- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

LILBURN, Ga. Future Georgetown Hoyas point guard Matt Causey is fuming.
His Berkmar High School Patriots, the defending state champs in Georgia's largest division, are throttling some local prep fodder named Dacula by 30 points.
The 5-foot-11 Causey isn't concerned with the score. He's glaring at the officials, who have overlooked a series of fouls in the interest of expediting the blowout. He's barking at teammates, who seem to think extra credit is awarded for 1-on-5 baskets. And he even has a few choice words for coach Ken Martin, who has decided to save his ire for another day and a more meaningful opponent.
"That was horrible," says Causey, still smoldering 30 minutes after the rout. "That was an awful team, and we played down to their level. That's why I'm so upset. I get very angry when my guys don't play the game properly, when they stop looking for each other and forget about playing as a team. That wasn't basketball; it was slop."
The player
As you can tell, Causey doesn't have difficulty expressing himself.
He's passionate.
Don't let the unkempt Dan Dickau 'do and patented teen-age slouch fool you. The unanimous top-100 national recruit is about as mellow as a case of Red Bull. One coach described him as "wound tighter than an old Titleist." Another called him "high strung." A teammate chose "intense." And at least two recruiters referred to him as "fiery."
He's a perfectionist.
That tends to happen when your father is a radiologist who coaches hoops as a hobby and your mother is a former college player. High standards stake their claim when you win a state title in 2001 at East Hall High (Gainesville, Ga.) with your older brother, transfer and repeat the feat by yourself the next season at Berkmar.
Some have labeled him a prototype.
No, he isn't a 6-9 point man with a dizzying first step in the once-a-decade Magic mold. But he is the consummate floor leader a marvelous passer with excellent vision, quality hoops acumen and a serious, forget-me-not stroke. A month into his senior season, he's averaging 20 points, 10.5 assists and six steals.
"Georgetown has a real keeper in Causey," said recruiting analyst Dave Telep of TheInsidersHoops.com. "I love his hoops IQ. He understands the position well enough to make everyone around him better. He's great at getting his teammates involved, and he has very deep range on his jumper when left open. He's definitely among the elite point guards in this class."
And next season, when he takes his game to the Hilltop, he'll be something of a pioneer.
You see, Causey is white. That's Causey with a C-A-U as in caucasian.
The past
Georgetown basketball hasn't exactly been awash in racial diversity since the beginning of the John Thompson era in 1972. Nobody ever confused JT's Hoyas with Utah or Princeton.
Before his resignation in 1999, Thompson rarely addressed the racial makeup of his teams. And current coach Craig Esherick refuses to discuss the issue, his frustration with public perception not enough to overwhelm his fear of oversimplifying Thompson's vision.
But the facts are somewhat startling. Georgetown's roster has not featured a white freshman on scholarship in more than a decade. It has been 11 seasons since a white player Brian Kelly started for the Hoyas. And never in the modern era, not once since Thompson's first season, have they had a white player who averaged double digits in scoring.
During that 30-year span, 48 programs have made it to a Final Four. And at least once during those three decades, every one of those basketball powerhouses except Georgetown has featured a white player with a double-digit scoring average. As one person remarked after pondering the stat, "Yeah, I guess even Nolan [Richardson of Arkansas] had his Pat Bradley."
Why has Georgetown had so few white players?
Many of Thompson's critics have insinuated racism was the reason.
"I get a kick out of people thinking that I was a racist because most of my teams were black," Thompson said several years ago. "They took one single segment of my life and tried to use it to evaluate me. That's ludicrous."
All three of the white players who started under Thompson (Esherick, Kelly and Jeff Bullis) would agree.
"There's not a single bad thing I can say about Coach Thompson," said Kelly, a blue-collar brawler who averaged 3.1 points as a starter at forward during the 1991-92 season and is now a lawyer in Los Angeles. "He was a great teacher, and he never talked in terms of black and white with us. He hated generalizations and stereotypes. Anybody who calls him a racist clearly doesn't know him."
One of Thompson's white coaching contemporaries agrees.
"That racist stuff is nonsense," said the coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Look at the key members of his support circle Craig Esherick, Mary Fenlon, Frank Rienzo.
"So why were his teams almost all black? Look at the situation. John is a D.C. guy with a soft spot for kids in need. Now, why don't you call me the next time you find a white kid who can play at Anacostia or Spingarn or McKinley Tech."
After a few one-sided recruiting classes and a good deal of success, Thompson's program developed a national reputation that came to define the school in many ways. Outside of the Northeast section of the country, only some folks were aware of Georgetown the institution; nearly everyone was aware of Thompson's Hoyas.
"Everybody from home reacted the same way when I told them I was going to Georgetown," said Kelly, a Cincinnati native. "They said, 'Why are you going to an all-black school?' as if I were going to Grambling or Southern. And I don't mean to disparage those schools, but nobody seemed to understand that the student body at Georgetown was predominantly white." (Non-Hispanic blacks comprise just 6 percent of the current undergraduate and graduate enrollment of 12,688.)
