Georgetown did not have a senior day this past season. After all, with no four-year veterans on the roster, why would they?
I’ll tell you why.
Sometimes a team subsists beyond those on the court. Sometimes, a team transcends the 40 minutes during which it is on the court. Sometimes, a team is defined by a community.
Though the Hoyas did not lose any players to graduation, they did lose an integral contributor to the Georgetown basketball program. Arguably, the Blue and Gray lost the heart and soul of their team.
For the first time in what seems like forever, cheerleader Eric Cusimano will no longer be manning the sidelines.
I know what you’re thinking. Really? A cheerleader ?
Believe it or not, Cusimano has emerged as the singular face of Georgetown Basketball over the past four years, and for good reason. Eric is no ordinary cheerleader.
In his four years on the hilltop, Eric developed the uncanny ability to ignite even the bleakest of crowds. Whether it was personally running through the student section to ensure that the crowd was fired up, spontaneously starting “We Are Georgetown” chants with such force that his voice could be easily identified when watching on television, or waving that Georgetown flag with vigorous pride worthy of a D-Day soldier, Eric never held anything back.
If you have ever seen the spirited manner by which Cusimano charged onto the court to introduce the Hoyas game in and game out, you will also know that the word “passion” can only begin to describe the perpetual zeal expressed by this extremely talented individual.
Above all, the New Orleans native is an athlete. In fact, his background in football is largely responsible for his initial decision to start cheerleading
“In high school I was a football player,” said Cusimano. “Katrina hit in August my senior year, so the season was cut short, but we had it nonetheless. After the season was over, I hit this gap of not going to practice in the afternoon….No incentive to stay in shape.”
“My stepmom was the cheerleading coach, and because it was an all male school, she was required to have same amount of guys as girls, and people moved because of Katrina so she needed some people. After a few practices I just fit in.”
When he arrived at Georgetown, Eric decided to continue jogging down the cheerleading path.
“I saw it as an opportunity to get involved and just a chance to be different”
From enthralling NCAA tournament buzzer beaters to monumental upsets (thanks, Ohio), Eric has seen it all in his immaculate four-year career. For the Capitol Hill intern however, one moment particularly stands out.
“The singular most memorable moment would be the president coming to the Duke game this past year. During games we do this move called the cupe, when you hold the girl above your head. It’s always the kind of thing that’s a little shaky, but for whatever reason, that one stuck. I knew the President could see it, and not many people get to cheerlead in front of the President.”
Eric was not always the bold, confident, overwhelmingly charismatic individual that will receive his degree in about a month’s time. Cusimano cites his growth as a cheerleader through the most demanding of pregame rituals; waving the massive Georgetown Hoya flag.
“In the beginning I was terrified. I was a freshman. I had taken over for a guy who had done it for awhile. What if you fall? What if the flag breaks? There are so many what ifs the first time you actually do it.”
Eventually, the honorable procedure became old hat for “Showtime” Cusimano.
“As time goes by it becomes part of what you do on gameday. It’s always kind of a moment because you’re the first one on the court. For the bigger games when the stadium is full, there is nothing else like it.”
For Cusimano, cheerleading is not just a sport. It is a lifestyle. In fact, his undying dedication to cheerleading enabled him to become not just the face of Hoya basketball, but the face of the entire Georgetown Community.
“Being a cheerleader in high school was just the next activity,” said Cusimano. “Here, it enabled me to do everything else. People already knew who I was…. Oh, you’re a cheerleader, come do this. That’s how I got involved in NSO (New Student Orientation), in GAAP, tour guiding. Being a cheerleader made it easy for me to see all these other opportunities on campus and dive into to them. It helped knowing a lot of people, and hoping that those people would trust me to be a good representative of the school.”
Eric has been more than a good representative of the school. In many ways, he has cemented himself as a legend.
Yeah, he may not be Greg Monroe. But Eric has definitely left some pretty big shoes to fill.