Assistant Coach University of North Alabama, ‘02 Rome, Ga.

Jim Lewis

Assistant Coach West Virginia University, ‘68 Alexandria, Va.

Greg Pulliam Assistant Coach Liberty, ‘99 Lynchburg, Va.

Courtside Seats • 33


Coach Porter

Four Years of Trust by John Powell

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fter four years, Jeri Porter finally has a team she can call her own. Finally, everybody is on the same page. They know what they need to accomplish. And their expectations are high. When she signed on with Mason, she took over a team that was struggling. In the 2007-08 season, the Patriots went 9-21 overall with a 3-15 conference mark. They grinded out the season with only one home conference win. Clearly, there was a change needed at the top. Porter will be the first to say that year one in Fairfax was a struggle. The team won four games all year, but things were looking up. The program was moving in the right direction. “It may sound simple, but I think we’ve gotten better every year,” Porter said. “I think we’ve gained a little bit more confidence every year. I think we’ve proven to ourselves with each year that we can be competitive.” They went 10-20 overall in her second year and, last year, they finished with their best conference mark in recent history. The team did not show a winning record, but they showed progress. The grassroots transformation was taking hold. Most importantly, she did it the honest way. When recruiting for the team, there was no bend-

34 • Courtside Seats

ing the facts. She let everyone know that the team was rebuilding. Some young players only want to succeed and see results immediately, but others wanted the challenge to turn a team around. “Trust me, some kids don’t want to step into a rebuild, and they’ll tell you that,” Porter said. “It’s a recruiting process. You respect that and you move on. Some kids are intrigued by the opportunity to bring their own individual talent into a situation that’s going to make a major difference.”

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t was not Porter’s first involvement in college basketball. Out of high school, she was recruited by Liberty University and caught fire in her junior year. The awards piled up. She was the twotime team Most Valuable Player and made the first-team All-Big South Conference. She scored a combined 717 points in her junior and senior years, putting her in the upper echelon of scorers in the history of the program. In 1998, she was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. But it was not enough. She stepped away from the playing side and immediately stepped into the role as an assistant coach at her alma mater. In her final year as an assistant, Liberty only took one loss, winning the regular season and the conference tournament. “I can remember going from being a student-


athlete to being a graduate assistant, and a full-time assistant and thinking, ‘Man I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. All the work, all the preparation, the recruiting, and film breakdown,’ “ Porter said. “And then I can recall six years later going from being an assistant to being a head coach and feeling like, ‘Man! Once again, I’m not doing the same job,’ All of it is in the confines of college women’s basketball, but as you transfer from one role to another, I think you’re really enlightened as you move on.” That enlightenment from dealing with each different type of pressure paid off. After a stint with the University of North Alabama, she took the head-coaching job at Radford University, Liberty’s conference rival. She led her girls to a 93-85 record with

Again, Moton’s head coach, this time Jeri Porter, left the program and signed on to bring the Patriots back to glory. The guard followed suit. “It’s humbling,” Porter said when asked about Moton’s decision to transfer. “We work hard as coaches to develop relationships with all of our kids to get to know them and have that special bond as people, not just as athletes.” With pride in her recruiter, Moton followed her north. She signed on to lead Porter’s offense. No matter where the head coach went, Moton would follow through

the last two titles but, without their Player of the Year, it looks to be a tough road for the Dukes. With a changing of the guard at the top of the conference, the Patriots have set themselves up well to slide into the top. The team’s aim is no less than to become the next perennial power. The fact that Porter has improved the Patriots’ record in each of her years with the team bodes well for fans in Fairfax. “I don’t expect you to support me until I’m putting a product on the floor that’s worthy of support,” Porter said. “In all honesty, in our first three seasons here, as

“We work hard as coaches to develop relationships with all of our kids.” a 43-39 conference mark. Most notably, she brought the Highlanders to their secondhighest win total in the program’s history with 23 wins. It was at Radford, after their increasing success, that Porter recruited Taleia Moton, a high school point guard who was brought on to be a central part of her head coach’s offensive attack. Little did she know, the 5-foot-6-inch guard would become a central piece to her team.

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oton originally signed on to play for Mount St. Mary’s more than four years ago. Unfortunately, her head coach resigned before the guard could suit up for the first time. It threw her into a tailspin. The former coach called Porter, who acted quickly on the possibility of signing the leading scorer of Prince George’s County high school basketball.

on the promise because she was convinced that her coach’s offense worked. “Once a point guard has bought into your system and believes in what you’re doing, I think that’s always a hard sell for the next coach coming in,” Porter said. “Taleia and I, obviously there’s a great relationship off the court.”

