Courtside Seats

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Volume 2 • February 18, 2012


Andre Cornelius has earned his place back in the Patriots’ starting lineup Page 14


Aspiring musician puts career on hiatus to pursue another love Page 10


To his nephew, Roland Houston is more than a coach Page 30


His journey from the Final Four to the business of his dreams Page 24


Following the Rules: A look into the complex NCAA rulebook By Cody Norman

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Back in Business: Andre Cornelius has worked his way back into the starting lineup By John Powell


FEBRUARY 18, 2012

STARTING FIVE “I was born into an entrepreneurshiptype mindset. We were always taught to think for ourselves and be our own men.” - Lamar Butler on why he started up his company, Sports Heaven USA

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Pearson of the Year By John Powell

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Erik Copes & Roland Houston

Following a difficult offseason, Copes and Houston have united in Fairfax to fulfill a longtime dream. By Cody Norman

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The Masonettes: Norwood Strengthens Family Name at Mason By Cody Norman

Jordan Baird

Former American Idol contestant and current Mason walkon dazzled the crowd with a flawless national anthem. By Colleen Wilson

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Section 124: A View from the Platoon By Daniel Zimmet

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Jacob Hoxie

After four years in the military, the walk-on forward has grown on and off the floor. By Cody Norman


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Cody Norman Editor-in-Chief

Daniel Zimmet Managing Editor

Stephen Kline

Photo & Design Editor

Colleen Wilson

Lamar Butler The face of Mason’s Final Four team has taken his sporting

Craig Bisacre

success into the business world with Sports Heaven USA. By Cody Norman

John Powell

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Kathryn Mangus

Student Media Director

Jacques Mouyal Business Manager

David Carroll

Student Media Associate Director

Aram Zucker-Scharff

Student Media Assitant Director

Doc Nix & the Green Machine

Since coming to Mason in 2007, Doc Nix and the Green Machine have turned the Patriot Center into one of the toughest places in the nation to play. By Cody Norman

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Charity Stripe For the first time in his collegiate career, Mike Morrison has an experienced big-man coach in Roland Houston. As a result, he’s vastly improved his numbers from the free throw line this season. Photo by Stephen Kline

On the Boards Coming in as the highestrated recruit in Mason basketball history, freshman Erik Copes has excelled in rebounding and shotblocking this season. Despite his limited minutes behind Morrison, Copes is averaging nearly two blocks per game. Photo by Craig Bisacre

Last Hurrah In his 16 years as president of the university, there has been no bigger fan of Mason basketball than President Alan Merten. Merten acknowledges the student section wearing his “Fear the Beard� shirt in support of Ryan Pearson. Photo by Stephen Kline

Following the Rules


erfection does not exist. Not in the w o r l d of intercollegiate athletics, anyway. There are 342 Division-I basketball programs across the country and, each day, at least one of them is breaking the rules. “Everyday we’re dealing with someone or something,” by Cody Norman said Paul Bowden, who has been the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance at Mason since 2006. “Compliance is the center of everything because everything is based on the manual.” Like a fixture, the 412-page manual sits atop Bowden’s desk with more than 10 chapters of laws and bylaws enacted by the NCAA over its 64-year existence. Bylaws are broken down into chapters based on employment, practice times, playing times,

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booster programs, extra benefits, recruiting and eligibility, each of them delving deeper into sportspecific regulations. “There are so many rules in that book that it’s not if you’re going to break a rule, it’s when you’re going to break a rule,” Paul Hewitt said. “There are rules broken that you didn’t even know were in effect.” Despite a university’s effort to run a flawless program, perfection just does not exist in compliance. Institutions enrolled in the Bowl Championship Series average almost 35 secondary violations per year while Division-I AAA programs – the category under which Mason falls – average more than 10 secondary violations per year. “We have a pretty good situation here but we do have our secondary violations,” Bowden said. “But, let’s be clear, secondary is not a bad word.”

A look into the complex NCAA rulebook

Off the Back Iron Within the 412-page rulebook, the NCAA has enacted some wacky rules pertaining to all athletic programs

Riding in Style

“ General Restrictions. A member institution may pay the prospective student-athlete’s actual round-trip transportation costs for his or her official visit to its campus from any location... Use of a limousine or helicopter for such transportation is prohibited.”

I’m on a Boat “ Normal Retail Cost. If a boat, snowmobile, recreational vehicle or similar recreational equipment (including those provided by an institutional staff member or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests) is used to entertain a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents (or legal guardians) and spouse, the normal retail cost of the use of such equipment shall be assessed against the $30-perday entertainment figure; further, if such normal retail costs exceeds the $30-per-day entertainment allowance, such entertainment may not be provided.”


oaches, players and athletic officials meet once a month to discuss any possible mishaps and to maintain an open line of communication under the motto “Don’t go at it alone.” “The most important thing is to establish a culture of responsibility,” Hewitt said. “Players and coaches both need to understand that they are here to represent Mason on the court in an impeccable manner and off the court in an impeccable manner. This is bigger than them.” Coaches are issued a manual at the beginning of every year, each of the 100-plus amendments highlighted in gray. They are required to take and pass a test in order to begin recruiting. There is an extensive website for compliance available to coaches, athletes and prospects. But, still, nothing is perfect.

Textual Relationships “ Electronic Transmissions. Electronically transmitted correspondence that may be sent to a prospective student-athlete (or the prospective student-athlete’s parents or legal guardians) is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles. (See Bylaw All other forms of electronically transmitted correspondence (e.g., Instant Messenger, text messaging) are prohibited.”

Practice Makes Perfect “ Daily and Weekly Hour Limitations—Playing Season. A student-athlete’s participation in countable athletically related activities (see Bylaw 17.02.1) shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week.”

