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Arena: Smith Center Seating Capacity: 5.000 Location: Washington, D.C.
Nickname: Colonials Colors: Buff, blue
School Name: George Washington University
George Washington finally turned the corner in coach Karl Hobbs' fourth season, as the Colonials won the Atlantic-10 Tournament and played in the NCAAs for the first time since '99. With all but one starter returning, the Colonials seem poised for bigger things. Hobbs dodged a major bullet during the offseason when forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu decided to return to school for his senior season, rather than entering the NBA Draft as an underclassman. The Colonials' most popular player, Mensah-Bonsu averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season and is among the school's all-time leaders in blocked shots. Forward Mike Hall, perhaps the team's best all-around player, also flirted with leaving for the pros but withdrew his name from the NBA Draft as well. Hall led die Colonials with 8.0 rebounds and averaged 10.6 points. Junior Carl Elliott, who played remarkably well in his first season as a starting point guard, is back after averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 assists. One oftheAtlantic-10's best defenders, Elliott led die Colonials with 79 steals and ran the offense quite efficiendy. Senior forward Omar Williams, who plays every position on the floor and averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, also will be back in the starting lineup.
Hobbs faces a daunting task in replacing guardT.J. Thompson, the Colonials' leading scorer and most productive 3-point shooter. J.R. Pinnock, who played well as the team's sixdi man last season, could move into the starting five and take Thompson's spot at shooting guard. However, Hobbs could choose to keep playing Pinnock off the bench and start Maureece Rice, the program's highest-profile recruit in recent memory.
Rice, who averaged 3.4 points in 28 games as a freshman, broke most of Wilt Chamberlain's scoring records during his high school career in Philadelphia. A stout defender at 6'1" and 215 pounds, Rice needs to become more involved offensively if he wants to start.
The Colonials should boast a pretty deep bench. Alex Kireev is 6' 11" and has slowly adjusted to the American style of basketball. Hobbs also will turn to a transfer (Regis Koundjia from LSU) and two freshmen (forwards Robert Diggs and Montrel McDonald) for quality minutes.
As long as George Washington can keep Hobbs on the sideline — the school signed him to an extension last season that could keep him in D.C. through the 2010-11 season — the Colonials should challenge for the A-10 championship on an annual basis. With an experienced team returning, and its chief opponents rebuilding, George Washington should again be playing in the NCAA Tournament this March.
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