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Freshman Yuta Watanabe and junior Kevin Larsen on a visit to the White House to watch the arrival ceremony for Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. Watanabe was invited as a sports ambassador between the U.S. and Japan. Hatchet File Photo

Freshman Yuta Watanabe and junior Kevin Larsen on a visit to the White House to watch the arrival ceremony for Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. Watanabe was invited as a sports ambassador between the U.S. and Japan. Hatchet File Photo

The men’s basketball team is planning a trip to Japan sometime during the 2016 summer, athletic director Patrick Nero told The Japan Times on Monday.

Nero is currently in Japan with men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan to explore potential exhibition game opponents for the squad, which last toured internationally in 2012 when the team went to Italy.

The Colonials are allowed one foreign trip every four years according to NCAA regulations. The trip would give Japanese star Yuta Watanabe, who will finish his sophomore year before next summer, a chance to play with GW in front of fans at home. Watanabe is from Kagawa, Japan.

Nero told The Japan Times that sports business students could also join the team on the trip and would use it as an educational opportunity to study sports administration and get a taste of Japanese culture.

The details of the tour have yet to be ironed out, but Nero said it would likely take place in August but could also happen in June. The destinations would likely be Tokyo and Okinawa, with stops for games, cultural sites and volunteer work. The men’s team held a basketball clinic for children when it toured Italy, and the women’s basketball team did the same on a tour of England and France last summer.

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What: GW (21-11, 11-8 A-10, 1-0 Tournament) vs. Rhode Island (21-8, 13-5 A-10, 0-0 Tournament)
When: Friday, March 13 at 9 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, NBCSN

The Ides of March are nearly upon us, and in college basketball terms that means throw out the rule book and your expectations with it.

Still, the Colonials will play their first Atlantic 10 championship game as an underdog Friday in a matchup with No. 3-seed Rhode Island after beating No. 11-seed Duquesne Thursday night.

Rhode Island is a much stronger team than the Dukes, but also a very different one. The Rams rely on their defense, the best in the A-10 and 19th in the nation at 59.4 points per game allowed, but sometimes struggle to score with just two scorers in double figures.

If the Colonials can get the win Friday night, they’ll have to take on the winner of No. 2-seed Dayton and No. 7-seed St. Bonaventure in the semifinals.

The Case for the Rams:

GW was forced to prepare for a block party in Brooklyn after Duquesne tied a tournament record with 12 blocks in their first round game, but wound up being the dominant presence inside as the Dukes blocked just five shots.

The party may, however, just have been postponed. Hassan Martin, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, leads the A-10 and is ranked seventh in the country with three blocks per game. Kevin Larsen showed what he can do when he plays big against Duquesne, throwing his body around for 10 points and 15 rebounds, but Martin will be a bigger challenge to contain and combat.

Rhode Island, also, will be coming in with fresh legs off a double-bye while the Colonials won’t even have a full 24 hours of rest.

Extra energy for the A-10′s fifth-best scorer E.C. Matthews isn’t what GW is looking for, but even if they shut him and Martin, who has the league’s best field goal percentage at 64 percent, down it was all-rookie selection Jared Terrell who had six steals, 17 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes when these two teams met last. Rhode Island is 12-0 when Terrell scores more than 10 points.

The Rams won that game 59-55 and forced 21 turnovers. The Colonials were stingy with the ball Thursday, committing just seven turnovers, but Rhode Island’s defense is on another level from Duquesne.

The Case for the Colonials:

Junior point guard Joe McDonald said that vengeance played an important role in the second-round win over Duquesne. That will be the case again on Friday after the Colonials blew a five-point lead late in their regular season matchup with the Rams.

That loss, though, actually doesn’t seem too bad for GW’s chances Friday. The Colonials missed four straight free throws down the stretch in that game and Rhode Island, normally a poor free throw shooting team, went 20-22 from the line in the best free throw shooting day in team history. It may be Friday the 13th, but it doesn’t get unluckier than it did in back on that day in January.

The 1-3-1 was deadly for the Rams, who missed all but one of 14 three point shots, and the Colonials will look to disrupt them like that again.

If they can do that, recent history says they should be able to out-pace Rhode Island for the upset. GW has been on a scoring tear lately, averaging 80 points over their last two contests and making 10 or more threes in four of their last five games.