Dirty Laundry “ Laundry Label. If an institution’s uniform or any item of apparel worn by a student-athlete in competition contains washing instructions on the outside of the apparel on a patch that also includes the manufacturer’s or distributor’s logo or trademark, the entire patch must be contained within a foursided geometrical figure (rectangle, square, parallelogram) that does not exceed 2 1/4 square inches.” *Plus the whole BCS playoff system, but that is for another issue.

“[Mistakes] happen,” Bowden said. “Let’s report it to the NCAA, serve our penalty and it’s over. You’re not on the front page of The Washington Post at that point. If it happens for 18 weeks a season for several years, that’s when we’ve got a problem.” Still, though, Bowden warns that the manual can be very interpretive. It is largely up to the university to translate the manual in the way they think will best protect and reflect the university’s values. “My job is to protect the university,” Bowden said. “First and foremost, I am here to protect the integrity of the university that Dr. [Alan] Merten and the board of regents has set down. “We don’t overreact here. And I think that makes for a great atmosphere.”

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From American Idol to ESPN An aspiring musician puts his music on hiatus to pursue another love by Colleen Wilson


hen the basketball season started, Jordan Baird had a choice to make. A long time singer, he had finally broken into the music business, releasing the single “Grateful” with the record label iHollywoodWired. Then he was offered a walk-on spot on the Mason basketball team. That’s when things got complicated. Due to conflicts, he was forced to choose between staying with the record label and playing basketball. “Choosing between music and basketball was a decision I had to take time to make – but it wasn’t a hard one. Playing college basketball is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Baird said. “I got to be on a Division-I team; that’s the kind of thing little kids dream about. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I just put my music on pause for a while.” Being on the team doesn’t mean that he has given up his music entirely. By majoring in music, he’s been able to keep up with his singing, which he plans to pursue after college.


n the minutes leading up to the homecoming game against Old Dominion, Baird had more on his mind than just the game. With more than 9,800 expectant eyes on him, he opened the game with the national anthem to the cheers of the crowd that sang along with him. Videos uploaded to his YouTube account cover artists ranging from Bruno Mars to Chris Tomlin. He describes his own musical style as a melodic singer-songwriter. “I’m the kind of guy where if you hand me a guitar and a mic you’ll get some chill laid back music,” Baird said. He can also see himself putting out a pop, R&B or soul record sometime in the future. In high school, Baird sang in a choir in front of 13,000 people, but Courtside Seats • 11

“We know our place as walkons, but just because you know your place doesn’t mean you can’t strive for something more.” the homecoming game was the largest crowd he has faced solo. “It’s a really different story when you’re out there alone,” Baird said. Just months after graduating from high school, Baird auditioned for “American Idol”. He made it to the top 40 in the 2009 season, which Kris Allen ultimately won. “Simon [Cowell] was really cool. He had good constructive criticism. He said no, but he told me if I took it seriously that I could come back and do well,” Baird said. After the first round of contestants were cut down from 19,000 to 200, Baird made it through and started to take the competition seriously. “When you go in there, it’s just like a cattle call,” Baird said. “Four people sing, and the it’s like, yes, yes, no, no or whatever the case may be. Then they rip the reins off you and send you home.” Baird was voted off the show after receiving a yes vote from Paula Abdul and guest judge Kristin Chenoweth, and a no from Cowell and Randy Jackson. Even though he didn’t make it to Hollywood, Baird took a lot away from his run on “American Idol”. “Something like that happening right out of high school, it was a blast,” Baird said. “I got to like the fourth or fifth round and the judges were there. It’s like anything really, the experience always benefits you somehow. You can learn from everything. There’s something you can take away from every experience.”


aird also auditioned for “The X-Factor” this past summer. After submitting a YouTube video of himself singing, Baird was able to skip the first several rounds of the competition.

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During the first round, he sang in front of 5,000 people in Seattle. Cowell recognized him on stage and asked him if they had met before. When Baird confirmed that they had, Cowell asked where. “I was like,’Uh, American Idol?’ The crowd went wild. It was hilarious,” Baird said. He did not make it past that round of judging. Auditioning again for American Idol is one of Baird’s options after he graduates. He has kept in touch with his contacts in the music world and plans to reach out to them again once he is finished with school. He is also looking into the newer television show “The Voice” with judges Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera.


or his love and talent in both music and basketball, Baird has his parents to thank. His mother sang as a child, a skill Baird and his brother both inherited. His father played basketball in his youth, which was also shared with the two brothers, though Baird is the first in his family to play at the college level. Baird initially didn’t pursue basketball out of high school after a deal with Shenandoah University fell through. However, he ended up as a walk-on for the Mason team, which he calls a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity. “We know our place as walk-ons, but just because you know your place doesn’t mean you can’t strive for something more,” Baird said. “I’m always working hard in practice and you never know when they might need us and might put us in, so you just have to keep working hard.”

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Back in Business Andre Cornelius has

worked his way back into Mason’s starting lineup


by John Powell

n the final year of a basketball player’s collegiate career, the culmination of his work serves as a drive to finish strong. It’s usually a victory lap, collecting awards, getting recognition at senior day and, of course, leading the team late into March. But for Andre Cornelius, offseason problems stunted that senior growth. He had some legal problems and, compounded with a new coach and a new offensive scheme, it was an offseason of adjustment. “It was a big surprise that Coach [Jim Larranaga] left,” Cornelius said. “But we had to adjust to our new coach and get ready. We couldn’t dwell on the past because he was already gone. We had to move forward and get used to this coach.” He rejoined the team 10 games into the year, trying to solidify his place on a team where Paul Hewitt was content with the play of point guards Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards at the top of the key. Fans were content with winning.