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one are the days that CAA play is dominated by one team. Old Dominion no longer runs the gauntlet with ease, especially after Mason won their first game against the Monarchs in Porter’s first season. James Madison won

we’ve gotten better and as we’ve grown, I’ve been very pleased and impressed with the support that we’ve gotten to this point.” The coaches will continue to bolster their local recruiting and Porter will be able to attract players because of her experience. In their head coach, they have a friend who has been through the good times and the bad times, a coach who has stood in their shoes, someone who seems physically unable to let her players down. Throughout the team, whether they win or lose, there is one common theme: Complete trust. Courtside Seats • 35


The Competition “In our backcourt, we are better because we’ve got true point guards.” Tina Martin

A breakdown of some of the strongest women’s teams in the CAA

Delaware Blue Hens The Blue Hens not only bring back the most electric player in the CAA, AllAmerican Elena Delle Donne, but also return their other four starters, making them one of the most experienced teams in the conference. Donne is the tallest player on the preseason All-CAA teams, standing at 6-foot-5. She was named the Player of the Year and the Rookie of the Year her first season, only the second CAA women’s player to earn both honors in one year. She averaged 25.3 ppg last year and looks to hit that mark again. “Obviously, Elena Delle Donne is Preseason Player of the Year,” Coach Tina Martin said, “and rightfully so. She had a good summer, playing for the world

VCU Rams Coach Beth Cunningham returns four of her starters from the 2010-11 campaign. They made their most recent appearance in the WNIT last season, unable to make the NCAA tournament since 2009. They should improve on last year’s 19-12 record with the help of senior forward Courtney Hurt, who was vying for the Preseason Player of the Year award after monstrous numbers last season.

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She was the best in the nation with 12.4 rpg last year. She scored double-digits every game last year, scoring 23.2 ppg good for second in the nation. Cunningham enters her ninth season with VCU. She fell one game short of completing four consecutive seasons with 20 wins or more, finishing 19-12 to close out last season. The Rams lost 72-66 to St. Joseph’s in the first round of the WNIT.

university team. I think Elena is definitely looking forward to this season.” Martin is entering her sixteenth season with the Blue Hens. In 10 of her last 12 seasons, Delaware has accrued 20 wins. Under her tenure, the team has put up a 278-175 mark. The team went to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament to close out their 2011 campaign, where they lost 58-55 against Toledo in the first round. “In our backcourt, we are better because we’ve got the true point guards,” Martin said. “I think it’s harder when you have somebody like a Shante Evans, like an Elena Delle Donne, because everybody is expecting it, everybody is looking for [them to take possession].”


JMU Dukes The 2010 CAA tournament went the way of the Dukes, and Coach Kenny Brooks’s girls captured another title in 2011. Needless to say, after being ranked to finish third in the conference, James Madison is playing to prove their naysayers wrong. “The last five years, we’ve had the Player of the Year. I think this year’s makeup is different; we’ll be a little more balanced basketball team,” Brooks said. “We’ve won two CAA Championships in a row. Our goal is to win another one. We started this year off with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. You have to

use it as motivation.” They won the conference last year, finishing with a 26-8 final record. As the No. 11 seed, the Dukes lost to No. 6 Oklahoma 86-72 in the Women’s NCAA Tournament at Charlottesville to close out their 2010-11 campaign. “I think we have capable young ladies that can step in and fill the void due to graduation,” Brooks said. “I’m looking forward to these kids stepping up and getting their turn to carry on tradition. They’re excited and they’re looking forward to getting this thing going.”

“We started this year off with a little bit of chip on our shoulder. You have to use it as motivation.” Kenny Brooks

“The attitude is really exciting, pushing for great things. We feel like we can have a phenomenal year.” Krista Kilburn-Steveskey

Hofstra Pride Despite their ranking just inside of the top four conference teams, the Pride has high hopes for this season resting on the shoulders of junior forward Shante Evans. Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey enters her sixth year with Hofstra looking for another postseason berth. Evans sealed an All-American nod on the honorable mention team, a first for the program. She averaged a doubledouble last season with 18.4 ppg and 11.0 rpg. She was the first sophomore in the program’s history to put up 1,000 points by her sophomore year. “You knew she was special,” KilburnSteveskey said of Evans. “I remember

one of my assistants was watching at a gym one time and she said, ‘You’ve got to see this kid.’ She’s got incredible hands and feet, she’s got the size. [At Hofstra,] she felt like she could achieve her goal. I think she believed in what we said.” Unlike the other teams in the top four, the Pride is looking to bounce back from a relatively down year. “We know the ins and outs of how to win a game, keeping it together and maintaining,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. “The attitude is really exciting, pushing for great things. We feel like we can have a phenomenal year.”