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Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Freshman guard Miguel Cartagena looks to go around a VCU defender earlier this month. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

On a basketball court, freshman Miguel Cartagena doesn’t look very imposing. He’s listed as 6-foot, but that might be stretching it. He often looks a bit unsure of himself when taking the ball up the court, or at least, he looks like a freshman.

But Cartagena could be the man that can help GW fans from losing their minds without sophomore Kethan Savage.

Cartagena can’t replace Savage and shouldn’t attempt to play like him. Rather, starting tonight against La Salle, the freshman should emulate the style of play of the once-struggling junior John Kopriva.

During Saturday’s win at George Mason, Cartagena would advance the ball up the court and immediately peer over his shoulder to get instructions from his head coach. The offense was methodical, slow and a few times a better defender could have knocked the ball away from him when he was distracted and looking for guidance.

Now, in Cartagena’s defense, he was virtually on his own, as Nemanja Mikic, John Kopriva, Paris Maragkos and Nick Griffin provided little off the ball movement. During this reserve only time on the floor, Cartagena shot 1-5 with two turnovers and two personal fouls.

In 17 minutes, Kopriva forward had six boards, two points, and added two steals. Kopriva isn’t going to dazzle with sensational scoring numbers, rather his game Saturday was to fill space on defense and rebound. (Based on my last round of GW predictions, expect Kopriva to pour in at least 15 Wednesday night.)

Cartagena just needs to play smart and play a clean game. No one is expecting him to make any all-rookie teams. But if he can control the ball and keep a steady tempo, the rest of the squad can take it away.

Whenever he gets the chance, the freshman should feed the ball to sophomore forward Kevin Larsen. Larsen has responded to criticism following a poor shooting night (3-10 from the field) against La Salle last time with a run of four excellent performances.

The Colonials will look for their fifth straight victory tonight. If GW hopes to survive a lethargic first half, they’ll need another dominating second half when they shoot 66.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.

But if the Savage-less Colonials are unable to overcome any offensive sluggishness and fall (again) to La Salle, concern shouldn’t compound with Savage’s gradual march to the locker-room. With a third of the season remaining, GW still have some budding playmakers it can count on.

This post was updated Jan. 29, 2014 at 5:05 p.m. to reflect the following:
Correction appended
The Hatchet misspelled Paris Maragkos’ last name.

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Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 6:30 p.m.

Ben Krimmel: When it snows, it pours

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Sophomore Kethan Savage drives past a Rhode Island defender. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

GW’s first real snow day in years was supposed to be joyful. Instead, as the snowfall accumulated Tuesday morning, news broke and good feelings about GW men’s basketball faded.

Foggy Bottom jubilation subsided when the team announced that guard Kethan Savage’s breakout sophomore season would be put on a six-to-eight-week hiatus due to a broken left foot.

While the Colonial Army will miss his thunderous slam-dunks, his teammates will miss his ball handling, scoring and great rebounding even more.

Head coach Mike Lonergan was getting more out of Savage than any other player on the floor. The sophomore guard was second on the team in scoring (13.4 per game), third in rebounding (4.6), and second in assists (2.7), while playing the least minutes out of any GW starter (26.9).

The burden of replacing savage in the starting lineup falls on fellow sophomore Patricio Garino. This is no cause for concern for Lonergan, as Garino is more than a capable starter and was primed to grab a spot in the starting lineup before the Savage injury.

The concern comes in the form of two relative unknowns who will likely see extended minutes themselves: freshman guards Miguel Cartagena and Nick Griffin.

Successful integration into the Colonials’ tight rotation will be a challenge, as the two freshman offer only portions of the skill Savage brought to the team.

Cartagena will need to run Lonergan’s offense like a steady point guard if he’s going to find success. While Joe McDonald is the starting point guard and Garino is another capable ball handler, they don’t have the quickness of Cartagena or Savage.

The question that has yet to be answered is whether Cartagena’s quickness can translate into assists and made baskets, something Savage did rather easily. Cartagena hasn’t recorded either an assist or a made field goal in any of his last four outings.

While Griffin could provide scoring as a capable jump shooter off the dribble, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lonergan challenges his starting big men Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen to chip in with more baskets as well.

Armwood is averaging 10.9 points per game, but is shooting 38 percent from the floor in his last five games. While his three double-doubles during that span have been immense, GW will need a more efficient game from their senior leader.

It will be Griffin’s job to provide a handful of buckets a game while not disrupting the flow of fellow shooters Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic.