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“There are a lot of young guards. He’s teaching them, pressuring them [and] getting on them a little bit.”


he veteran guard relied on what he knew best. He worked hard despite the inability to practice with the team and relied on his defense when he came back, understanding that his shotmaking may take a few games to come back. “He started out unbelievable. He played with a lot of energy. He was great defensively,” Hewitt said. “So getting back into the pace of play was not the issue. The issue was just some of the sharpness you miss when you’re not with your teammates.” Senior forward Mike Morrison, who has played alongside Cornelius for four years, remembers their freshman campaign. “He was a ball of energy. A playmaker. From the first time he got here to now, he’s a playmaker,” Morrison said. “A lot of 16 • Courtside Seats

playmakers come in and take starters’ spots. It just made us play hard. Playing a lot of minutes freshman year. He played well, very well.” Cornelius took the starting role his sophomore year, along with Morrison and the team’s do-it-all man Ryan Pearson, and took the team back to the NCAA Tournament by his junior season. His shooting numbers were not as consistent, but his well-timed 3-point shots gave the team energy. “He made a lot of big plays all the time but, as he developed, he got smarter and his leadership started coming through, especially on the court,” Morrison said. “There are a lot of young guards. He’s teaching them, pressuring them [and] getting on them a little bit.” Even when the offense was not his

strength, he relied on his defense. “[Larranaga] said ‘If you come here, you have to play defense,’ so that’s what I came to do,” Cornelius said. “I got my playing time off of my defense and my ability to score.” After all the success the team enjoyed, it made it that much harder to sit out and that desire to come back was obvious. “It was very difficult, I’m sure, because he definitely wanted to play,” Morrison said. “Games, just sitting there watching, he felt like he was hurting his team. Not happy, but he handled it very well.”


ith a new coach, the delay in coming back still has an effect on his game. When there’s a new system, new players vying for a starting job and old traditions of success to uphold,

Pearson of the Year

F 10 games is the longest month a basketball player can experience. He still needs to improve with the system because he is a bit behind the learning curve. “I guess he’s got to be a little more patient. There are some times where he tries to make shots out of nothing,” Hewitt said. “I mean things like screens, or using your ability to pressure the ball to force shots and create transition opportunities. The bigger picture, as opposed to just, ‘give me the ball, let me score.’” At time this season, Cornelius has been the spark the team needed. As he continues to improve, his leadership on the perimeter could push the Patriots through Richmond and into the Big Dance.

ans in Fairfax were shocked when the Preseason Player of the Year votes were tallied and their senior forward was not at the top of the list. He was coming off the best season of his career, averaging nearly seven rebounds and 14.2 points per game and anchoring the Patriots’ frontcourt. His consistent play willed Mason to a first-place finish in the regular season standings and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The offseason, though, was met with immediate turmoil. Jim Larranaga, longtime coach of the Patriots, left the school for a coaching gig in the ACC. “It was difficult,” Pearson said. Still, not even a coaching change could hold back what this player would unleash in his senior year. “[Paul Hewitt’s] style, I want to say, is more free,” Pearson said. “We just do what we know to do. He tells us what he wants from us and he knows how he wants it done.” His consistency and dominance within the conference have instilled con-

fidence throughout the locker room. Fellow senior forward Mike Morrison is marveled by Pearson’s success and, after nearly four seasons, remains uncertain that opposing teams can defend him. “I don’t know what coaches say on the scouting report to handle him,” Morrison said. “He scores from the outside [and] mid range. It’s difficult to defend the man.” Pearson has just one more chance to claim the crown in Richmond and the team will rely heavily on their unconventional forward to lead them to success. “We’ll be relying on him a whole lot. But we’re relying on the whole team,” Morrison said. “He can rely on us too, just like we’re relying on him to put up the numbers he has and carry us on in times where we need him to.” According to Hewitt, there is only one thing that could make it a lock. “Win the rest of the games,” Hewitt said. “The only reason why I think he’s Player of the Year is because he’s had us in first place the whole year.” And it is hard to argue with success. Courtside Seats • 17

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Playing in the Name of Mason Behind Doc Nix & the Green Machine, the Patriot Center has become a true homecourt advantage.


by Cody Norman

ollege basketball fans across the nation packed into the Quicken Loans Arena last March. Expecting to see great basketball, those fans were greeted with a welcome surprise. A strange man in a funny suit danced along the stands, directing his band in such a unique fashion that people wide and far lined up for photographs with a regular in the posttournament “One Shining Moment.” Despite the Patriots’ nail-biting victory over Villanova in the second round, or even despite the gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the subsequent round, George Mason University won the 2011 NCAA Tournament. At least in the mind of Doc Nix. “In the realm of Ws and Ls and stats on the box score, we didn’t win,” Doc Nix said. “But in terms of showing up and representing ourselves and what we’re about, I think we did win.” Known for his Mason-themed zoot suits, Courtside Seats • 19

Doc Nix Says On a scale from 1 to 5, how fresh is...

Dr. Michael Nickens, more commonly known as Doc Nix, has attracted a nationwide audience and has, in many ways, become the face of Mason basketball. “Taking it up a notch and wearing something that stands out just gives everyone that cue and gives me permission to get in front of people and encourage them to clap and sing along,” Doc Nix said. “It’s kind of a code for, ‘Pay attention to this. This is part of the performance.’”


hile continuing his work as an assistant professor in the School of Music, his alter ego has charmed the NCAA landscape for six years, bringing doubt to which persona is the most real. “It’s like asking, ‘Is Bruce Wayne the real guy or is Batman the real guy? Is Clark Kent the

“It’s like asking, ‘Is Bruce Wayne the real guy or is Batman the real guy? Is Clark Kent or is Superman the real guy? Is Dr. Michael Nickens the real guy or is Doc Nix the real guy?’ It’s hard to say what’s what.”

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The Homecoming Crowd?

Paul Hewitt’s zoot suit?


