Penders' first pair of recruits come from next door instead of overseas

GW taps metro area for basketball talent

by David Holt

In a packed Smith Center Jan. 10, in maybe the greatest win in school history, 6-3 swingman Chris Monroe fell eight points short of the Smith Center record when he dropped in 32 to lead his team.

That performance would put Monroe on an elite GW list, except for one thing - Chris Monroe is still in high school.

But don't worry. He'll be back.

Monroe, a senior at Good Counsel High School (Hyattsville, Md.), is one of the two recruits signed by GW head coach Tom Penders. Like his future teammate, 6-1 guard Val Brown of Lee High School (Springfield, Va.), Monroe is a local player coming to a school that, in the recent past, has preferred to go out of town for its players. Out of town meaning as far away as Minsk, Belarus.

Having signed early, Monroe might have felt he had little to prove his senior year, but his numbers have proved otherwise. He has averaged nearly 25 points and 10 rebounds a game while leading Good Counsel to a No. 5 national ranking in USA Today, and a No. 1 metropolitan area ranking in The Washington Post.

Good Counsel's victory Jan. 10 at the Smith Center displayed the success Monroe has brought to Good Counsel and the promise he brings to GW. Monroe put up his 32 points by mixing an outside shooting stroke with a repertoire of dazzling drives. This effort came against DeMatha High School, a team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today in the preseason and has been coached by the same man for 42 years - prep school legend Morgan Wootten. The DeMatha Stags are the Chicago Bulls of local high school basketball, filling arenas at tournaments across the country.

Obviously, none of this fazed Monroe, and as Penders watched from courtside, one could only wonder if coach and player were both imagining another day in the near future when a packed Smith Center will watch Monroe put up a career game against a mighty team and a legendary coach.

Penders said he is not surprised at the player Monroe has become this season.

"We thought this summer he was an ideal kid for this program," Penders said. "He has terrific character. I think, of recruits, he's the greatest all-purpose basketball player in the country."



Despite D.C.'s past and present prep school basketball credentials, it's rare when a local star makes the Metro ride to Foggy Bottom. Of course, GW's never been known for local students, much less basketball players.

Brown signed with GW in November, and his credentials may be even better than Monroe's. CNN/Sports Illustrated rates him the 12th best point guard in the country among high school seniors, and CBS has placed him on its Top 100 list.

Penders said he expects Brown to make a contribution as soon as he hits campus next year.

"Well, Val's going to have to make an impact because of his position," Penders said with a hint of a nervous laugh. "We're losing Shawnta Rogers, and that's like losing two players. We knew our needs would be in the backcourt, and, fortunately, Val's the best point guard I've seen in high school basketball."

Penders said Rogers was a big help in Brown's recruitment.

"Val came to campus a lot, and Shawnta was always his host, and when you have kids in the program helping you to recruit, you know you've really got something," Penders said. "You'd have to ask Val why he came here, but he says it's my style. Most point guards like to play my style. I mean, he was choosing between Kansas, UConn, and GW.

"Fortunately, the two kids we wanted, we got. They were the only twoto visit."

Despite D.C.'s past and present prep school basketball credentials, it's rare when a local star makes the Metro ride to Foggy Bottom. Of course, GW's never been known for local students, much less basketball players.

In 1981, GW hired Gerry Gimelstob as head coach. Coming to GW from an assistant coaching position at Indiana University, Gimelstob was no doubt used to talent in his backyard. He told The Cherry Tree at the time, "Any school has a responsibility to the area it's located in . obviously, we should concentrate a lot of recruiting in the Washington area."

Gimelstob brought GW its first local players since 1969. But Gimelstob didn't last long, and neither did his experiment. In Mike Jarvis's eight seasons, only three local players suited up, two from Arlington, Va., and one from DeMatha - Vaughn Jones.

Today, GW suits up no local players, although it depends a little on your definition of local. GW has three players from Baltimore on the roster - Rogers, Mike King and Sam Anyan. Penders said he defines local a little differently, but whatever that area is, it's important to him.

"My emphasis is on getting the best local players," Penders said. "To me, going foreign is going to Brooklyn (N.Y.). That doesn't mean we won't recruit overseas - I mean, if the player is clearly a Yegor Mescheriakov, a can't-miss player. But if you focus on Europe, you miss your own backyard. Really, local to me is Boston to Atlanta."

What's local is up for debate, but Penders clearly doesn't plan to let D.C.-area stars slip through his fingers, and the recent staging of high school games at the Smith Center can't hurt that cause.

"It's a great environment," Penders said. "They get used to playing here. It's a great opportunity to get them on campus."

In that spirit, Monroe will make one more appearance in Foggy Bottom before he returns as a Colonial. Feb. 10 at 8 p.m., DeMatha and Good Counsel will again meet at the Smith Center, and Chris Monroe again will try to show that at GW, he's right at home.

Notes:

  • GW alum and sports agent David Falk has been busy lately, popping up as mediator in the NBA lockout, as Michael Jordan's spokesman and as the agent to seemingly every free agent in America, including the Washington Wizards' Rod Strickland.

  • In the University of Kansas men's basketball media guide, player Luke Axtell said the team he would most like to play is GW. Axtell just happens to be the player who ignited a player revolt against Tom Penders last year at Texas and is suing an Austin, Texas, radio station because it broadcast his grades on the air after a Penders assistant released them. In response to the new Jayhawks' challenge, Penders wrote Kansas coach Roy Williams, urging a home-and-home series.

    "He wasn't interested," Penders said. "I think if you're going to put that in your media guide, you need to back it up."

  • In other scheduling news, could Georgetown University's coaching change alter the status of GW and GU's long-dormant rivalry? New coach Craig Esherick, who replaced John Thompson two weeks ago, once played for Thompson. His greatest moment as a player came at Georgetown's McDonough Gymnasium when he hit a 40-footer at the buzzer to send the 1978 game between GW and GU to overtime, where the Hoyas prevailed 78-77. Penders doesn't know where Esherick stands on a renewal of GW's most prolific series, but he's always open to anything.

    "Oh, sure, we'd love to play Georgetown," Penders said. "But I leave that up to our AD, Jack Kvancz."

  • Georgetown lost to an old friend Jan. 11, namely Mike Jarvis and his nationally ranked St. John's team. There has been talk of bringing St. John's and Jarvis back to D.C. for the BB&T Classic (of course, Georgetown will first host St. John's at the MCI Center Feb. 20).

    "Some coaches, they come in and change the uniforms and blot the old coach's face out of all the photographs, but I've always been open with my support for Mike," he said. "I think that's the right way to do it. I'd love to bring Coach Jarvis back, if not for a game, at least bring him and his players back for a five-year reunion."

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