No one involved with the Georgetown women’s basketball team wants to talk about last year. It’s hard to blame them.
The Hoyas’ 2013-2014 season was marred by inconsistency. After an initial rocky start, the Blue and Gray worked their way to a 6-3 record, picking up key wins against Yale, George Washington, and Princeton. But after losing 13 of their next 14 games, then-Head Coach Jim Lewis’ team had fallen to the bottom of the Big East conference. Despite strong performances from then-senior Andrea White, who averaged 15.2 points and nine rebounds per game, and freshman Natalie Butler, who averaged 13.9 points and 13.3 rebounds, the Hoyas were never able to recover. The team ended their season in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with a loss against DePaul to finish 11-21 overall and 4-14 in conference play.
Following the team’s poor performance, Butler, who was named Big East Rookie of the Year, transferred to the University of Connecticut and will presumably play for Geno Auriema for the remainder of her college career. White and the rest of the senior class graduated. What remained was a young squad of rising freshman, sophomores, and juniors, who had all previously failed to stand out on the court. Things did not look good for the Hoyas at the season’s conclusion.
At that point, Director of Athletics Lee Reed stepped in and announced the replacement of Lewis—who had been serving as interim coach following the resignation of Head Coach Keith Brown—with Natasha Adair. Adair had previously served as an assistant coach at Georgetown for six seasons in the late 90s and early 2000s and returns to the Hilltop after a two-year stint as the head coach at the College of Charleston.
Adair may come to campus with history on the Hilltop, but she made it clear that she will not let the past define the Hoyas’ future.
“Last year is over for us” said Adair. “It’s a totally different team, totally different scheme.”
Adair has completely overhauled the Blue and Gray’s former philosophies and has adopted an “everything by committee” approach to coaching. “Everyone is going to have the opportunity to be an option,” Adair said. “It’s a new beginning for everyone.”
This year, Adair wants the team to play harder, more aggressive basketball than they ever have before. “We will not get outworked,” said Adair. “We will not get outworked on offense, we will not get outworked on defense. I don’t want to play just one side of the ball.”
The current roster is bereft of seniors, and some might view this as a major handicap. Nevertheless, Adair is excited to work with the younger group. “I look at this as an opportunity to have this core team for two years.”
“I just love the fact that they’re so willing to learn. I know that we’re going to be a name that people talk about when the season is going and when the season ends,” she said.
The team is lead by captains junior Katie McCormick, sophomore Tyshell King, and freshman Justyce Swango. McCormick and King were both dependable members of the team last year, but were generally overshadowed but Butler and White. McCormick was solid throughout the season, putting up an average of 8.5 points and also snagging 8.5 rebounds per game. “Katie McCormick is a star…you can look for [her] to be an integral part of what we do,” Adair said.
But McCormick, like her new coach, is not concerned with the Hoya team that was. Rather, she is excited about the emerging new team dynamic. “Last year is in the past now. We definitely have a whole new style of approach. We’re getting better and better every day…We’re just looking forward to killing everything this year.”
McCormick isn’t the only team captain looking forward to getting onto the court. In fact, she and Coach Adair have sang the praises of Swango. “It’s exciting to watch her develop. She’s the first in every sprint, she’s vocal in the local room, she’s vocal on the court…she’s a ball of energy,” said Adair.
Adair had no qualms naming Swango as one of her three team captains despite the fact that she is only a freshman.
“I picked the players that lead from the front. I picked the players who were excited to be there everyday and worked hard,” Adair said. “It was about who was committed and who was consistent.”
Adair’s various mandates for her team have been well-received by the players. “Her big thing is energy,” said freshman guard and Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year Dorothy Adomako. “We always have to have energy in practice.” Adair has required that all members of her team read Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus, a book meant to empower the individual to take ownership of and find solutions for their problems, while maintaining a positive attitude. “We talk about all the things that you [as a player] are responsible for and being the ‘CEO of bringing the energy’ everyday,” she said.
This shift in mindset is not represented in the Big East Women’s Basketball Preseason poll, where the Hoyas were ranked eighth in the 10-team conference. These rankings do not seem to faze Adair or the other players.
“I don’t pay attention to the rankings,” Adair said. “We will be where we’re supposed to be at the end of the season based on how we compete, how we were, and what we have. We will not finish where we were picked.”
Adair has no desire to remain at the bottom of the standings. “I want to compete right now,” she said. “Why wait? You do a disservice to your players, who are hungry.”
Hungry or not, it remains to be seen how this young team will handle themselves when their season begins on Nov. 14 against Maryland Eastern Shore. But if one thing is clear, it’s that this team is coming into their own and will be looking for blood come game time.