Georgetown Basketball History: Historical Features
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The following features were written in 1998 and predate this web site.

The Twin Towers

As individuals, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo came from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different approaches to the game. As teammates, they combined for some of the great moments in Georgetown basketball history.

Alonzo Mourning grew up in the Virginia Tidewater area in Chesapeake, VA. Scouts had been talking about Mourning since he was in the 8th grade, and he was identified as a top prospect early in his high school career. He was recruited by nearly every major school, and stories of his shot-blocking prowess (having once blocked 27 shots in one game) spread throughout the recruiting community. In a state which had produced Ralph Sampson and David Robinson, Mourning was heralded as the next great center, and all signs pointed towards his first choice-Georgetown. In the fall of 1988, Mourning became one of the first early signings in Georgetown history.

For all the hoopla over Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo arrived with no fanfare. His full name is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo, a prominent name fit for a member of a prominent family in Zaire, now known as the Congo. Mutombo had been educated at the Jesuit-run Institut Boboto, playing soccer in his formative years.

A U.S. foreign service officer referred Thompson to the 7-2 Mutombo, and the 22 year old was soon signed to a letter of intent. Fluent in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and five African dialects, Mutombo knew only a little English, leading Thompson to allow him his first year to improve his English and begin his studies before playing basketball. Mutombo's hoop experience that first year was limited to intramurals, making him perhaps the greatest intramural athlete in Georgetown history. (So little was known about Mutombo that Basketball Times once referred to him as a 5-10 guard.)

As news of Mutombo's play in the 1988 summer leagues got around, observers soon realized that Thompson had not one, but two potentially dominant centers to groom.

Both players began their first year of play on the 1988-1989 team, one of Georgetown's best. Led by dynamic senior Charles Smith, the Hoyas dominated the Big East and advanced to the Final Eight, where a tired Hoya squad that had escaped the near calamitous upset by Princeton and survived Notre Dame and N.C. State fell short against Duke.

That first season, Mourning was already being touted as the new Ewing, breaking Ewing's single season shot blocking record with 169. Mutombo was less active, though he set a shot blocking record of his own with 12 in one game vs. St. John's. Together, they became the most feared defensive tandem of their day. Mourning combined offensive moves with defensive intensity. Mutombo's offensive skills were growing but his defensive prowess was unmistakable. When players faked a jump shot, Mutombo wouldn't jump, because he had never been taught to. Once the ball was shot, Mutombo went to block it, becoming one of the most accurate (and foul-free) shot-blockers of the era.

In 1990, Thompson started both men to generally favorable results. The Hoyas went 24-7, but were upset in the second round of the NCAA's by Xavier. In 1991, a foot injury limited Mourning's contributions, but he returned to form by tournament time. The two combined for a masterful performance in the opening round of the Big East Tournament, one of the weirder games ever played. In a must-win game for the Hoyas' NCAA hopes, the 6th-seeded Hoyas upset #3-seeded Connecticut by 21, 68-49, despite shooting only 28% from the floor. Mutombo's career high 27 rebounds and Mourning's 15-16 free throw shooting paced the Hoyas past U.Conn and towards an eventual Big East final appearance, where they fell to Seton Hall 74-62.

While Mutombo could have stayed on for a fourth varsity year, he instead graduated with a degree in linguistics in 1991 and became an NBA lottery pick.

The 1992 team was Mourning's and he made the most out of it. He scored in double figures in every game, leading the Hoyas 27 times in scoring and 26 times in rebounding over 32 games. His 25.3 ppg average in the 1992 Big East final earned him MVP honors, only the second MVP from a team that did not win the title. Even with another second round exit in the NCAA's, Mourning was named a consensus All-American and, like Mutombo, was chosen early in the NBA lottery. Mourning was the first senior chosen in the 1992 draft, and was chosen second overall after LSU's early entry candidate, Shaquille O'Neal.

Despite their accomplishments, neither men returned Georgetown to the Final Four, though the 1989 team was good enough to do so. What separated these teams from the heights reached during the Ewing years was not the talent of Mourning and Mutombo but their supporting cast, hampered by an unusually large number of transfers. From the teams of 1987-1988 through 1992-1993 (the graduating classes of 1991 to 1995), 11 of 23 scholarship players transferred from Georgetown. Some transfers were homesick, others wanted more playing time elsewhere. In any case, Mourning and Mutombo had few veterans to work with, and those that were returning lettermen were not the caliber of teams which once featured names like Jackson, Wingate, and Williams.

As their rivalry grows in the NBA, the two remain close off the court. Two summers ago, Mutombo invited Mourning and another Georgetown alumnus, Patrick Ewing, to a goodwill tour of South Africa. Mutombo told USA Today what it was like to bring along his college friends:

"Patrick and Alonzo gave me a great gift by coming on this trip. We work out together here at Georgetown over the summer and keep in touch when we can during the year. When they went on this trip to Africa, it was like they were trying to learn about what makes me the way I am. I never appreciated how good friends they are until they showed me how they felt by sharing this trip with me. It really was one of the best gifts I ever received.


"Coach Thompson and Miss Fenlon always stressed education and broadening your experience...I hope that Alonzo and Patrick found the trip to Africa gave them more perspective on the world. I know they touched the lives of a lot of kids over there and brought a message of hope. That's the most important thing that anyone can do."

Next...

 

H-O-Y-A-S®

When Patrick Ewing graduated from Georgetown, the only places you could get Hoya T-shirts or merchandise were on campus or at a few local stores. When Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo graduated, Hoya merchandising was everywhere.

Prescient of its growing appeal nationwide, Georgetown officials applied for trademark protection on the Hoyas name and mascot in 1984.

(This involved a slight redesign of the bulldog, as Georgetown and Georgia shared identical bulldog logos and neither school had a preemptory right on the design.)

In securing trademark rights, Georgetown became one of the first schools to aggressively license its Hoya logo nationwide, and fans scooped up Hoya hats, T-shirts, jackets, and souvenirs of all kinds.

By the early 1990's, Georgetown had surpassed Notre Dame, Alabama, and Michigan to become the top-selling collegiate logo in the nation. Far from being marketed solely in cities, the Hoya trademark was equally strong across various regions and demographics.

Other schools soon joined the licensing boom, creating a crowded marketplace. Today's sporting goods stores are likely to carry goods representing over 30 different schools, while larger companies such as Nike and Reebok have eroded the large sales common among college-branded products. While Georgetown is no longer a clear #1 in sales, it remains among the top ten, competing for shelf space aside numerous schools that garner sales from football merchandise. (GU has yet to market any football-related items.)

The revenue from licensing royalties paid by clothing companies has allowed the GU athletic program to grow and expand, while University staff continue to study various licensing agreements to minimize improper or fraudulent use of the school's good name.

Some fans still might not know what a Hoya is, but they sure want to look like one.


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