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Coming Home

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“It’s been 14 years and it feels like I left yesterday. I couldn’t be happier to be home.”

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f anyone decides to write a book about assistant coach Jim Lewis, he has the perfect title: “I Coached Your Momma and Your Daddy, too.” “It’s true,” Lewis said. “I’ve started that circle. We’re recruiting a couple players whose mothers played for me here at Mason.” Lewis has been coaching for more than 40 years, spending time at nearly every possible rank in women’s basketball. He began his career as an assistant at Tennessee State University in 1969 and coached a number of USA Basketball teams, winning three gold medals in three years. He received his first collegiate head coaching position at George Mason University in 1984 and coached the first ever Mason basketball game in the Patriot Center. “We played even before the men did that night,” Lewis recalled.

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fter compiling a track record of success in Fairfax, Lewis left the collegiate ranks to become the first head coach of the Washington Mystics in 1997. After several more pit stops over the course of 13 seasons, including a stint as the coach at T.C. Williams High School, Lewis reached out to Coach Jeri Porter this offseason in hopes of reuniting with the green and gold. Hiring Lewis, who is the most winningest coach in the program’s history, was a no-brainer for Porter. “I realize that when I hired Coach Lewis, a lot of people didn’t quite get it,” Porter said. “They didn’t really understand the thought process. But there’s

by Cody Norman

no way that, when given the opportunity, you don’t hire someone like [Lewis].” While the state of the university has certainly changed since his departure, many things have remained constant. With his 201 wins, Lewis is still the most storied coach in Mason women’s basketball history. But, if he has it his way, that record won’t stand long. “I hope Coach Porter breaks it,” Lewis said. “Actually, I hope she breaks it this year.”

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ewis has retained his old school coaching style, as much of the admiration and respect he receives from the women stems from his willingness to help them succeed on the floor. He is a frequent contributor at practice, running the floor and working up a sweat right alongside his players. “That’s the only way I know how to do it,” he said. “I’m still a young guy at 64.” Perhaps most telling, a simple mention of his name draws an affirmative reaction from the current players. “He’s just a lot of fun to be around,” said sophomore guard Amber Easter. ”How can you not smile when you hear his name?” While Lewis was brought in to work with Mason’s current frontcourt, he also serves as a bridge to narrow the gap between past and present Patriots. And, despite being a legend, he has embraced his new role as an assistant coach and is excited for his return to the Mason Nation. “It’s been 14 years and it feels like I left yesterday,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to be home.”


PHOTO COURTESY OF SIAULIAI

“As the point guard, how are you supposed to lead a team that might not understand you?”

Chasing a Dream

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am Long is no stranger to the hardwood. He enjoyed one of the most successful tenures in the history of Mason basketball, posting an impressive 1,416 points over an illustrious four-year career. He was projected to go in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft but, after falling short, signed a contract to play overseas in Siauliai, Lithuania – a place where the collegiate star is a stranger. Before leaving to join his new team in August, Long thought back to the Patriots’ trip to Italy and expected his overseas basketball venture to be equally fascinating. “We had such a great time in Italy sightseeing,” Long said. “The people were easy to talk to and some things were comparable to the states. I can’t say the same for out here.”

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ith little to no background in the native language, Long has struggled to adjust to a culture in which he is an outsider. He has struggled to find an efficient way to communicate with his teammates, making it difficult for Long, the point guard, to call plays and direct traffic for his team. “On the floor, there is no communicating

at all,” Long said. “As the point guard, how are you supposed to lead a team that might not understand you?” Even in practice, Long has had a difficult time understanding offensive plays and defensive schemes. His coach speaks very little English and goes over game strategies in Lithuanian, leaving many of the American players, including Long, lost. “There are times in practice that he’ll talk for a while and the translator on our team will say one sentence,” Long said. “So there is no telling what I am missing out on.” For the first time in his life, Long has been forced to deal with such a rough transition into an unfamiliar world on his own. Without his mother and his brother, who were regulars at Mason basketball games, in Lithuania with him, Long has had to learn to cope with the stress while doing his best to keep an open line of communication with his family back home.