The success of the Colonials doesn’t rest with those replacing Savage, as the team coped well earlier this season when it was without Garino. The Colonials were undefeated during the seven games the 6-foot-6 guard missed due to a hand injury because they constantly found new sources of offense.

The success of the Colonials is to continue to piece together scoring from different players during the remainder of the A-10 regular season.

The injury news is crushing for the Fairfax, Va. native, as the Colonials travel to Savage’s old stomping grounds to face new rival George Mason on Saturday.

But GW fans shouldn’t temper their enthusiasm or relinquish any hopes. This hurts, but it’s not unmanageable.

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Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 11:31 a.m.

Ben Krimmel: Soak up the big win, GW fans

For long-suffering GW basketball fans: Let yesterday’s win sink in.

For freshman or those new to GW sports: The victory against No. 20 Creighton was the first time the Colonials beat a ranked team since Dec. 5, 2005 when they defeated No. 21 Maryland. Current students were still in elementary and middle school.

This is reason for excitement GW fans sorely needed.

Already, we’ve seen signs of enthusiasm picking up. The post-game Twitter explosion showed the first positive indicator of the Colonial Army’s latest recruitment drive and alumni chirping smack talk for the first time in years.

Friends from other schools will try to poo-poo this victory. They’ll say Creighton is not a basketball powerhouse (though they are in the Big East), but that doesn’t discount the significance of GW’s win.

The victory came against the best player they’ll face this season and the best senior in college basketball, Doug McDermott. The six-foot eight-inch forward came into Sunday’s game averaging nearly 30 points per game, making NBA teams swoon.

But that star power did not intimidate senior Isaiah Armwood. For 34 minutes, Armwood ate McDermott’s lunch.

McDermott started off on the wrong foot from the first possession of the game, when he was called for a traveling violation. In Creighton’s final possession, he watched from the bench. He finished with 7 points on 2-12 shooting and two turnovers ­– his fifth lowest offensive output of his four-year career. All this against GW, a team that hasn’t won a game against a ranked school in almost a decade.

Last night, GW won the game that teams of years passed lost — exorcising the demons from last season’s three-point home loss to No. 14 Butler in the process.

On Sunday, a resilient bunch of Colonials did not crumble when Creighton took their first lead of the game with 6:24 remaining in the second half. Instead, they showed heart that has not existed in years past, outscoring Creighton 18-9 the duration of the game.

This was first display of a true winner’s grit in a big game since head coach Mike Lonergan was named head coach three years ago. He grabbed the resume builder that every mid-major basketball coach dreams about.

GW now basks in the much-earned warm embrace of the national spotlight. But most important is the hope of long-suffering and new fans alike – the spotlight that never lets go. See you Wednesday night at the Smith Center.

The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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Ben Krimmel, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

Fans could draw few hard conclusions from the Colonials’ game against Delaware State Tuesday night. GW waltzed through the game, finishing with a 44-point win. The game was essentially over before halftime.

During the mundane second half, I prayed for something – anything – to happen. Luckily, the basketball gods came through.

Tuesday night, I witnessed the most memorable play of the season thus far. And no, it wasn’t the slam by Isaiah Armwood or an alley-oop from Maurice Creek.

It starred freshman forward Skyler White. In the first possession after entering the game, White got the ball on the left wing, surveyed the floor and made a good entry pass to Paris Maragkos for a layup.

A normal play at first. But then, something magical happened.

After White’s pass, Delaware State inbounded the ball and all of the players ran down the court. All of the players, that is, except for White: Instead, the six foot eight inches tall freshman dropped to one knee and began to tie his shoe.

Head coach Mike Lonergan, with his palms to the sky, urged White to join his teammates. And it wasn’t until Armwood stood up from the bench that White got going. Lonergan shrugged, and the players on the bench tried their hardest to contain their laughter.

But the players, like myself, were unsuccessful.

Luckily for White, Delaware State missed a shot and GW got the rebound.

It might have been an embarrassing moment for the young player, but it was one that made me – and other fans in the Smith Center earlier this week – into diehard Skyler White fans. The Colonial Army let out one of the loudest cheers of the night when he walked to the scorer’s table. Many of them chanted his name.

After all, it is hard not to like White, the walk-on freshman from Washington who sits way down at the end of the GW bench. In pre-game warm-ups, he congenially jokes with other players while draining open three-pointers.

Later in the game after collecting his first two points of his GW career, White didn’t even crack a smile as he ran down the court, getting back with plenty of time to play defense.

