Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

GW readies for up-tempo play

Right now, the GW men’s basketball team and new head coach Tom Penders seem to be a perfect fit.

The team has nothing but good things to say about Penders and the new, up-tempo style of offense and defense he is implementing.


“Our strength is playing this up-tempo game,” sophomore guard Mike King said. “A lot of the guys are looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be very good for us.”

Penders calls this GW team one of the most talented and hard-working he has ever coached.

“I love their attitude and their work ethic,” he said. “As a team, it’s very good. Part of the first couple of weeks of practice when you are taking over a new team is evaluating their skills and their attitude and their coachability. Overall, I’m very pleased.”

The Colonials, who went 24-9 a season ago, return much of the same personnel for the 1998-’99 campaign with a few notable absences. Former head coach Mike Jarvis left the program this summer to take over the top spot at St. John’s University. GW also graduated four players – including 7-1 center Alexander Koul – and lost guard J.J. Brade, who left GW for academic reasons.

But GW returns 11 players from the team that tied the school record for victories in a season, made the A-10 finals and was seeded ninth in the NCAA Tournament before making a first-round exit at the hands of Oklahoma State University.

The cornerstones of this year’s team are easy to pick out, Penders said. The Colonials will once again be led by 5-4 senior point guard Shawnta Rogers, who will marshal the new running style of offense, and the pressing and trapping defense Penders has brought to GW.

“Shawnta, as well as the obvious things he does offensively, he is one of the best defensive point guards I have ever had,” Penders said. “He has great hands, he’s physical. He would drive any point guard nuts.”

Rogers, GW’s leading scorer last season (14.7 points per game), was third in the conference in assists per game (4.8) and fourth in steals per game (2.4). He said he thinks the up-tempo style is going to be good for the Colonials on both ends once they learn the system.

“It’s going to be an asset to me, and Mike (King), Antxon (Iturbe),” Rogers said. “My scoring’s going to go up, my assists are going to go up. Everything is going to be going up for everybody, but we’ve got to play defense. We have to learn to rotate (on defense), we don’t really have it down yet.”

GW also returns forward Yegor Mescheriakov (12.7 ppg), who is looking to have a stellar senior year after an ankle injury slowed him last season. Sophomore Mike King, who was a freshman sensation after joining GW in the middle of last season, will be a focal point of this year’s offense. He averaged 13.2 ppg last season and was named to the A-10’s All-Rookie team.

Penders said that he will need to keep these three players healthy if GW is to have a successful season.

“The great thing is that our top three players come to practice and play every day with great attitudes,” Penders said. “Shawnta, Mike and Yegor have not had what I would call a down day in the effort area, and that’s unusual. It’s hard to be sharp every day. Whenever your best players are also your harder workers, that helps a lot.”

The consensus of the team is that the first two and a half weeks of practice under Penders have been positive.

“It’s the right kind of practice for me,” Mescheriakov said. “We are there for two hours, we are intensely working, there’s no big long stops. Practice is interesting, competitive and the hustle is there too.”

Beyond its top players, a strength of this GW team will be its bench. Penders said he feels his regular rotation probably will include 10 players, a mixture of veterans and new players.

“We have a deep bench, a lot of players who can substitute, who can play their roles and play them well,” Mescheriakov said.

“(The depth) is a big thing because playing this style it’s going to be tough for everybody,” Rogers said. “You’re going to get tired. Being deep is good for me, and it’s good for the team.”

Sophomore Antxon Iturbe is blossoming in the new system, Penders said. He averaged 6.4 ppg and 5.5 rebounds per game last season, but his production may go up this season.

“I am really enamored with Iturbe,” Penders said. “Mentally, he’s like a point guard. When I say that, point guards normally know where everybody else is supposed to be, and Antxon knows where everybody’s supposed to be. He executes everything extremely well and he helps the younger guys.”

GW also returns senior captain and three-point specialist Seco Camara (26 three-pointers last year), junior Francisco de Miranda (5.1 ppg) and sophomore Pat Ngongba (4.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Penders also said sophomore point guard Roey Eyal may see more time at both guard positions and will be looked to for his three-point shot more often.

The Colonials also welcome five freshmen. Of the newcomers, 7-0 center Albert Roma and 6-8 forward Jason Smith will likely see the most playing time during the season.

GW has the personnel to be a quality team, but both the coach and his players believe success will ultimately depend on how well and how quickly the team adapts to its new up-tempo style, a change from the half-court game preached by Jarvis.

“The players have to accept and adjust to their roles,” Penders said. “Some I think already are and some I don’t think are sure. Some players are still trying to prove to me they can score 30 points a game.”

The up-tempo offense is clicking right now, scoring more than 100 points in each of GW’s exhibition games. The defense has shown signs that it will be solid as well. But both will have to click in the regular season when GW plays its A-10 schedule, which is chock-full of ranked teams, including No. 7 Temple and No. 17 Xavier.

But Penders said he feels his team will be ready by the time conference play rolls around.

“It’s kind of like building a house,” Penders said. “Early in the season you build the foundation and as the season goes you start adding to it.”

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