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oon after Long arrived in Lithuania, he got word that his grandmother had passed away. “We were very close,” Long said. “It’s definitely tough on me. And it’s tough on my family.” When Long was a young boy in Palm Bay, Fla., he spent a good bit of his time with

by Cody Norman his grandmother. During summers and offdays, Long would walk through the door of her house at 7 a.m. to the smell of fresh eggs, grits, sausage and buttermilk biscuits. “She used to throw down in the kitchen,” Long said. “I never ate a bowl of cereal at grandma’s house. There was no telling what she was going to cook, but whatever it was, I was definitely ready to eat.” He and his grandmother developed an incredible bond over the years. She did her best to keep him entertained, all the while keeping him in line no matter how old he got. “You go over there and do what you got to do, but hurry back home as soon as possible,” his grandmother told Long, the last words she would tell him before her passing. “Be safe and behave while you’re gone. If you don’t, you’ll have a whooping waiting for you when you get back home.” Yet, through all the trials and tribulations involved in immersing himself in a new culture, Long appreciates the opportunity to play basketball overseas and would consider making it a career. “If I’m going to different places, at least I can say I got the opportunity to travel the world,” Long said. “How many other people can say that?” Courtside Seats • 39


Section 124

A view from the Platoon by Daniel Zimmet

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s a diehard fan of Mason basketball, I’ve come across a variety of ups and downs over the past two years. I try my hardest to push the ups above the downs in my mind because, after all, the ups have been pretty damn good. Even during the rare mishaps of Mason basketball, I still find the silver lining in the situation. When we got stomped by Ohio State last season in the NCAA tournament, I couldn’t help but see the bright side of an incredible season as a whole. Or even Coach L leaving for Coral Gables was, of course, a stinger at first. But the signing of Coach Hewitt only showed promise for the future.

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ebruary 9, 2010. One of those dates that will go down in my book of unforgettable games. We hosted VCU in an insane 82-77 win in overtime. After going down 41-28 at the half we forced OT to win a huge game at home. I remember not only standing up for the entire game, but everyone was standing on their chairs for the game. At one point, I literally felt my chair rattling as every student was jumping up and down. What put the icing on the cake for me in this game was the fact that we beat VCU. I can’t stand the Rams. I’m even willing to bet that 99 percent of Mason fans would pick VCU if they could select any team they would like to see fall to Mason.

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straight games. That’s how many games Mason won in a row last year. To top that all off, it was to close out the regular season leading into the CAA tournament. The winning streak was an incredible way to close out the season and each game we just wanted to keep the streak going. Who knows how long it could have gone if we started it even earlier? Everyone has to remember that beard streak going along with the winning streak. In an interview with The Washington Post, Ryan Pearson said, 40 • Courtside Seats

“Everybody come out here, we looking rough, we looking a little intimidating.” Maybe it was the team beards that helped contribute to the epic winning streak. Either way, going from 10-5 to 25-5 was a pretty sweet season ending streak. But no one could have predicted what was about to happen in the NCAA tournament.

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election Sunday. All of the players and coaches were on stage in the Johnson Center with a giant television watching the selection show with the fans. The only thing that would have been sweeter would have been CBS camera crews on site to watch our team’s reaction. Watching Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson literally jump out of their chairs as we got matched up with Villanova will just be another awesome image I will never forget.

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lutch in Cleveland. I have been to a lot of sporting events in my life, and many of them stand out as favorites. However, it is exciting to say that the Mason vs. Villanova game will go down as the best game I have ever attended. First of all, just being in the atmosphere of the NCAA tournament was something that I’ve never experienced before. As the game got closer and closer to the final buzzer, the Mason faithful were getting more and more anxious when the score kept fluctuating. ‘Nova winning, now Mason winning, back to ‘Nova winning. However, once Luke Hancock hit that memorable 3-pointer my roommate Mark and I proceeded to share the most emotional man-hug of our lives. Between that hug, experiencing that game with my roommates, and Gus Johnson screaming “Hancock…AHHHH!” and “Exclamation point George Mason!” (Which will undoubtedly go down as one of my favorite sports calls of all time) made that game THE best I have ever attended.

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he joy and excitement that Mason basketball has brought me over the past few years is absolutely incredible. No matter what, I will always remember not just watching our Patriots play, but experiencing it as well. It feels good to know that I’ll always bleed the green and gold, and am honored to be able to forever call myself a part of Mason Nation.


gmuccm.org

cathol ic PAT RIOTS PATRIOTS

We got Spirit. (Really.) Mass Times: Sat. 5:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m., 8 p.m. & 10 p.m.

Courtside Seats • 41


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Issue 1 -- Nov. 30, 2011