George Washington University forward Mike Hall recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Hall is one of the top players in the country and is a returning senior for the Colonials. The Chicago, Illinois native considered a jump to the NBA last summer, but he and teammate Pops Mensah-Bonsu both decided to return to Washington D.C. for the upcoming season. George Washington is looking to make its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and will open up the 2005-2006 campaign on November 23 at home against Kennesaw State. (photo courtesy gwsports.com)
MIKE HALL, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
SCS.com: You were a star at Alan B. Shepard High School in Chicago, averaging more than 14 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. You were ranked among the top seven players in the state of Illinois your final year in high school. When it came time to choose a college, what other schools did you consider, and why did you ultimately decide to attend GW?
Hall: "I had a good deal of interest coming from 'big' colleges during the initial phase of the recruiting process. By that, I mean when schools send out the letters, packets, and things of that nature, but when it came time to discuss the real possibility of me attending these schools, the interest fell off and I was left with a number of 'mid-majors.' It ultimately came down to either The George Washington University or Princeton, which is where my brother went to school. During the decision process, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life - either pursue a career in athletics or become a doctor - which is why I couldn't decide which school to attend. But after a lot of thought, I realized that I would have a great opportunity to do both at GW, and that was the major factor that influenced my decision."
SCS.com: You came in and made an immediate impact in your true freshman season in Washington, D.C. You led the Colonials in rebounding with more than eight per game, a total that was second-best in the entire Atlantic 10. You finished your freshman season with four double-doubles and were named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team. Talk about the differences between high school hoops and big-time college basketball, and tell us what you believe was the key to your huge, early success as a true freshman.
Hall: "Some differences between high school and college are mainly arena and crowd size, the strength of all the players, and the fact that you have a team full of good players, not just maybe 2 or 3 like in high school. I didn't have trouble adjusting to the next level because I play so hard. I try to play as hard as I possibly can every moment that I'm on the court, and that's why I get so many rebounds and why I love defense. Also, I grew up playing with older guys in Chicago. If you play there, then you have no choice but to be tough and play hard, or you will get embarrassed and never picked to play again."
SCS.com: As a sophomore, you led the A-10 in offensive rebounding and total rebounding, and you also registered a double-double in nine different games. You were named the team's MVP that season as well. Though you were only the Colonials' fourth-leading scorer last season, you became a huge three-point threat, connecting on over 47% of your 53 attempts a year ago. You also dished out a pair of assists each night out. Talk about what makes you a player that is so well-rounded, able to shoot, pass, and rebound the ball with the best in a conference as tough as A-10.
Hall: "I feel that I'm a very unselfish player. I love to see a team's offense run smoothly. Seeing a team make four or five passes, set some screens, and back cut for an easy bucket is good basketball and fun to watch, hence my interest in Princeton. So my passing is never something I think about. I actually get a lot of comments from fans that I pass too much which always makes me laugh because that's just me. I've always been able to shoot, but lately I've been shooting twice a day so that if I get an open shot it's automatic. But I never worry about that too much because I live by the principal that if I play defense and rebound, then somebody will want me on their team somewhere."
SCS.com: You made a huge decision in your life this past summer. After you and teammate Pops Mensah-Bonsu declared for the NBA Draft in late March, you chose to withdraw your name from the draft in mid-June, and a week later, Mensah-Bonsu did the same thing. That is a decision that fewer and fewer players are making these days. How much of an influence did Pops have on your decision, and what were the deciding factors in you returning for your senior season at GW?
Hall: "Pops and I were in somewhat different situations. I took the Draft as a learning process. I wanted to see what people thought of me and what areas I needed to improve on to be a solid player at that level. It would have taken an awful lot for me to have left the situation we have at GW this year, and it would mean a ton to my mother if I got my degree. I've learned so much and gained a great deal of confidence from this past summer, so the draft process was everything I had hoped it would be."
SCS.com: With you, Mensah-Bonsu, J.R. Pinnock, Omar Williams, and others returning, much is expected from the Colonials this season. Talk about how you deal with the high expectations others place on you, and tell us how far you think this team can go.
