In the early 1990's, most basketball fans outside of Washington knew little about Victor Page. Those in the area knew of him largely from his prolific basketball statistics: he averaged 31 points a game in leading McKinley Tech to the District championship, and was considered one of the best pure local prospects in a decade.
Behind the numbers was a difficult childhood. Page lived with 11 relatives in one of Anacostia's most crime ridden neighborhoods. Both parents died tragically in his youth, and schools offered little protection against a hostile world literally right outside his front door.
The neighborhood "was gunfire, drugs, women," Page said in a 2006 New York Times feature article, titled 'Without Bad Luck, He'd Have No Luck at All.'
"You can get yourself into anything [there] within a second," he said. "Anything."
Basketball was his escape, and Page established himself as one of the best high school prospects in the nation. A first team All-Met and DC player of the year in 1994, Page spent a year in prep school, where he was recruited by Georgetown.
On any other team, Victor Page would have been the star, except Page had a teammate with even more star power in Allen Iverson. And while Iverson scorched the Georgetown record books in the Hoyas' 29-8 season, Page was not far behind. He opened with 71 points in his first three games, including 25 points against Georgia Tech in the pre-season NIT. Starting 33 of 37 games, Page averaged 12.5 points a game for the #4 ranked Hoyas, none bigger than in the Big East semifinal on March 8, 1996.
The 1996 Big East semifinals featured three teams in the top nine in the nation. Georgetown had routed #6-ranked Villanova 106-68 a week earlier at USAir Arena, but in the semifinal the Wildcats had succeeded in limiting Iverson with foul trouble and forcing the Hoyas into a tenuous situation on each offensive possession. With its frontcourt of Othella Harrington, Jerome Williams, and Boubacar Aw held to a combined 1 for 8 shooting, Page took over. Utilizing a slowdown offense and a quick strike towards the end of the shot clock, Page was able to neutralize the Villanova
defenses and keep Georgetown ahead.
The strategy wouldn't have worked without Page's accuracy--12 for 19 from the field, a season high 34 points and nine rebounds paced Georgetown to a 84-76 victory. The next evening, using Iverson as the quick strike target, the strategy failed as Iverson shot 4 for 15 and Georgetown lost an 11 point lead to Connecticut in the final, 75-74. Page was named the Big East Tournament MVP, only the second MVP from a non-title team.
The off-season departure of Iverson, Harrington, and Williams to the NBA left the Hoyas' lineup exposed, and hopes that the unfulfilled potential of Jerry Nichols and Shamel Jones would step up proved unfounded. The impact in the standings would have been even more sudden in 1996-97 had Victor Page not been there, since he literally carried the young team on his shoulders through the season.
Page's individual statistics in 1997 are without peer. He led the team in scoring in 27 of 30 games, 21 of those with 20 or more points. By the end of January he had nine 25+ scoring games, but by the halfway point of the season the Hoyas had sagged from an 8-1 start to 12-7 and a 5-6 mark in conference play. In his worst game of the season, Page missed his first nine shots, but hit the game winner over St. John's to begin one of the great runs in Hoya history.
With their NCAA hopes in some doubt, Page led the Hoyas to win seven of its last eight, almost exclusively by his hand: 26 in back to back games against Syracuse and Providence, 20 at Pitt, 29 at Memphis, 25 versus Rutgers. His 28 points on the road at a hostile Providence Civic Center won the Hoyas a Big East divisional crown and a #2 seed in the conference tournament. Page scored 31 in the opener versus Miami, but was held to 18 in the semifinals, losing to eventual titleist Boston College. Page shot poorly in his final game, a 7 for 22 effort against Charlotte in a first round NCAA
For the season, Page finished with a 22.7 per game average, fourth best all time in a season. An All- Big East selection, he was then named to the All-America honorable mention list for his efforts. Hopes were justifiably high that Page would become the next Allen Iverson of the Hoya backcourt in 1998.
Prior to the 1997 Big East tournament, talk surfaced that Page might follow Iverson to the NBA rather than stay in school. Page dismissed such talk, once joking that he was too busy at Georgetown "to even spell NBA". A week later, however, Page announced his intention to leave school and enter the draft. "Victor does not have the academic inclination to be, at this point in his life, pursuing his education," said Coach Thompson.
The 1997 off-season was a difficult one. Page's departure in March, the transfers of Jerry Nichols and Shamel Jones that summer, and the dismissal of Ed Sheffey in August were visible setbacks for a program which prided itself on players staying all four years. Later that summer, a front page article in the Washington Post questioned the contrast between Thompson's recruiting outlook and that of the Georgetown admissions office, using Page's troubled background as one of the themes.
"I don't look at a kid who's poor, a kid who's talented, and say that I'm not going to take that kid because he might leave," Thompson told the Post. "I feel that Georgetown University has made a major contribution to the life of Allen Iverson and Victor Page."
Victor Page moved on from Georgetown, but was not drafted by an NBA team. Page spent four seasons in the CBA with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and left as the franchise's all time leading scorer, but without an NBA call-up. A season in Europe and a brief tour with a traveling "streetball" team followed.
Page returned to local headlines under tragic circumstances. In 2003, he was critically wounded when he was shot in the face during a drive-by shooting in his Berry Farms neighborhood, losing his right eye in the process. A year later, Page's cousin was sentenced to prison for homicide, in a case the prosecution suggested was in retaliation for the shooting. In 2005, Page was wounded in the leg in an unrelated incident, but recovered.
Victor Page's years at Georgetown were all too brief, but his play on the court shone brightly. In just 67 games, he is among the school's top 25 scorers and his career average is 5th all time. Over the years, he has maintained ties to Georgetown and attends home games at Verizon Center from time to time. Page works with local youth groups in DC, and his life story may be profiled in an upcoming documentary film, according to the New York Times article.
"Page said he was cheering Georgetown's progress through the tournament," wrote the Times. "He hopes the Hoyas find at least as much success at they did 10 years ago, when he was a youngster with nothing but the clear vision of possibility in front of him."