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The GW Hatchet


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The GW Hatchet

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Back(court) in action: After seasons plagued by injury, guards return to starting lineup

Francis Rivera | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Francis Rivera | Hatchet Staff Photographer

After first taking the court against each other in high school, Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage have the chance to do what they’ve never done before this year: start an entire season together, healthy.

Both athletes are fully recovered from injuries that hampered their production last season. A fracture to one of the long bones in Savage’s left foot kept him off the court for the last two months of the regular season and held him to just one minute of play in the Atlantic 10 tournament. McDonald, who injured an already hurting hip against Rutgers on Dec. 4, played through pain nearly every game last season and had surgery to repair his left hip in April.

With the two of them back on the floor at full strength, GW has a lethal combination of playmaking and finishing capability in the backcourt.

“Me and him have a cool bond. I have a bond with all my teammates but I’ve known him the longest,” Savage said. “It’s just good that we’re both healthy this year. Hopefully it stays that way, and we’ll be able to play our whole season together this year.”

Savage was averaging 13.4 points on 52 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals when he was injured last season. He said now he feels “more than 100 percent.”

Media Credit: Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer
A fracture to one of the long bones in junior guard Kethan Savage’s left foot kept him off the court for the last two months of the regular season. He’ll return healthy as a starter this season.

With Savage and McDonald, who completed strength and conditioning regimens to get back to form for the season, the Colonials have opportunities to expand their game. McDonald’s improved mobility gives the team more options defensively after running a 1-3-1 frequently last season to protect the point guard, and Savage is eager to show his improved jump shot.

“I think [having a jump shot] makes me harder to guard,” Savage said. “People told me all the time when I was growing up I was explosive, I can get to the rim whenever I want. But my jump shot has always been something that kind of held me back.”

McDonald has a special feel for where to pass Savage the ball on the floor where he is most successful, and said he trusts the explosive 6-foot-3 shooting guard to get a shot off “whenever he wants.”

The two met in their early teens when they played high school basketball against each other: McDonald went to high school at the Landon School in Bethesda, Md. and Savage went to Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.

“Joe is just such a smart player. That’s something I didn’t really realize about him when we were younger,” Savage said during an interview at a pickup game among the five starters, his eyes never leaving the basketball as his teammates tossed it around a gym behind the stands of the Smith Center arena.

“Being on the same team with him, he tells me things he sees at the point guard position,” Savage said. “You know he’s the floor general, he probably has one of the highest basketball IQs on our team.”

As teammates, McDonald and Savage relied on each other while they were going through rehab and reconditioning their bodies, spending many of their summer days in the GW weight room, where they both worked toward the same goal of returning to the court.

Media Credit: Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer
Junior guard Joe McDonald played through pain nearly every game last season. He had surgery to repair his left hip in the spring.

And now that they have recovered, there is nothing that should limit them as they take on newer, higher expectations. After the graduation of clutch shooting guard Maurice Creek, head coach Mike Lonergan has tapped Savage as the player the team will depend on to take a potential game winner.

“If we had a game tomorrow night and it was tied late, I’d put the ball in his hands,” Lonergan said. “You know, you kind of forgot how good he really is and he’s a terrific player.”

Lonergan also said Savage has improved defensively and he’s setting higher goals for himself as he has matured.

Junior swingman Patricio Garino said he was excited to have Savage back and McDonald healthy and recovered from his surgery.

“I remember the time when we first saw [McDonald] running over the summer. We saw him running on the track and we all started screaming for him,” Garino said. “It’s unbelievable what he’s done for the team, and we missed him a lot when he was hurting last year.”

Savage said he is glad the two will get to play in their natural spots this year, though he could also play back-up point guard at times. He said he’s ready to do that, but that he’d rather be on the court with McDonald, instead of backing him up.

“I feel like us together in the backcourt is pretty special,” Savage said. “It’s cool to play against each other, but luckily I’m playing with him now so that’s even better, I enjoy that even more.”

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