Patrick Ewing’s Emotional Return to Jamaica

The first time Patrick Ewing went back to Jamaica, he couldn’t believe how short the fence was.

How could he be looking over that fence — looking down over that fence — in back of the house where he was born? Didn’t he used to have to climb that fence just to be able to curl his fingertips over the top? And that house — didn’t that house used to be huge?

Ewing thought everything seemed small when, in 1985 as a 23-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, he returned to the country of his birth for the first time since emigrating with his parents and six siblings when he was 12. But Ewing had simply grown.

He had become taller, of course, but also more complete. He had successfully acclimated to a country that wasn’t always welcoming and earned a degree from one of its most prestigious universities, not to mention a national championship in a sport he didn’t play until he was a pre-teen.

“I felt pride, to go back,” Ewing said all these years later, on a balcony overlooking the practice court in the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center. “Even though I had just started my NBA career, I had still accomplished a lot.”

Ewing has visited Jamaica many times since, but this week marks another first. This week, he returns to Jamaica for the first time as the head coach at Georgetown. The Georgetown men’s basketball team’s participation in the Jamaica Classic in Montego Bay is a homecoming all over again, and not just for Ewing in this new phase of his life.

A big part of the reason Ewing said yes to the eight-team event — in which Georgetown (3-0) will play Loyola Marymount (3-0) on Friday and South Florida (2-0) on Sunday — was that he wanted his team to see where he came from. He also thought the trip would resonate with two players in particular: sophomore guard Jahvon Blair, whose parents were born in Jamaica, and junior guard Jagan Mosely, whose father is from the island, emigrated to Brooklyn when he was a few years older than Ewing and will travel to meet the Hoyas on the trip.

“It kind of comes full circle,” Mosely said. “Coach Ewing grew up in Jamaica, went his own way; now he’s very successful and has come back to coach in Jamaica. It’s like my dad — he grew up in Jamaica, came to America, became very successful, and now he’s going back to watch his son play.”

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