“Don’t get me wrong: Loved the tents and tailgates. Loved seeing old and new friends side by side. But I want more people singing, stomping, dancing, clapping and cheering! We shouldn’t even need the stadium seating because everyone is on their feet the whole game!”

real guy or is Superman the real guy? Is Dr. Michael Nickens the real guy or is Doc Nix the real guy?’ It’s hard to say what’s what,” Doc Nix said. As a drum major at West Potomac High School, Doc Nix noticed that, as a member of the marching band, he could control an entire football stadium from one spot on the field. He brought the idea to Fairfax just one year after Mason’s historical run to the Final Four and continues to breathe life into a crowded arena. Despite the Patriots’ inability to unseat No. 5 Notre Dame in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Doc Nix made a huge splash in the college basketball landscape as the Green Machine was recognized by a number of sports writers as the most spirited pep band in the nation. “We were at one game – and we were


“No way to not give it a 5 at Mason Madness, but it can’t earn it’s full potential if it’s just hanging in a closet somewhere. Where has it been?”

never really in the game,” Doc Nix said. “We were at one game and lost, but we still made enough of an impact to earn that kind of shout-out. Man, that feels so good.” Last season, Doc Nix and a number of other band directors within the CAA began hosting an event called “Breakfast with the Bands” that is held on the Saturday morning of the CAA Tournament in Richmond.


roviding a unique link between music and athletics, the Green Machine won the 2006 NCAA Final Four “Battle of the Bands” and were named the 2008 and 2009 CAA “Best Pep Band” by CAAZone. com all the while providing one of the best home court advantages in the entire nation. Doc Nix and the Green Machine have been a driving force behind the Patriots’ incredible success inside the Patriot Center.


Ryan Pearson’s beard?


“It is a symbol of his wild spirit and long term dedication. Some rally around it. Others fear it, as they should. He could earn above a 5 if he braids it or puts it in dreds.”

They played an integral role in the Patriots’ 18-game home winning streak that lasted almost two full years. Their flawless renditions of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Killing in the Name” echo throughout the arena, giving Mason what Paul Hewitt called a “solid 5-point advantage.” “In a league where most conference games are decided by 10 points or less, that’s big,” Hewitt said. “This is as good of a home field advantage as I’ve been around. This is as good as it gets.” Wherever the band may travel, they always return with more fans. And, according to Doc Nix, they return home with more people who recognize George Mason University as the school that has “that strange guy that wears the funny suits directing their band.”

The “Mastermind Genius” Jeremy Freer works behind the scenes to keep Green Machine fresh


nder the guidance of Jeremy Freer, who Doc Nix calls the “mastermind genius” behind the Green Machine, the nation’s best pep band didn’t miss a step while Doc Nix was on sabatical. Freer has spent the last several years serving as a key player on Doc Nix’s team, writing a vast majority of the hits you hear playing throughout the Patriot Center on game days.

Courtside: How do you come up with which songs you want to play? What is it that makes a good song? Freer: I keep a running playlist on my iTunes of things I hear. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse because I listen to everything I hear -- everything -- and wonder, ‘Would this work for the band?’ And then I ask myself, ‘Would it be fun to play for the band? Would it be fun to participate from the audience’s perspective? Is it the right time?’ So there’s a lot of variables that I’m thinking about. Sometimes I’ll put a tune on there and never get to it. In fact, I’d say I probably have 50 songs a year on that playlist; I might get to 10. It’s more along the lines of, ‘What are our fans going to appreciate? What would they respond to, but also be really fun for us to play?’ And then, when it comes to modern tunes, you have to strike while the iron’s hot before it gets played out on the radio and people get sick of it. Because then I’ve wasted all this time arranging something that people are tired of, so I tend to go for more of the timeless tunes -- some older classic rock tunes or some older funk tunes, older tunes that have withstood the test of time that people are nostalgic about and they know the words. If I do a modern tune, it’s going to be quickly after it comes out and gets popular and it’s going to be a little different than the original. Maybe I’ll mash a little something into it and keep it fresh for a while. Courtside: What is your favorite song that the Green Machine plays? Freer: My favorite arrangement that I’ve ever done, just because of the dynamic that happens in the band whenever we play it, and we’ve played it with vocalists and soloists, is this mash-up I did with ‘Empire State of Mind’ and ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ by Lauryn Hill. You never know how the tune is going to sound when you plug it into one of the programs because it is computer generated sounds. It’s an approximation of what it might sound like. But then you bring it to a group like the Green Machine, with all their love and talent and art, and they breathe life into this piece of paper you gave them. I remember, in that specific instance, I was astounded by the difference and, every time we play that tune, it’s just a wonderful experience. I really like that tune a lot. Courtside Seats • 21

The Masonettes

by Cody Norman

Norwood strengthens family name at Mason


t’s a family thing. When Brianna Norwood runs out onto the floor, taking her spot at center court for the Masonettes, she feels her brother’s presence as she stands on the same floor he once stood on for the Patriots. Norwood’s brother, Gabe, was a versatile guard for the Patriots from 2003 to 2007 and served as Jim Larranaga’s sixth man during the team’s incredible Final Four run in 2006. He was loved throughout the Fairfax community and is now loved in the Philippines, where he has continued his professional basketball career. “It’s between him and Manny Pacqauio [for most popular athlete] out there,” Norwood said. At just six or seven years old, Norwood began making four hour trips from State College, Pa. to watch her brother play for the Patriots. She watched him and his teammates turn Mason into a perennial 22 • Courtside Seats

powerhouse within the Colonial Athletic Association, all the while keeping her eye on the Masonettes. “I remember always watching the Masonettes,” Norwood said. “I knew this is where I wanted to come and dance ever since my brother graduated.” Now a freshman, Norwood has helped maintain the tradition of excellence that the Masonettes have developed over the last several years. For the second consecutive season, Mason’s beloved dance team traveled to Florida and finished in third place amongst schools and institutions across the country. Up until last season, the team’s highest finish was fifth place in 2006. “Our ultimate goal was to know that we couldn’t have done anything else,” said Michelle Chin, who is finishing her 11th season as coach of the Masonettes. “And they did it. They were awesome in the finals.” The team began preparation for the tournament in September, choreographing a

routine and sometimes practicing twice a day to improve. With just six days of vacation during winter break, the Masonettes worked hard to perfect 1:50 pom-pom routine. “I don’t play any sports but my brothers love that I dance,” Norwood said. “My dad loves that I dance. And, a lot of times, they tell me I work harder than they do.” Their halftime performances and spirited cheers are only a small glimpse into what the Masonettes are truly about. Their long, hard hours of practice are oftentimes overlooked but, each time they take the floor, they strive to be the best. And every time Norwood takes the floor, she strives to perform at the same level as her brother did while he was a star for the Patriots. “Having Gabe come here, I always think he showed out on the court,” Norwood said. “And so am I. Even though I’m not playing, I’m dancing. So I’m going to perform like he did every time I’m on the court.”

