GW looks for big run behind tiny Rogers Baltimore contingent, foreign players mesh

March 12, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Let's face it.

Little 5-foot-4 Shawnta Rogers and a diverse band of George Washington Colonials are a Cinderella story waiting to happen in this year's NCAA tournament.

The Colonials are not only unranked and unheralded but they have a tiny point guard in Rogers from Lake Clifton High in East Baltimore trying to lead a wide faction of players from nine countries to success on the basketball court.

"They [foreign players] don't really live the game of basketball day in and day out like we do here," said Rogers. "They know the game but they don't really know it like we do."

However, Rogers is confident he can bring this ninth-seeded George Washington team (24-8) together for a strong tournament run, starting tomorrow night with a 7: 40 game against eighth-seeded Oklahoma State (21-6) in a South Regional game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

Despite the many different cultures represented on the team, there is a heavy Baltimore influence from team scoring, assist and steals leader Rogers down to the last man on the team, sophomore walk-on Sam Anyan from Calvert Hall.

Rogers (14.6 points, 5.6 assists, 2.6 steals) is joined in the starting lineup by his close friend, neighbor and shadow, freshman shooting guard Mike King from Lake Clifton, and by Cecil Kirk Recreation Center and AAU teammate, freshman power forward Pat Ngongba from Calvert Hall, who was a Prop 48 last season.

The 6-5 King is second on the team in scoring (13.3) even though he didn't become eligible academically until the end of December.

King scored 22 points against Dayton in his first collegiate start Jan. 18.

Ngongba, 6-7 and 227 pounds, has started 19 games and is averaging 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. He started the first 10 games of the season then went into a slump and lost his job before regaining it in recent weeks.

Rogers, King and Ngongba all followed former Southern High standout Kwame Evans to George Washington and prompted Colonials coach Mike Jarvis to say this week, "Pat Ngongba is the fourth great player I've had out of Baltimore since I've been here, and I would think they are four out of the top five or six who have come out of Baltimore in the last six years."

Anyan gives the Colonials four players from Baltimore.

But Jarvis doesn't look at himself as being a recruiting genius in Baltimore.

"Baltimore is such a close-knit city where everybody talks to everybody and word gets around," said Jarvis. "Kwame told Shawnta, who told Mike, and the word also reached Pat."

Jarvis' top assistant, Kevin Clark, who recruited all the Baltimore players except Evans, sees the GW success in Baltimore this way: "A lot of it is the way we believe in the kids, more than out-recruiting people. We never wavered in our belief in Shawnta's ability to play here."

Jarvis called Rogers "my little general, the engine that drives this team, our MVP. And he's an inspiration to everyone from little kids to anyone else who ever tried to overcome the odds."

Rogers just laughs at all the talk about his size.

"I've built myself up on weights and teams don't even try to post me up anymore," he said. "People still say I'm too short but I just keep on proving myself over and over like I have all my life."

Rogers has earned All-Atlantic 10 second-team honors this season and led the Colonials to its best season in 44 years. The 24 victories also equal the most in the 81-year history of the program (24-6 in 1954-55).

Joining Rogers, King and Ngongba in the starting lineup are 7-1 senior center Alexander Koul of Borovka, Belarus, and 6-8 junior swingman Yegor Mescheriakov of Minsk, Belarus.

Other countries outside the U.S. providing GW players are Israel, The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Portugal and Central African Republic, which is where Ngongba still lists as his hometown.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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