Ben Standig

Modern marvel on the Hilltop: Touring Georgetown's new John R. Thompson Athletic Center

The new Georgetown athletic center for the basketball and other athletic programs is years, decades in the making. It was worth the wait.

It's not just that the new John R. Thompson Jr. Athletic Center finally brings the Georgetown basketball program into the 21st century. It's that the 144,000 square foot, $68 million structure has the Hoyas already poised for the modern world of college sports for decades to come.

Label McDonough Arena charming or venerable or historic, but the smack-you-in-the-face truth is that the home to every athletic program on campus for decades is beyond old and outdated. For the men's basketball program in particular, the structure that opened in 1951 didn't help the day-to-day or recruiting cause. The new building with cavernous practice basketball courts, spacious locker rooms and seemingly every modern convenience needed to compete at the highest levels of collegiate sports, this isn't just a positive. It's a revelation. 

"It means a great deal for me and the program," coach John Thompson III told Scout.com during an exclusive tour Tuesday afternoon. "You have a beautiful, top of the line, state of the art facility that you can now work in. We now have a place 24/7, 365, our guys can come and work. We're not splitting time with volleyball or women's basketball or graduation or spring and fall concerts. The kids can come and work whenever they want."

It's also a place the Thompson can show off with pride. 

"From the second you hit the recruiting trail, you realize it's something that's used against you," the Hoyas coach said of McDonough's antiquated facilities. Thompson took over the program in 2004 after watching his father build it into a national champion.

"Every school probably has its positives and negatives," Thompson continued. "We no longer have facilities as a negative because this is as nice as any place in the country and the Verizon Center is as nice as any homecourt in the country. Has that's been something that's been used against? Absolutely, 100 percent. Within a month or so, that's been taken out of the equation."

The athletic center official opening ceremony is set for October 6, just over two years since the initial groundbreaking, though some parts of the building are currently in use by athletes. That leaves time for furniture to arrive and or final tweaks. As we walked through one section, Thompson chatted up a small group of construction workers. "With all this stuff going up, it's going to put you in the Final Four," a man wearing a hard hat said to the man who took the Hoyas that far in 2007. 

Thompson's office sits empty as he continues to work out of McDonough. He won't be for much longer. The 21st century is 16 years old and, in terms of facilities, the Hoyas have finally arrived. 

Here's a look inside the John R. Thompson Jr. Athletic Center, starting with the outside, if that makes sense.

** Check back with Scout.com for more pictures plus comments from Thompson about the upcoming season. Might as well bookmark the homepage while you're here. More details about what's going on here in the days ahead.

Ben Standig

Ben Standig

Thompson, who was hands-on throughout the process, credited the work of Associate Athletic Director Brian McGuire for stewarding the massive project, one that took help from several administrators, including school president Jack DeGioia and athletic director Lee Reed. "They made it happen," Thompson said. "Something that's been a long time in the making."

When visitors walk into the main entrance -- the first floor area is open to the public, they will see a statue of John Thompson Jr. in arms folded, coaching mode along with trophy cases representing the overall Georgetown athletic program. 

Several walls down the long corridor include a collage of pictures of notable moments in the history of Georgetown athletics. By downloading an app -- again, this is 21st century Georgetown -- visitors will be able to put their smartphones up to the pictures to learn more about these people and moments in time.

The first floor hallway. The ladder will be removed.

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One of the panels representing significant athletes and moments in Georgetown athletics history

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Display about the man himself.

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Roy Hibbert is in that image somewhere

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Stained glass windows line the first floor. This one depicts former Georgetown guard Jason Clark.

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Ok, let's get to the basketball stuff, most of which the general public won't see. But if you're in the lobby of the basketball office, you'll get a glimpse of 2013 Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter

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This display will show the various Georgetown themed shoes from Nike throughout the years. Sweet. Also, I want that Swoosh.

The NBA lottery picks

One hallway includes the name of every Hoya ever drafted or played in the NBA. This is one of many blast from past remembrances. Former players also have their own separate locker room. JT3: "We also wanted to make sure in this bright new shining building that the former players are still noted and recognized and part of this building. I think we've done that."

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The famous statement John Thompson Jr. imparted on to his players along with the symbolic half-filled basketball sits in the waiting area for incoming recruits and their families.

Now, the locker room. Not going to lie, this felt like something out of the DaVinci Code, a rare discovery of sorts because this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment. The media isn't get this deep in the facility ever again.

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Video of the room.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BI-rr7WBEJf/?taken-by=bmstandig

Hot and cold tubs along with other therapeutic stations exist throughout the building. This version is in the Georgetown locker room.

Now, the main attraction, at least for the head Hoya. 

Understandable. The massive room has plenty of space for players to work side baskets while full court scrimmages take place. The arena-esque high ceilings help provide a game-day visual. The NBA jersey wall that hung at McDonough made it over to the new building with a new glass casing. Banners representing the various titles won throughout the years also hang. The women's program have their own ginormous court one floor below.

In terms of basketball, Thompson pointed out the benefit of having a video display at one end so the players and coaching staff can look at game and practice film while on the court.

Here's some amateur video of the court

https://twitter.com/BenStandig/status/763806997980426240

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The Hoyas didn't move over the various banners from McDonough. Like the building itself, they modernized them. Here's the 1984 national championship version.

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"End of the day, it's this room right here," John Thompson III said of his favorite part of the building. "It's the court."

We'll see if this building's mojo helps put the Hoyas into the 2017 Final Four. After last season's losing record, simply getting back into Big East and NCAA Tournament contention is a good start. Finally entering the 21st century in terms facilities will help plenty for years to come.

Check back with Scout for more pictures plus comments from Thompson about the upcoming season.

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