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In Sports Heaven Final Four hero hopes to help mom retire with new business venture by Cody Norman


here is a large cardboard cutout of No. 22 framed by racks of athletic socks. There’s a postersized picture of a Sports Illustrated cover featuring the same familiar face that walks through those glass doors, the bell jingling behind him as

he enters, and begins another day to build a new business aimed towards making an impact on every person that follows him through the door. Lamar Butler Jr., the face of Mason’s 2006 Cinderella story, is there to help. “Every time someone walks through the door I say, ‘How may I help you?’ But I really do mean it,” Lamar said. “I really do want to know how I can help you. I believe that God gives us all dreams, visions and talents. It is up to you whether or not you choose to

follow them. Some people are happy to sit back and be mediocre. I’ve never had that mentality.”


fter graduating with a degree in business, Lamar took his talents overseas to play professional basketball. But business management was always in the forefront. While he and his brother Joey always dreamt of starting their own business together, they never could decide what kind of business they wanted Courtside Seats • 25

to launch. “It started 30 years ago,” Lamar said. “I was born into an entrepreneurship-type mindset. We were always taught to think for ourselves and be our own men.” Despite her steady job working for the government, his mother suffered a substantial blow to her retirement fund a few years ago. Lamar and his brother took the misfortune and turned it into an opportunity. They began seriously discussing the possibility of beginning their own business in order to help their mother retire early in spite of her intention to retire in 2016. “She’s been [working hard] for too long,” Lamar said. “It’s time for her to relax.” When Lamar and Joey finally settled on the idea of creating a sports apparel industry -- a spin-off of their father’s creation, Varsity Sports -- they started thinking of a 26 • Courtside Seats

name for their new business. “We prayed about it,” Lamar said. “That next morning, he texted me and said, ‘In my sleep, I think I got a name. How about Sports Heaven USA?’ And it was crazy because that’s the same name I had dreamt about -- I wrote it down and everything.”


ue in large part to the relationships Lamar built while playing professional basketball in Turkey, Sports Heaven USA does a lot of its business deals with teams overseas. The two brothers attempt to go against the grain, making products more affordable for consumers. “I make the products more affordable for the average person,” Lamar said. “I’m not going to do like everybody else does and make the price more expensive. I’m going

to make everything more affordable -- I’ll take less profit per item -- but I’ll have more volume.” The Butler family has always been extremely business-savvy and involved themselves heavily in entrepreneurship, trying their luck in a number of different business ventures until finally settling into a sports apparel store called Varsity Sports in Prince George’s County. “We were always a couple who wanted to create options in our financial situation,” Mrs. Butler said. “We’ve always exposed our kids to entrepreneurship and encouraged them to create options.” Among those varying options, Lamar and his family still put their family first and take pride in giving their lives to God, using their time to help as many people as they can. “Our family is all about helping each other

“Every time someone walks through the door I say, ‘How may I help you?’ But I really do mean it. I really do want to know how I can help you.” out,” Lamar said. “That’s what is missing in our society. People aren’t willing to help anybody, but my mission is to help as many people as I can.” After his wife Jasmine planned their wedding in July, Lamar began trying to convince her to start her own business venture as an event planner. Jasmine has been teaching in Prince George’s County for six years, but has decided to yield Lamar’s advice and give up teaching in pursuit of her own dream. “This whole entrepreneur spirit is like wildfire,” Jasmine said. “It just spreads so quickly.”


s Lamar, Joey and Jasmine all begin laying the foundation for their businesses, both Mr. and Mrs. Butler are able to sit back and admire the impact that they have made on their family. “It’s beyond proud,” Mr. Butler said. “ You

always want your kids to be better than you. I wanted to be able to close my eyes one day and know that our kids are better than us. And, so far, so good.” Despite his business mentality, Lamar continues to build his business by being genuine. He has developed a strong passion for his business endeavors, but remains even more passionate about the people he influences along the way. Similar to the long nights that Lamar spent in the gym, eventually willing his team into the Final Four six years ago, Lamar now sits with his eyes glued to his computer screen, pounding away at his keyboard as he continues to build his dream. “I’m addicted to it,” Lamar said. “It’s like basketball; it’s addicting. There’s nothing like building your own dreams.”

