GW's Dare: Another Ewing in making? Knick star's prep coach takes on 7-foot-2 project

December 25, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If he were playing for some nationally ranked team in a high-profile conference, the attention would be constant instead of occasional. But no school other than George Washington University had a shot at Yinka Dare, because no other Division I team in the country employs Mike Jarvis as its coach.

It wasn't the magic Jarvis has worked in getting this program back on track that made the 7-foot-2, 265-pound center from Nigeria sign early last fall with the Colonials. It had more to do with what Jarvis accomplished more than a decade ago at Rindge & Latin High School in Cambridge, Mass.

"I like what he did as far as Patrick Ewing," Dare (pronounced Dah-ray) said recently.

But Jarvis might have more to work with in Dare than he did in Ewing. Ewing was still growing when Jarvis coached the New York Knicks All-Star and former Georgetown All-American, Dare came to GW with all the right parts in place.

The only thing Jarvis has to do is teach Dare how to play basketball.

"He's such a competitor and a perfectionist," said Jarvis. "Every time he goes out, the best thing that happens is that he makes some mistakes. He learns from his mistakes. But I think he's getting closer to the point where, one night, he's just going to explode."

Eight games into his freshman season, there has been at least one such incendiary event. It came in the recent Red Auerbach Colonial Classic, when Dare scored 18 points, pulled down 17 rebounds and blocked four shots in an opening-round win over Columbia.

Dare followed with 15 points and eight rebounds in the championship game against Tennessee State, and was named the tournament's MVP. Dare is averaging a respectable 10.2 points and 8.5 rebounds for the season, and is a large reason GW got off to its best start since 1953. The Colonials were 7-0 before losing at Pepperdine on Wednesday night.

"Just his presence makes a big difference out there," said sophomore guard Omo Moses, a transfer from Pittsburgh. "A lot of teams are afraid to get dunked on, so it opens things up for a lot of other people."

Like most of his teammates, Moses said, he thought the advance billing Dare got before he arrived on campus was largely hype, with the emphasis on large. When judging Dare's potential, one can overlook his lack of fundamentals and finesse and get right to what turns pro scouts to love Dare at first sight: his body.

"By the time he gets to the NBA, he might be as big as Shaquille," said one of the 12 pro scouts who came to watch Dare recently.

Asked about Dare's size, Moses smiled. "He's a mason," Moses said. "All cut."

Dare has been large for as long as he can remember. When he was 13 and living with his family in Kabba, Nigeria, Dare was already 6-4. It was then that he started thinking about playing basketball, but it wasn't until three years ago that he joined an organized team.

"The kind of basketball that was really organized, I wouldn't call it basketball," he said. "I really wanted to learn, but I knew I would have to come to the States."

A year later, the connection with Jarvis was made. It came during tryouts for the country's junior national team when Ed Meyers, a former assistant under Jarvis at Boston University who recently had rejoined his old boss at GW, was there on a friend's invitation.

"It was a stroke of luck," recalled Meyers. "I went over to watch some youth play, and he was one of the kids who showed up."

One mention of the Jarvis-Ewing connection and Dare was sold. By the time word got out last year, while he was playing at Milford Academy for one of Jarvis' former players, Dare had signed on at GW. By the time he left the Connecticut school, Dare had put on close to 40 pounds, most of it on his massive upper body.

Was it easy keeping Dare a secret?

"Basically, it's like having a bank account," said Meyers. "You have a bank account, but you don't tell anybody what's in it. You keep your mouth shut. It got out, but, by the time it did, it was too late."

The word is getting out now.

Columbia coach Jack Rohan,whose career has spanned 38 years, said: "I think his rise is going to be somewhat spectacular. He has a good work ethic. He seems to be a bright young man. And he's got a good coach. It's an ideal situation."

Another veteran coach, Hank Egan of San Diego, said after Dare had 15 points and 13 rebounds earlier this week: "He's impressive physically. What is most impressive is that he understands what this thing is all about. He has those moments when you know there's a light at the end of the tunnel."

A spotlight, no doubt. The comparisons haven't started yet, but it's likely that, someday, Dare will be mentioned with Ewing, with fellow Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon, with Dikembe Mutombo. But, as happened with Ewing in particular in his freshman season, Dare is still prone to foul trouble, as in Wednesday night's 81-79 loss to Pepperdine in which he was limited to 14 ineffective min

utes.

And though Jarvis said that Dare is "only a small piece of the puzzle," his importance seems to be growing by the day.

Dare said he is a little curious about how he measures up to other big men at a similar stage in their careers.

"I'd like to know where I stand," he said. "Sometimes, it helps me play better. But I'm not motivated by any player. I'm self-motivated. I want to be a dominant player."

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