With a few days until GW’s next game, I can’t wait for White to get more playing time. Until then, I’m left selfishly hoping for more of his humorous charm.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:56 p.m.

Men’s basketball announces trio of new transfers

There will officially be six newcomers to the 2013-14 men’s basketball team this season, as head coach Mike Lonergan announced the transfers of Maurice Creek, Dominique Bull and Ryan McCoy on Wednesday.

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan announced the transfer of the three new Colonials on Wednesday. The new additions will begin training with the team this July. Hatchet Photo File

The three transfers complete the list of Lonergan’s offseason additions that also include incoming recruits Miguel Cartagena, Skyler White and Nick Griffin.

Cartagena, White, Griffin and Creek will be the only four eligible to play during the 2013-2014 campaign, adding a healthy dose of  depth to the Colonials’ backcourt.

A former Indiana University guard and recent graduate, Creek comes to GW with one season of eligibility left. His transfer to GW was reported June 9 after Creek posted pictures of himself on Twitter declaring himself a Colonial.

Coming out of high school, Creek was touted as one of the nation’s Top 50 shooting guards and Top 100 prospects. He averaged 16.4 points over the first 12 games of his freshman season, but a series of injuries then hampered Creek’s career at Indiana, beginning with a fractured knee cap after those 12 games in 2010 and then a ruptured achilles in 2011, ultimately leaving him as a backup by 2012.

By the end of his four years, Creek averaged 7.2 points per game on 43 percent shooting and 36 percent beyond the arc over a total of 54 games as a Hoosier. He has now enrolled in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Bull becomes a Colonial after playing out his freshmen season at the University of Missouri. Despite only playing in eight games for the Tigers, Bull will be forced to sit out the 2013-14 campaign due to NCAA transfer regulations. Graduating from the Tilton School in 2012, Bull averaged 12 points, five rebounds and four assists per game as a senior. He will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming season.

McCoy will also be ineligible to play during the 2013-14 season after competing for two years at Manhattan University. McCoy averaged just 1.3 points and 1.0 rebounds in nine minutes per game over his 63 appearances for the Jaspers, scoring a season-high eight points against GW in last season’s BB&T Classic.

 

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Men’s basketball will play in 10 conference games in 2013-2014 against teams that reached the NCAA postseason last year, including a home-and-home pairing with powerhouse VCU.

Then-senior forward Isaiah Armwood goes up for an aggressive layup against a formidable VCU defense. Hatchet File Photo

The 16-game Atlantic 10 schedule announced Wednesday, toughens GW’s road to the conference tournament, as the team squared off in only six games against postseason teams last year.  The team will also play a home-and-home against local rival George Mason.

Other home games include Fordham, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Saint Josephs, and UMass – the team that eliminated the Colonials from postseason play last season. GW will also hit the road to compete against Saint Bonaventure, Dayton, Richmond,and last years A-10 champion Saint Louis. Dates and times will be announced at a later date

VCU, La Salle and Saint Louis each earned NCAA Tournament bids last year, while four others participated in the NIT and College Basketball Invitational.

The Colonials posted a 6-6 regular season record last year against teams they will play in 2013-14.

No matter how the Colonials fare, however, they will head to Brooklyn, N.Y. to compete in the A-10 Championships in the Barclays Center. Athletic director Patrick Nero said in an interview last week that the conference will send each team to the tournament, the first time that’s happened since  2005.

The entire schedule won’t surface until later this year, but details have already emerged about the Colonials’ non-conference opponents, as the team will travel to Kansas State, and take on Georgia, Rutgers and Maryland. The Colonials will also head to Orange County, Calif. for November’s Wooden Legacy tournament that includes a bracket filled with Miami (Fla.), Creighton and Marquette.

 

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Then-freshmen Maurice Creek went up for a layout against North Carolina Central in 2009. Injuries have slowed down the guard’s career, but he is looking to revive it at GW. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Daily Student

Updated at 1:26 p.m. on June 7, 2013.

The Colonials got a big boost to their roster Friday when Indiana guard Maurice Creek announced he would transfer to GW.

Creek, who is trying to rebound from his latest injury-prone years, posted a photo Friday morning of himself decked out in GW gear, announcing that he would be playing as a Colonial next season.

In a phone interview Friday, Creek said he was excited to become a veteran presence on the Colonials’ roster, adding that he had already gelled with some GW players during the offseason.