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Welcome to George Mason from Parking Services and the Office of Parking & Transportation! Your 1st class assignment : Pass Parking 101! To help you out, we copied the professor’s notes. Parking 101-Some Tips to Help Get You Started 1. Parking lots fill up fast-Allow extra time, especially the 1st few weeks of class to find a space. 2. Tuesdays and Thursdays (including the evenings) are the busiest days on campus. 3. On the busiest of days, it is recommended that those arriving to campus later in the morning park at the Field House as the lots on east campus will often fill-a 15 minute walk to the Johnson Center. Also, don’t forget that general lot permits are valid on Levels 1-2 of Rappahannock River Parking Deck (but not in the visitor area). 4. There’s even a free shuttle that will take you from West Campus Lot & the Field House to east campus. Check out for info on the shuttle’s hours of operation. 5. Parking permits are required to park in any lot on Mason property. 6. Always read the signs to know if a lot or area is restricted to a certain type of permit. Don’t ever park in reserved, service/repair, state vehicle and administrative spaces. 7. Parking lots are enforced all year round, including the 1st week of classes and even when classes are not in session. Don’t believe the myths and rumors about a grace period. 8. Check the parking website for the latest information regarding hours of enforcement and other important news affecting parking on campus and even when classes are not in session. 9. If you’re a commuter student and want to save some money, you can park in the West Campus Lot located by the softball stadium. Parking at the West Campus Lot is only $90 for the entire year. Please note that all freshman residents will be required to park in the West Campus Lot (or can buy a Rappahannock River Deck, Lot I, or Lot J reserved permit). The West Campus Express shuttle from West Campus Lot will run from the West Campus Lot to the Field House, to Rappahannock River Lane and then to President’s Park from 7am-1am M-F and 2pm-1am on Sunday. 10. Visitor parking is available in Mason Pond, Shenandoah (formerly Sandy Creek), and Rappahannock River Parking Decks as well as metered lots. 11. Pay attention to your Mason email as students are often emailed about temporary lot closures. 12. Information about online permit sales and online citation appeals and payment options is available at 13. Reserved student permits for Rappahannock River Parking Deck and Lots I&J are still available! 14. Find out where the next shuttle is at any stop using the new NextBus system-you’ll never have to ask where the bus is again! 15. Always contact Parking Services if you have questions or concerns! We’re located in the Parking Services building next to the Shenandoah (formerly Sandy Creek) Parking Deck. You can also call us at 993-2710 or email us at 16. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook at,, and

Tired of driving on the crowded area streets and highways? Want to save $$$$ instead of buying a parking permit? If you are, Mason is giving you options so you don’t have to drive your vehicle to campus. Check out for details! Don’t forget-you can bicycle or walk to campus as well if you’re close! New bike lanes , bike racks, and bike shelters added around campus-check out! Zimride Have a car? Need a ride? Check out for information on ridesharing Mason to Metro Shuttle You can ride the Mason to Metro Shuttle which runs between the Fairfax Campus and Vienna Metro station from 6:00am to midnight M-F. There is also extended service until 3:30am on Fridays , from 8:30pm to 3:30am on Saturday nights, and 5:30pm-11:30pm on Sundays to help you get back and forth to DC! For more info, go to: Prince William Shuttle You can ride for free on the Prince William shuttle that runs back and forth between the Fairfax and Prince William campuses between 7am-10:20pm M-F. The shuttle also stops at the Target at Manassas Mall. For more info, go to: Gunston Go Bus The new Gunston Go Bus provides service from Fairfax campus to University Mall, Fair Lakes Center, Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax Corner, and Old Town Fairfax from 3pm-10pm-now 7 days a week with late hours until 1am on Friday-Saturday. CUE Bus You can take the CUE Bus-IT’S FREE!!!! Just show your Mason ID and you can ride for free on any of the City of Fairfax CUE buses. They all pick-up at the bus stop on Fairfax campus at the CUE bus stop adjacent to the Rappahannock River Parking Deck and can take you to various places in Fairfax with all routes winding up at the Vienna Metro Station. For more info go to: Metro Rail From the Vienna Metro Station you can take the Orange line to the Arlington campus or beyond into DC. The Virginia Square Metro stop is only 2 short blocks to the GMU Arlington campus. West Campus Express The new West Campus Express operates from 7am-1am M-F and 2pm-1am on Sundays, providing service between Presidents Park and West Campus lot, with stops in between at Rappahannock River Ln and the Field House. The shuttle has no set schedule but there will be a bus approximately every 15-20 minutes. Campus Circulator The Campus Circulator operates from 8am-11pm, providing service around Patriot Circle every 10-15 minutes with stops at Sandy Creek, Mattaponi River Ln, Concert Hall, Aquia Creek Ln, Chesapeake River Ln, Masonvale, and Presidents Park. Zipcar Need a car? Cars on campus by the hour or day. Gas and insurance included. Get special rates at For all shuttle information, go to or email us at If you have any questions or suggestions, email

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Just Call M Despite a hectic offseason for Erik Copes and Roland Houston, the family duo is living out their dream at Mason by Cody Norman

30 • Courtside Seats

Me Coach


othing came easy for Erik Copes. Both of his parents were drug addicts, forcing Copes to persevere through a rough early childhood in South Philadelphia behind the support of his godmother before reuniting with his mother after her rehabilitation. “Everything was always hard for me,” Copes said. “It was always tough for me, financially and emotionally. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was a kid who was misdirected and I got pushed in the right direction.”


t began on Thanksgiving Day. Copes was just 12 years old and, despite his young age, Copes was mature beyond his years, already having endured so much in his life. He approached his uncle, Roland Houston, in hopes that Houston might teach him how to play basketball. “He really didn’t believe that I really wanted to do it,” Copes said. “But I did. I really wanted to play. And I really wanted to learn how to play.” Houston added: “I asked him, ‘Do you want to just play? Or do you want to really play?’ And I told him to be careful what he wished for.” Testing his young nephew, Houston sent Copes to a basketball camp at Drexel University to begin building a foundation. After returning home, Copes approached his uncle again and asked him for guidance. “I think it was then that he really thought, ‘Hey, this kid must be serious,’” Copes said. Courtside Seats • 31

With Houston serving as an assistant coach at George Washington University, Copes would travel down from South Philadelphia to stay with his uncle for weeks at a time. He worked to prove to Houston that he wanted to be good. He wanted to be recruited and he wanted to be one of those kids who, coming out of high school, was ranked among the top 50 in the nation. “He told me I could do it,” Copes said. “That’s one thing he never did: he never lied to me. He always told me the truth. He was always right there to tell me I could be great but it was up to me if I wanted to be great.”


s the driving force behind several city and state championships throughout his high school career, Copes found himself ranked as the 56th best player in the 2011 recruiting class. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, Copes could have played at nearly any Division-I school in the nation. But, he signed on to join his uncle in D.C. with the Colonials. “I think his dream was always for me to coach him,” Houston said. “And I’ve always wanted to coach him.” Shortly after his graduation, though, Copes

