Journalist with a Jump Shot

February 11, 2013—While an undergraduate at Georgetown, Monica McNutt (C’11) balanced sports and academics as a student-athlete. Now, she writes a blog called Transition Game for the Washington Post and advises high school students about the rigors of playing sports at the college level.

McNutt, an English major, was drawn to Georgetown from her Washington, DC, high school for several reasons. She loved reading and writing, but she had no career track in mind. On a visit to Georgetown, an advising dean told her that she could enter the College and “try different things” to find what suited her.

Another motivation was her love of basketball. Renowned for its thriving athletic culture, Georgetown recruited McNutt heavily out of high school. As “a local kid” from Suitland, Maryland, McNutt came to the Hilltop not only so she could develop her basketball skills, but also so her family could always see her play.

“That was actually a big part of my decision-making, besides the fact that I met Big John on my visit,” McNutt said, referring to John Thompson Jr., former head coach of the Georgetown men’s basketball team and father of current head coach John Thompson III.

“My parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles had been incredibly supportive through my career, and that wasn’t something that I wanted to take away from them. So much of my success was their success, so I decided to stay 20 minutes from home.”

Growing up, McNutt did not start out on the pinewood, playing basketball. Originally, she was most attracted to tennis and sought to emulate the playing style of her idol Venus Williams. But in middle school she began to accompany her father, a referee at recreational basketball games, to work, and soon her favorite sport changed.

“From fourth grade on, it was Saturday mornings in the gym with my dad, free time during the summer with my dad, basketball practice, basketball camps,” McNutt remembered. “I watched the WNBA games religiously as a kid. My dad actually thinks that contributed a lot to me, because it had the effect of making me study the game at an early age.”

Through middle school and high school, McNutt thrived as a center, using her height to generate foul contact and snag rebounds. At Georgetown, her role on the floor shifted. With the help of then-head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, McNutt became a shooting guard and worked to perfect her jump shot.

“Terri was awesome. She and I still talk today even though now she’s at a different school,” McNutt said. “We had a great relationship going through, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity she gave me. I tell her that whenever I talk to her because, for me, it was life-changing.”

For McNutt, her time at Georgetown as a student-athlete was a challenge, a thrill, and a learning experience. Her success as a basketball player nurtured both her sense of community and competitiveness—two things she thinks she will never lose, if her frequent attendance at Georgetown home games and her difficulty “playing for fun” in pick-up games are any indication.

Her success in the classroom, meanwhile, hinged largely on time management skills, which she developed upon arriving at Georgetown.

In her blog at the Washington Post, McNutt emphasizes the balance she found between sports and studies. Many of her readers are high school athletes who aspire to keep competing on the collegiate level. McNutt, who is currently getting a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, gives advice about physical and emotional health based on research and her own personal experience.

“It comes down to your body and taking care of yourself. When I got to college, I finally understood that x food will give me this, that lifting weights will maximize that,” she said.

“But so much of it is mental toughness. That’s the biggest thing I try to get across to kids,” she continued. “Because if you can be mentally tough and stay focused on your goal, then all the hard work won’t seem like a sacrifice. It will just be something that you do in order to be successful.”

—Brittany Coombs