One season ago, James Bishop IV became the first George Washington University men’s basketball player to lead the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring since 2000, as the Baltimore native averaged 21.6 points per game while becoming the first, first-team all-conference honoree at GW since 2006.
Odds are, the senior-to-be held several cards deciding the fate of how he would extend his basketball career. Returning to GW was ultimately the deck he chose, in part because he trusted the vision that second-year coach Chris Caputo had for both the short- and long-term of the program.
And once again, Bishop IV is lighting up the scoreboard and stuffing the stat sheet for the Revolutionaries, who themselves are off to their best start in nearly a decade.
“I think it was just what we were building at the school,” Bishop IV said of his return. “This program has been really up and coming the last couple of years, and I’ve spent a lot of time here. I’m comfortable here. It’s close to my home. And I just believe in what Coach Caputo has planned for the program, and you’re starting to see it.”
It’s easy to understand why an offensive-minded player such as Bishop IV finds Caputo’s system enticing. The Revolutionaries are averaging more than 80 points per game and have the freedom to push the ball in transition and shoot early in the shot clock.
That offensive output has been a big reason for the team’s 12-3 record, the best start to a season since the 2015-2016 campaign that culminated in an NIT championship won at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is also just the 13th time in the 110 years of the program GW has started 12-3 or better.
“We are beginning to build the foundation both on the court and off the court for a sustainably good basketball program,” Caputo said. “I’ve been happy about where we are so far, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Being an exciting team on the court and creating energy for the entire university community is a staple of the culture Caputo is trying to build. He noted his appreciation for the support students, faculty, staff and alumni have provided during his early tenure at GW, and he is driven to make the Charles E. Smith Center a place where GW community members can come and be inspired and united by what they are seeing on the court.
“It all starts with [the student section] George’s Army creating an environment that really benefits the student experience; and in turn, I’ve spoken to many alums who have said a lot of their experience here was shaped by the basketball program,” Caputo said. “There’s some incredible stories in the Smith Center related to the student experience at GW, so making that part of the culture, whether you’re a basketball fan or not, is really important.”
Whether it’s Bishop IV or sophomore Maximus Edwards firing a 3 off a crisp swing pass from the corner or redshirt first-year Darren Buchanan Jr. cutting down the lane for an open dunk, the Revolutionaries are plenty capable of igniting a crowd.
While Bishop IV and Edwards offer a veteran presence as returners from last year’s team that finished with a winning record in Atlantic 10 play during Caputo’s first season as coach, the Revolutionaries have also gotten valuable contributions from first-year players.
Garrett Johnson is one of those fresh faces as the Oakton, Va., native is enjoying his first game action in more than two years. A transfer from Princeton, Johnson has a well-documented journey—picked up by outlets such as ESPN, USA Today and The Washington Post—returning from a benign tumor in his left hip that caused him to undergo nine rounds of chemotherapy.
He's back, healthy and contributing in a big way as he averages more than 13 points per game, including a career high 23 points on Dec. 21 against Alcorn State.
“It feels amazing,” said Johnson, who chose GW in part because he, too, is a believer in the program’s upward trajectory. “I definitely missed that team environment so much going through the things I was going through. Being a part of a team that is working toward a common goal is something that I really missed a lot.”
As Atlantic 10 play commences, the Revolutionaries and their high-octane offense consisting of both veteran and first-year contributors are hoping the show is just beginning.
GW hosts a pair of home games over the holiday weekend at the Charles E. Smith Center, as Davidson comes to Foggy Bottom on Saturday, Jan. 13, while GW hosts regional foe George Mason on Monday, Jan. 15. Both games tip off at 2 p.m.