Opposing coaches did their best to foster that perception, making it even more difficult for Thompson and his primary recruiter, Esherick, to attract white players to the Hilltop.
"I'm sure that there are some coaches out there who have used race against the program in the past," said Bullis, a swingman from 1978 to 1981 who is now an executive for a Richmond-based medical supplies company. "That happened with me. I'm not going to name names, but I had a coach say to me, 'Why do you want to go there? C'mon, we both know what that program is all about.' They'd never come right out and say it, but you knew what they meant."
Said Kelly: "I had people telling me, 'John Thompson doesn't play white players.' And I remember thinking, 'Who says? He never said that.' When I went there on my official visit, he was amazing so positive, so inviting. I was so fired up that I canceled all my other trips and signed the commitment papers before I left. I walked away wondering how so many people could have painted this guy so wrong."
One oft-repeated Thompson recruiting tale involves DeMatha's Danny Ferry, the 1985 National High School Player of the Year and eventual Duke All-American. According to the rumor, Ferry was interested in Georgetown but never heard a whisper from the Hoyas staff.
"That's definitely not true," said recently retired DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten last week. "I distinctly remember Coach Thompson telling Bob Ferry that he wanted to be sure Danny knew how interested he was in the possibility of him coming to Georgetown. Danny just decided very early in the recruiting process that he wanted to go away to school."
Now there's no denying that Thompson cultivated an intimidating image as a black coaching icon. But his position as a powerful proponent for the black athlete was often misinterpreted as a disaffection for the white one.
Esherick, who played for Thompson from 1974 to 1978 and coached under him for 21 years before taking the reins of the program in 1999, admits that he can't discuss the issue of recruiting diversity rationally.
"I get angry just thinking about how many people have asked me about that over the years," said Esherick last year in his one and only comment on the subject to this newspaper. "Who do you think was the recruiting coordinator for most of the years you're talking about? You have to understand that I take that question very personally. It's a very complex issue, but suffice it to say that we have always pursued the best players who were interested in our program.
"That's all I'm going to say about it, and that's the only thing you must understand to a large extent, kids recruit you as much as you recruit them."
The pioneer
Enter Causey, a self-described country boy who lists trout fishing and golfing as his favorite off-court pastimes. Esherick and his recruiting coordinator, Ronny Thompson, noticed the wiry gym rat while scouting Patrick Ewing Jr. two summers ago. Causey was the point man on Ewing's AAU team, the Georgia Stars. And perhaps unlike past white players, Causey didn't flinch when the Hoyas expressed an interest.
"They're a great basketball school with a lot of tradition, and I was flattered when they started recruiting me as a sophomore," said Causey, who chose Georgetown over Stanford, Georgia Tech and Florida State. "I also knew it was a very strong university, and that was really important to me because I could have gone to college on an academic scholarship. It didn't hurt that my mom just loves Coach [Ronny] Thompson."
Therein lies a delicious morsel or two of irony. Not only did it take the involvement of a black man to clinch Georgetown's first meaningful white recruiting coup in decades, but that black man is John Thompson's son. And he accomplished the feat by using the Hoyas' racial history as a positive.
"Ronny told Matt that he'd have a chance to be the first white point guard in the [modern] history of the school," said Matt's father, David. "I know that challenge really appealed to him."
And the accompanying chatter is likely to annoy him. Causey has heard the whispers and answered the questions from every recruiting analyst he's encountered since giving his verbal pledge to the Hoyas two years ago.
"Sure, just about everybody in the nation has mentioned the race thing, but I never really thought it mattered," said Causey. "I felt like it was a good fit. I'm pretty jacked up about it. I met all the guys I didn't know already when I was up there on my official visit. We had a real good time hanging out. And I've even talked some trash with the competition.
"Chris Thomas [of Notre Dame] was officiating at one of the big camps this summer, and we were having fun jawing at one another. I was going real good, and every time I'd make a shot he'd grin and tell me he'd be waiting for me up in the Big East."
So will opposing fans.
"I remember every time we played at the Garden, opposing fans would chant, 'Token token token,'" said Kelly. "They hated me, and the more they screamed and jeered, the more I loved it. Maybe Causey will feed on it the same way."
He might just chew off the rim in disgust.
"I'm nobody's token," Causey said. "I'm not going up there to ride the bench. And as for Georgetown never having an all-conference white player, well, there's a first for everything."
And if Causey continues to sparkle under scrutiny in college, perhaps this will be the last time the Georgetown community has to see the words 'race' and 'recruiting' in the same sentence.
"You'd have to say this signing is a good thing in the long run because it opens up the entire recruiting pool to Georgetown again," Bullis said. "Kudos to Causey for looking beyond the stereotypes and the perceptions. And kudos to Craig for continuing to keep after the best players."

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