“I’ve been playing with the guys for a while, and basically they started treating me like family before I was even going to GW,” Creek said. “I’m just glad they found me.”

Maurice Creek announced Friday that he would head to GW. Photo via Twitter

Because of a ruptured achilles in 2011, Creek missed the entire 2011-12 campaign for the Hoosiers and chose to redshirt his junior year. He now has one season of eligibility left to play at GW and will be apart of the Class of 2014.

Despite his history of injuries, Creek brings a high level of experience to the still young Colonials’ backcourt that will include sophomore starters Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage, as well as recruits Miguel Cartagena and Nick Griffin.

“They got bigs that can play and they got guards that can play and they just needed a little bit of help,” Creek said. “They can help me just as I can help them.”

The announcement comes as great news to head coach Mike Lonergan and his staff, after their somewhat low-key recruiting class was overshadowed by the transfers of seniors Lasan Kromah, David Pellom and sophomore Jonathan Davis. This, in addition to the de-commitment of the team’s top offseason recruit Nigel Johnson, and the move on Wednesday of assistant head coach Kevin Sutton to Georgetown.

“[Lonergan's] been watching me since my freshman year and he was recruiting me throughout my years in high school, and I decided on Indiana, but he knew what I could do,” Creek said. “And he just said this is what we need on our team to be successful, and they only needed one more piece, and having me could be that piece.”

Creek, a 6-foot-5 guard was once a top-50 recruit coming out of high school and a Prep-School All-American after his senior year at the Hargrave Military Academy. He put up large numbers in limited time for the Hoosiers during his freshman campaign,  averaging 16.4 points per game and shooting 44.8 percent from three-point range before his season was cut short after 12 games due to a season-ending fractured knee cap.

Returning as a sophomore, Creek put up a respectable 8.3 points per game, but again saw injuries limit his playing time to only 18 games. After the achilles injury in 2011, Creek served as breakout-star Victor Oladipo’s backup, averaging only 1.8 points and 7.8 minutes per game.

Fans will likely have to wait until the beginning of the season to see if Lonergan chooses to continue the youth movement in Foggy Bottom and use Creek as a sixth man off the bench, or if he will trust Creek’s leadership to start over one of his sophomore guards.

He said he would be “just doing what’s required of you. And basically when you get recommended as a high level player you have to play at the highest level at all times, and that’s what I learned at Indiana which is gonna be good when I go to George Washington,” Creek said.

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Kevin Sutton, right, will leave head coach Mike Lonergan's coaching staff to head to Georgetown. Hatchet File Photo

Kevin Sutton, right, will leave head coach Mike Lonergan’s coaching staff to head to Georgetown. Hatchet File Photo

Assistant men’s basketball coach Kevin Sutton will leave the program to take a position at Georgetown – more bad news as the Colonials endure a rough offseason full of departures.

Sutton leaves GW after just two seasons under head coach Mike Lonergan, upgrading to the perennially top 25 Hoya squad led by head coach John Thompson III. Sutton brings with him his 27 years of coaching experience and reputation as a very strong recruiter.

It is unknown at this time what role Sutton will have on Georgetown’s coaching staff, and who will replace him on GW’s bench.

The news was tweeted by former Colonials star Aaron Ware and reported by several Georgetown fan sites. The athletics department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Talk of Sutton leaving the Colonials emerged earlier this year, when he personally submitted his name for the open head coaching position at Florida Gulf Coast University.

His departure leaves Lonergan and his coaching staff in continued recruiting disarray as it has watched three players – David Pellom, Lasan Kromah and Jonathan Davis – transfer from the program, as well as Nigel Johnson decommit from GW in favor of Kansas State.

In his two seasons with coach Lonergan, the Colonials amassed a 23-38 record and ended both seasons with first round losses in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Comparatively, Thompson and the Hoyas finished last season with a 25-7 record and earned a No.2 seed for the NCAA Tournament before being upset in the first round by Florida Gulf Coast.

Previously, Sutton served as an assistant coach at James Madison University and Old Dominion University. Notably at GW, Sutton helped recruit two of the team’s current starters – forwards Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen – both of whom played at two of Sutton’s former schools, Montrose Christian (1999) and Montverde Academy (2004-11).

Immediately prior to coaching at GW, Sutton served as the athletic director and head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Montverde Academy for eight years. He helped lead the Eagles to a 2007 National Title and a 2010 National High School Invitational Runners-Up nod.

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