As fans, the regular season conference games, the conference tournament, and the NCAA tournament are all things we look forward to during the season. With so many chances to achieve a championship, we get invested in our team’s chances to win something special. While there are always winners, there are also losers, and with that, perennial losers. We have all been there, no matter what school you root for. When your team is immersed into rebuilding mode, it’s pretty normal to ask “How Long Until We Are Back?” I’m here to hopefully research and figure out when that season will come for our lonely teams down in the bottom of the A10. First off, the first president of these great United States, Mr. George Washington.
The Story This Season
Six years removed from the NCAA tournament, and five years removed from their NIT Championship run, the George Washington University Colonials have hit some hard times. Since the scandal and consequential firing of their longtime successful head coach Mike Lonergan, GW has hit rock (foggy) bottom. Many of their key contributors and players transferred after he got the boot, and the program was pretty much left with nothing. The Maurice Joseph era came in and left in just three short years, leaving to wonder if the administration just didn’t want to wait past the three-year mark to get back to relevancy. In comes Jamion Christian, who had a one year stint at Siena and six years before that at Mount St. Mary’s before jumping ship to try and fix the Colonials.
In year one, Christian has had his work cut out for himself. GW lost players last year to the transfer twilight zone, which left Christian with a mixture of experience. Their top player in Armel Potter is a senior and will be gone next season. Arnoldo Toro is a senior big man that is decent, but will also be gone. Maceo Jack is a solid player, but he’s a junior and will be gone in two years. From what I have seen from GW this year, these are the veterans of the team who last season won a total of 9 games, one of the worst seasons in GW basketball history. Basically, this season is to see what Jamion Christian has in his young players and develop a new culture for this program.
It’s always hard to tell what a program has in store for them as far as recruits, but next year will tell which way this program is heading. The two key guys that Christian needs to surround with talent will be Jamison Battle and Jameer Nelson. Battle is a starter and already the second leading scorer on this team behind Potter as 12.6 per game. Nelson obviously has the pedigree with his dad being an A-10 legend with St. Joe’s and has shown flashes of good play on offense, averaging 9.9 points per game. Those two can set this program up to become back in the top half of the A-10 over the next couple of seasons; it just comes down to who Christian can get to surround them with talent.
The Colonials do have other freshmen that, if continue developing, can provide key roles in surrounding this program with glue guys that can help out Battle and Nelson. Chase Parr is a freshman big man that doesn’t play a lot, but can hopefully benefit from some increased action this season to help next year. Shawn Walker is another freshman that can benefit from this as well. Messie Offurum and Amir Harris are both sophomores that see some action and provide key minutes now. Harris is also a transfer from a power 6 program, Nebraska, that can bring key experience from a higher level of competition.
As for transfers, GW has gotten two in season transfers that will be eligible to play after the fall 2020 semester (unless they get permission from the almighty NCAA to play a full year). Sloan Seymour is a 6-9 big man who is following his coach’s footsteps from Siena. He was a standout player at Siena and was on the MAAC all-rookie team. Hunter Dean recently decided to transfer to GW midseason from Southern Miss. He did not contribute much while in the south, but he was apparently recruited by Christian before attending Southern Miss, so the two had a relationship prior to this season. Seymour will have two years left of eligibility while Dean will have three.
For recruiting, Coach Christian is bringing in two shooting guards for the 2020-2021 season, Lincoln Ball and Tyler Brelsford. Both of these players are on average two star recruits, according to Verbal Commits. Ball is a 6-4, 175 pound guard from Williamsport, MD. Brelsford is also a 6-4 guard from Baltimore. Both players are primarily tall, lengthy shooters, which gives Christian more offense to develop over the next few years. As for forwards, GW got a commitment from Noel Brown, a 6-11 big man from Virginia. This first full recruiting class, aside from getting Jameer Nelson, is a big step in telling where this program is going to go in the coming years.
When Will The Colonials Be Back?
George Washington is an intriguing team. They have a history of extreme success in 2005-2006, 2013-2014. They have always been a competitive team in the upper half of the conference. However, the whole scandal with Mike Lonergan was brutal to this program. He basically destroyed the reputation of this program and set the school back many years. Three years with Maurice Joseph did not pan out very well, but I commend GW giving him three years to figure it out before letting him go. Jamion Christian looks the part. Looking at his past success at the Mount and Siena, Christian took MSM to two NCAA tournaments and had a winning record in conference play every single year. At his only year at Siena, he took a program picked to finish dead last to tied for second in his only season. He already steered Jameer Nelson away from the rest of the A10 after Phil Martelli left St. Joe’s. His recruiting class looks to be the real deal as some of the best high school players in the area, a big plus when battling for recruits with Maryland and Georgetown. Coach Christian also seems to be trying to instill his philosophy of hard-nosed defense and three point-shooting into this program and create the identity of MAYHEM, the kind of identity that this program needs.
So this begs the question: When will the Colonials be back competing for NCAA tournament bids? I am going to say in three years, in Nelson and Battle’s senior year. I know this seems like a long time, but this program has hit rock bottom. I think in two years, they can totally compete in the top half of the A10, but three seems more realistic for a tourney bid. Two things need to happen for GW to build back up to the top of the conference again: keeping players and improving each year. Christian cannot afford to lose many players to the transfer portal. He needs to build a culture of having players stay and develop. This is my biggest worry with the three year plan because if players want to compete now, such as Battle and Nelson, they might want to go elsewhere to compete in a big time conference with years of eligibility left. The other task is to improve each year. Last season, the Colonials had just nine wins. Christian and Co. have eight already, so they are on track to get more than nine. According to KenPom, they are projected to go 12-19, which is a small improvement and will need to be more than that next year. They have already pulled off nice wins over George Mason and UMass teams that are both better than them on paper. As long as GW improves each game, they keep their young guns, and develop their promising freshmen, there is no reason to think that Christian can have this program back in the NCAA tournament in three years.