32 • Courtside Seats

“He was always right there to tell me I could be great but it was up to me if I wanted to be great.” received a phone call from his uncle with news that Karl Hobbs, coach of George Washington, had been fired. “When I first found out, I panicked,” Copes said. “[Houston] didn’t know where he was going, and I didn’t know what to do. It scared the hell out of me.” While Houston weighed his options, Copes waited for the Colonials to withdrawal his Letter of Intent so that he could begin searching for a place where maybe,

just maybe, he might be able to team up with his uncle after all. After being offered the opportunity to join Paul Hewitt’s staff at Mason, Houston signed on to coach the Patriots. Shortly thereafter, Copes signed his Letter of Intent, committed to making his childhood dream a reality and joined his uncle in Fairfax. “Of course I wanted to play for my uncle,” Copes said. “He’s like my father figure; he’s my coach; he’s my mentor; he’s my brother; he’s my best friend. Just imagine everything that you ever wanted all in one and that’s my uncle.”


arly in his freshman season, Copes recognized that Houston was less vocal with him at practice. Houston had toned down the highly intense coaching style that Copes grew up enjoying, so much so that Copes began to wonder if something was wrong. “I went up to him at practice,” Copes said. “I put my hand on his shoulder and asked if there was something wrong. When he doesn’t scream at me, I feel like there’s something wrong with me. “But I definitely don’t think he’s too hard on me. I think he’s just right.”

Photo by Stefano Brivio

The Life of a Soldier

After four years in the military, Jacob Hoxie has returned home to play basketball for Mason


fter enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in October 2007, Jacob Hoxie spent nearly four years traveling the world and serving his country. Now, Hoxie is back in the states in pursuit of his degree while playing basketball for the Patriots. Courtside: After two years in college, what made you decide to enlist in the military? Hoxie: I went to school for a couple years to play basketball and decided really late that I wanted to transfer schools, so I had to sit out a semester. While I was sitting out, I was working a couple jobs. I was a clerk at Walgreens. And a recruiter came up and said, “Do you want to join?” He started talking about the Marines and everything, but I was just being polite. I wasn’t interested at all, but I went into his office for an interview and, even after the first couple times, I had no inclination to join. I never had any inclination toward the military at all, but then

“I never had any inclination toward the military at all, but then I felt like everything was falling into place and maybe that was the way God was leading me.” I felt like everything was falling into place and that maybe that was the way God was leading me. So I enlisted and I shipped out about a month after I saw [the recruiter] first. Everything was snap-snap. Courtside: What happened after that? Hoxie: Once I enlisted, I went down to Paris Island for three months. Then I went from Paris Island to Camp Johnson (Jacksonville, NC) for more training, then Camp Lejeune

for a month. After Camp Lejeune, I went overseas to Okinawa, Japan and was there for almost three years. I didn’t come home at all for about two and a half years. Then I went to Arizona and then came home to see my family for a couple of months before I went back for another couple of months. From Okinawa, I moved to Virginia for a year and I got out this summer. While I was in Okinawa, I went to Korea, the Phillipines and Thailand a couple times each. So I would stay in Okinawa for a while, then we would go do work in these other countries for a month or two at a time. Courtside: What all did your job entail? Hoxie: My job was an 0151 which was administrative specialist. However, I did a lot of different things. When I was in the Philippines, I was in charge of a security company and I was like a working supervisor – to be most closely associated with in civilian life. We had a base that we set up in the Philippines where we co-op with the Philippine army. We’d come in and just Courtside Seats • 33

“It was millions -- maybe billions -- of dollars worth of equipment that we unloaded, did maintenance on, utilized and then put back in storage.” teach them tactics and help them get up to speed on a lot of different things. So we’d get there and set up base, I was in charge of 30-something Marines. We had a platoon and I had to provide security for about five or six thousand on our base. So we had checkpoints at a lot of different locations and I was in charge of the checkpoints. I’d go around -- we had M-16s and rounds -- to make sure that people had the right identification to get on and off the base. We had a lot of people trying to figure out what we were up to -- especially when we were in Korea. A lot of people query us, so those were a lot of 12-hour posts where I checked up on a lot of my Marines. In Thailand, I helped with logistics. Just in case America goes to war in a different country, they have huge aircraft carriers floating out at sea. It was full of vehicles, planes and all kinds of different stuff and it 34 • Courtside Seats

would just be floating at sea in case something happened, so they could just take it from there. So what we did, for example in Thailand, they debark and unload all these vehicles and put them on tractor-trailers. We had a flight line where we brought them in on. We were responsible for millions of dollars of equipment. The [mechanics] would work on the vehicles and we’d drive them around, use them a little bit to make sure everything was running. At the end of the exercise, we’d load them back on to the trailers. Imagine your standing on a flight line at an airport and all you see from one end to where you can’t see anymore is just full of flatbed tractor-trailers just loaded down. So it was millions -- maybe billions -- of dollars worth of equipment that we unloaded, did maintenance on, utilized and then put back in storage. But most of my experiences were overseas

in Japan. One of my jobs, we had about four or five thousand people that our shop had to account for personnel. We had three different groups underneath us and, every morning, each one of these groups would contact me detailing every single person and what their current status was -- whether they were working, sick, in the hospital, if they were doing a T-80 (an exercise overseas) or if they were back stateside or in Afghanistan or Iraq. I kept tabs on every single person, so about three or four thousand, every morning. It was a big deal because, being overseas, you’re kind of in the limelight. You do a little slip-up or something stupid happens in off-hours, it could turn into major national news. They put a lot of pressure on the commanders and commanders put a lot of pressure on my job to keep accountability. Accountability is huge for every person. As soon as you got to work, you’d tell your boss. Then that

person would tell another boss until it got all the way back up to me. That was just one aspect of my job; I did numerous other things throughout the day. Courtside: Why did you decide to stop? Hoxie: I wanted to finish my degree and I felt like the best way for me to finish my degree in the most expedient manner was to get out and go to school full time. Courtside: Do you have any intention on going back once you’re done with school? Hoxie: Probably not. Right now they’re pulling Marines out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so they’re really downsizing. I wouldn’t consider myself overly patriotic but, if we were to get into another war, I might reconsider it. I would definitely go into combat, try and reenlist.

