WASHINGTON -- This will come as no surprise to anyone from Baltimore, but the only person in this town who isn't impressed with the impressive debut of George Washington point guard Shawnta Rogers is . . . Rogers himself.
Rogers, The Sun's High School Player of the Year last season after leading Lake Clifton to the Class 4A state championship, has been nothing short of spectacular at George Washington.
After Rogers nearly had a triple double against St. Bonaventure last Tuesday, his coach, Mike Jarvis, could not control his enthusiasm over the 5-foot-4 guard. Rogers, he said, was "a really special player."
In the 87-78 victory over St. Bonaventure, Rogers finished with 19 points, 10 assists and, particularly impressive for someone of his size, eight rebounds. He is averaging 14.0 points, 8.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals in four games for the Colonials, all victories. They enter today's nationally televised game at Missouri (2 p.m., Ch. 7) with an 8-2 record and a freshman point guard who says matter-of-factly that he figured on doing this well all along.
"It's about what I expected," Rogers said. "It hasn't really been much of an adjustment at all. Coach [Jarvis] wants me to get other people involved in the offense, and to get myself involved. He keeps telling me to shoot more."
That, in fact, is Jarvis' only complaint about his prize playmaker. "I get on Shawnta because he is such a good shooter and he gives up too many shots," Jarvis said. "But, really, he has done a great job. He is a winner, a real competitor. He's got great leadership qualities. And his size doesn't hurt him on defense. He's very, very strong."
And very, very confident. Despite his size, Rogers was a terror in high school, averaging 24.2 points, 9.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds his senior year at Lake Clifton, where he was known as a fearless player. When asked about making the transition to Division I ball, Rogers seems befuddled by the suggestion that he might have had any problems.
"I never thought it would be difficult," he said. "I know some people thought I would have trouble getting my shot off because of my size, but I never doubted that I could be a point guard for a Division I school."
Rogers' smooth debut at GW is even more remarkable considering that he wasn't enrolled in school until Dec. 21, missing the Colonials' first six games.
Rogers had the necessary grades to qualify as a freshman under NCAA rules, but did not have the required 700 score on the Scholastic Assessment Test. Rather than sit out his freshman year or enroll at a prep school or junior college, Rogers decided to take the SAT a fifth time this fall. He stayed home, playing in an unlimited league at Lake Clifton while awaiting the results.
"He really wanted to play Division I ball and he didn't want to sit out," said Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore. "He is a person who has trouble taking tests, so it was hard for him, but he made it."
Rogers and Jarvis said they weren't worried that the guard might not be eligible to play.
"If we didn't have confidence that Shawnta could pass the SAT, we wouldn't have recruited him," Jarvis said. "He was the guy we wanted to be our point guard for four years."
Once on the team, Rogers had an immediate impact. Coming off the bench in his first game, he had 14 points and seven assists in 15 minutes in a 98-81 victory over Sacramento State on Dec. 28. The next night, he had 18 points and nine rebounds in an 84-83 double-overtime win over Idaho.
He started the next game, against Duquesne on Jan. 6, and scored only five points, but still added 13 assists and four steals -- and committed only two turnovers in 34 minutes.
Many of Rogers' passes have been to Kwame Evans, a senior swingman from Southern High of Baltimore and a close friend. "He was one of the reasons I came to GW," Rogers said. Evans, a gifted outside shooter, has scored 30 and 25 points in his past two games and is leading the team with a 19.5 average.
Understandably, Jarvis has an appreciation for Baltimore players.
"What I like is that they have a hunger for the game," he said. "They really want to play. I saw that when I was playing and coaching at Boston University, when I went up against such players as [Dunbar's] Reggie Lewis. They come out of winning programs and they've really learned the game."
"It's what we call 'East Side Pride,' " Moore said. "It extends from the high school to the college level, and it takes you a long way."
Rogers agrees, but credits not only the strong traditions at such high schools as Dunbar, Lake Clifton and Southern, but the city's recreation centers as well.
"We learn it before high school," he said. "I was always at Cecil Kirk Rec Center. We learned to play hard. And that's what Baltimore basketball is all about -- playing hard."