Hall: "I must admit that it feels good to see your team's name in different publications as being a top team, but on the other hand, these were the same people that said we'd be last a few seasons back. We have team expectations that we place upon ourselves that exceed those of the fans or sports writers, and that is what drives us to work hard during the offseason."
SCS.com: Whether playing on the road in front a hostile crowd or playing at home in the Smith Athletic Center in front of the hometown fans, you probably hear the crowd noise at crucial points in the game. Talk about the support you receive from the GW faithful, and tell us how much of an impact you believe fans can have on the outcome of a game.
Hall: "I enjoy playing at home in the Smith Center because its small (about 5,000), and the students wait in line for hours to get in and frustrate the heck out of our opponents. But I love to play on the road. I love to hear trash talk, which is all too common on Chicago playground courts, and it raises my play to another level."
SCS.com: In your bio on gwsports.com, it says that you aspire to be either an NBA player or a physician. Head coach Karl Hobbs had this to say about you when you signed with GW: "Academically, he's as good as it gets." Talk about the difficulty of juggling the responsibilities of being both a college student and a college basketball player. How difficult is it to focus on the books once the season rolls around?
Hall: "We have a great academic support staff at GW. They make sure we stay in contact with all our professors while we're on the road, and that definitely helped my my first year of college. However, I learned to balance the two when I was young, and my mom wouldn't let me go hoop until I did my homework. I always complained then, but I thank her for it now."
SCS.com: Your head coach Karl Hobbs has made huge strides with the Colonials' basketball program. Ticket sales and game attendance have risen 40% during his five years on campus, and the team has achieved huge success on the court as well. Before his tenure at GW began, he recruited star players like Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin to Connecticut, and those guys went on to win a national title in 1999. Talk about what makes Coach Hobbs such a success both on the court and on the recruiting trail.
Hall: "Coach Hobbs is a great recruiter, but he is also a great guy. He's fun to be around and makes you excited to play the game and become better. The fact that he played big time basketball at UConn and later coached there helps you relate to him on a different level than a regular coach. His energy is contagious, and if you're not careful he'll jump in drills in practice to show you how it's done, which is just one of many reasons why he's one of the best coaches in college basketball."
SCS.com: In recent years, the topic of paying college athletes has come up more and more. Some people say that since the players make so much money for their school, their conference, and the NCAA, they should be paid. Others disagree, saying that paying college players is not right because that is what professional sports is for. What is your opinion on this subject?
Hall: "That's a tricky subject and really is impossible to have a definite answer. It's true that athletes devote so much of their time to their sport that they can't be considered normal students, and schools sometime profit from their sacrifices. However, what about those sports that don't really appeal to the general public? If you pay basketball or football players then you're going to have to pay squash, women's water polo, and lacrosse players too because they dedicate the same amount of time and make the same sacrifices as other athletes. But I think I get paid well enough. The chance to attend a top notch school on scholarship is more than enough compensation to keep me happy."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the court and one person you admire off the court?
Hall: "I have three roles models for the different areas of my life. First, my mother is my role model in life because she has faced so many obstacles and overcome them with dignity and worked hard without ever complaining. Second, my brother is my role model when it comes to growing up to be a successful, well-rounded man. He came from the same single parent, inner-city environment and avoided any trouble and is in his last year of medical school at Brown after already graduating from Princeton. Last, for basketball my role model is Quentin Richardson. I've never told anyone this because I actually know him. I grew up watching him because we lived in the same area, and I could see first hand how basketball could get you and your family so much. But I also saw the hard work that he put in, and that always stuck with me."
SCS.com: If a young player was reading this and aspired to become a successful basketball player, what advice would you give him?
Hall: "I would tell younger kids out there to just work as hard as you possibly can, and then if it doesn't work out, then you can know you gave it your all. That can be applied to all areas of life, but something specific to basketball would probably be to have a desire to play defense and rebound. If you do those two things well, then any coach you play for will have no choice but to play you because that's how you win games."
SCS.com would again like to thank George Washington's Mike Hall for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Colonials the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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