POTOMAC -- First things first. The name.
It's Exree Hipp.
That's right, Exree Hipp.
He's got a sister, too. Her name? Exlee.
The last name is a given, of course, and the first name is a family moniker that's been handed down through his father's side. It's a part of his Indian heritage -- the name Exree means "little brave."
"His father's mother was full-blooded Cherokee," said his mother, Albertha. "You can see it in his cheeks."
At 6 feet 7 1/2 , you can also see that Hipp, a senior at Harker Prep, is more than just a different name. He's also a pretty fair basketball player, who will bring his unusual name, 40-inch vertical leap and general hoop skills to the University of Maryland next fall.
And he and his mother couldn't be happier.
"I just wanted to stay close to home and be close to my family," Hipp said yesterday at a news conference at the suburban Washington preparatory school.
"This is my son and I want the best for him," said Albertha Hipp. "I think it's an excellent school. The coaching staff is beautiful. They're very nice people. I think this will be good for him."
Maryland coach Gary Williams is prohibited from speaking publiclyabout potential recruits until they have signed national letters of intent, which Hipp said he plans to do next Thursday, the second day of the early signing period.
Hipp said he was influenced by the recent declaration of DeMatha point guard Duane Simpkins and DuVal forward Stacy Robinson that they also would attend Maryland.
In addition, Johnny Rhodes, a 6-5 guard from Dunbar High who was the Washington area's top player, has orally committed to Maryland and is attending a prep school in Maine in an effort to raise his Scholastic Aptitude Test scores to the required 700.
Hipp, who lives in southeast Washington, said he hoped that their joint decision would bring the final piece to the Terps' otherwise impressive freshman class, namely a big man.
"I wanted to go someplace where we could build a program," said Hipp. "Duane and Stacy and I have been talking and we think we can bring a dominant center into the ACC."
As it is, Hipp brings a strong presence on the wing. He said he is comfortable there and hopes to be able to play there next season.
"I like uptempo basketball. I think I can fit in immediately on the wing," said Hipp. "I've worked on my jump shot and filling the lanes."
Hipp, who had previously attended Washington's Ballou High and Forestville's Bishop McNamara, averaged 12.5 points, four rebounds and 5.4 assists last season, and is listed near the top of most prep scout sheets.
Just as important from Maryland's standpoint, considering the difficulty it has had in getting basketball recruits accepted into the school, Hipp is an honor student at Harker and ranks in the top 10 percent after being the valedictorian of his middle school class.
Stu Vetter, Hipp's coach at Harker, who coached such basketball luminaries as Dennis Scott of the Orlando Magic and North Carolina's George Lynch at his former school, Flint Hill Prep in Northern Virginia, hailed his senior's choice of schools.
"Sending a player of X's caliber over to Maryland is something I'm very comfortable with," said Vetter. "He [Gary Williams] has got the Maryland program heading in the right direction."
Hipp, who also considered Wake Forest, Providence and Georgia Tech, was one of three front-line players from Harker, which finished last season as the 12th-ranked high school team in the country by USA Today, to announce his choice of schools.
Jeremy Dean, a 6-8 power forward from Arlington, Va., selected William & Mary, while Serge Zwikker, a 7-3 center and native of the Netherlands, announced that he will attend North Carolina, where the coach of the Dutch national team is an assistant to Dean Smith.
So now after two years as teammates, Hipp and Zwikker will be ACC enemies. How will that affect their relationship?
"We laugh and talk about it a lot," said Hipp. "I can see me coming down on the wing, Serge under the basket and me dunking on him."