Last season was hailed as a revival of George Washington men’s basketball. New head coach Mike Lonergan came with a lot of momentum. He assembled a new coaching staff and hoped to lead last year’s 17-win to a bigger and better finish. There were even aspirations of a fringe NCAA tournament bid.
By season’s end though, both fans and the team found themselves staring at a 10-21 record, another first round exit at the hands of the Dayton Flyers, and the graduation of their leading scorer and current Tulsa 66ers rookie Tony Taylor.
Consider this season “The Foggy Bottom Revival: Take Two.”
Returning to the fold are seniors Lasan Kromah and David Pellom, the team’s top returning scorers from last year. Kromah, who scored 11.1 points per game, showed some rust a year removed from his foot injury but still showed some game-changing potential. From his double-double performance – with a career-high 14 rebounds – against Xavier and two strong scoring totals against Richmond, there’s still more to come from the local guard. Pellom averaged career highs in points (10.4), rebounds (6.1), and shot an A-10 leading and program-record 68.5% from the field. With his energy and as the GW’s principal low-post scoring threat, Pellom served as a crucial staple in the rotation even though he only started four games. The Colonials are going to miss him early in the season though as he’s still recovering from left wrist surgery in the off-season.
Senior guard Bryan Bynes was the lone backup at point-guard last year and will likely keep that role. He comes into this season as the team’s best perimeter defender and will look to expand his offensive versatility. Swingman Dwayne Smith is coming into his senior season healthy for the first time in his Colonials career and will likely start right out of the gate. Concussion symptoms plagued him all last year, but he showed a glimpse of his strong sophomore season in a late six-game stretch where he averaged 11 points and four rebounds. Coupled with his already tough inside play, if he regains his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, he will be GW’s biggest x-factor on both ends of the floor.
Though the concise and straightforward new men’s basketball coach has said little before his team took the floor, Mike Lonergan emphatically started his George Washington coaching career with a 92-65 win over the Bowie State Bulldogs in the lone exhibition game this season. Junior guard Lasan Kromah led all scorers with 23 points and chipped in six assists, while his senior backcourt mate Tony Taylor finished with 12 points, nine assists and five steals.
The Colonials reaped the benefits of a turbulent offseason, as the preseason hype for basketball finally revealed itself in an electric Smith Center. In turn, the team fed off of the energy and turned the game into a laugher in which they never trailed after sophomore Nemanja Mikic’s mid-range jumpshot 23 seconds into the game.
“I was happy overall with our performance,” Lonergan said, “but at half time I was worried that we let down, with the way we started the second half.”
Although there was a bit of an offensive drop-off, the coach indeed had plenty of reasons to be happy with the way his playbook cut through Bowie State. GW shot 55.9% from the floor and defensively forced an astounding 31 turnovers.
Senior Aaron Ware scored 12 points and junior forward David Pellom scored nine, both coming in off the bench. Freshman forward John Kopriva was in the starting lineup and also scored nine points in 23 minutes of play. Many predicted the new playbook to be a bit cumbersome at first, but Taylor and the Colonials were pretty comfortable and played at a brisk pace.
“The offense felt good,” he said. “We got to run, and that’s going to be our strength this year.”
The Colonials officially open the season on Friday as they take on the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks with tip-off at 7pm. Although the Hawks only won nine games last season, coach Lonergan is not overlooking the season opener.
“I’m looking forward to playing Friday,” he said. “I’m glad we’re at home, and we are going to be practicing to get better. We have to get a win somehow. Every time I look around, the teams we’re playing are either ranked or underrated, so we got some tough opponents coming up.”
WRGW District Radio Sports will have a special pregame show for the season opener. After Box Out! from 4-6pm, the station will be broadcasting live from the tailgate at 6pm. Then News at 6 will go on for their show at 6:20 before we resume the pregame show at 6:45.