doing after you graduate? Courtside: How does your experience in the military translate to helping out in practice? Hoxie: In four years, I really grew up a lot. The person I am now is very different than the person I was when I left school after two years, about five years ago. There’s a lot of things that maybe I wasn’t as good at in the past -- being supportive, motivating and just being a good teammate. That’s our role on this team. A lot of that I learned in the military, sacrificing my needs for the needs of the group and realizing that you’re part of something greater. In the past, I was a little more me-focused. Some things, even basketball, aren’t end-all and there’s life after basketball. I think being in the military helped me to gain a little bit of perspective.

Hoxie: I’m not sure. I picked Mason because they have a good law school program, so my plan was to go to law school. I’m not sure if I still want to pursue that. That’s kind of a day-by-day plan. But every time I plan something, it doesn’t work out. I wouldn’t take back anything that ever happened to me but, if you would have sat me down ten years ago, I would never have guessed I would have experienced the things I have or seen the things I’ve seen. I wouldn’t take that back in a million years. So my tentative plan is to go to law school but every time I’ve made a decision, I always feel like God has something better for me. The way I look at it right now is that I know what I want to do, but I’m not real sure what His plan is for me. But if it’s anything like the last ten years, I’m sure it’s going to be exciting.

Courtside: What are you planning on Courtside Seats • 35

Section 124


A view from the Platoon by Daniel Zimmet

t’s not just a game. It’s an experience Attending Mason basketball home games is a ritual for students. Posting up in line outside in the cold for over an hour before tip to get their favorite seat is just the first step in what I call the “Game Day Experience.” As soon as you walk in, it’s important to never miss out on free giveaways. Whether it’s a replica jersey or bobbleheads, free Mason swag should never be passed up on. Once seated, it is essential to get a copy of the other team’s roster. If you’re ever in doubt about a good chant, always try to tailor it around someone on the opposing team. There isn’t a much cooler feeling than the entire student section jumping up and down as our team takes the court. Try to take a look around next time everyone is doing it. It’s extremely exciting seeing a flowing wave of green and gold. Each game, two people follow our team out and have earned themselves their own chant. First comes the beloved President Alan Merten. Unfortunately, this is the last season that the famous “Al-an Mer-ten” chant will ring throughout the Patriot Center. Next, Coach Hewitt and his staff come onto the floor. Immediately after the starting lineups are announced a brand new “Coach Paul Hew-itt” chant begins to emulate around the student section. I have a feeling that we will be hearing this for many more years to come. You must be up to date with the latest and greatest in cheerleading chants and cheers. Once the game is underway, there’s no time to start learning. It doesn’t get much more embarrassing than not

knowing a cheer that everyone else around you is screaming at the top of their lungs. The biggest chant, cheer, or whatever you want to call it that you need to know is all of the lyrics to “Livin’ On A Prayer.” That one song defines Mason basketball and the unity that the fans have. Aside from the plethora of commonly known songs that the legendary Doc Nix conducts, we have our beloved fight song. That song is just about the first thing that students and fans alike learn while attending a basketball game. The best part of the fight song is that the lyrics were created by, you guessed it, Doc Nix himself. The Green Machine is, hands down, the greatest pep band in the entire country, and I’m not just saying that as a student of Mason. If you don’t believe me, just ask the over 1.7 million viewers who watched their “Killing in the Name” video on YouTube. One of my favorite moments during the game is when Doc Nix comes over right in front of the student section to belt out songs with all of us. The final part to the “Game Day Experience” is the fight to catch an authentic Coach Hewitt thrown t-shirt. After every win he comes over to the student section and throws out three T-shirts. Sometimes he even gives the honor of throwing one of the shirts to a player. The key to snagging one of their thrown shirts is to stand on a chair and create some sort of ecstatic motion to grab their attention. Coach Hewitt has said over and over again that the fans play a huge factor in the team’s performance. I’ve even seen him subtly walk over to the Platoon and raise his arms up and down trying to pump them up. Nothing completes a good win like a Mason shirt “given” to you by the head coach, or a player for that matter. Recently, we’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve seen a good amount of success in Mason basketball. However, win or lose, the Patriot Center on game day has made itself one of the greatest arenas to be in as fan, and one of the toughest places to play. It is very clear that attending a Mason basketball game is much more than just two teams competing. It’s an entire Mason Nation experience.

The Green Machine, is hands down, the greatest pep band in the entire country, and I’m not just saying that as a Mason student.

36 • Courtside Seats

Love the Pep Band?

J oi n

Ex p er i en c e


Vo lunteer /Su p p or t the Drumline the Winter Guard

Pep Band Concert at the CAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Saturday, March 3, 9 AM Richmond Convention Center

Indoor Drumline & Winter Guard Competition

Saturday, February 18 Broad Run High School, Ashburn, VA

Wa n t m o r e ? g r e e n m a c h i n e . g m u . e d u

Jazz ic s u M f o l o o h c S L o v e th e Orchestra Chorus Opera

Wind Symphony & Symphony Orchestra March 7 at 8 p.m. at Center for the Arts Symphony Orchestra: An Evening of Latin Fire April 4 at 8 p.m. at Hylton Center Opera: H.M.S. Pinafore April 13, 14 at 8 p.m. in Harris Theatre University Chorale: Children Will Listen: A Broadway Showcase April 15 at 3 p.m. at Hylton Center Jazz Ensemble: A Night at the Palladium April 18 at 8 p.m. at Center for the Arts

mu s ic .g mu .e d u

t i ck e t s .co m


8 8 8 - 945 - 2468 Courtside Seats • 37

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