FEATURE Ewing Jr. Excels in High School Despite Transfers Georgia Prep Star Tries To Navigate Tricky Path of College Recruiting By Dave Heaton Hoya Staff Writer

A moderate-sized high school on the outskirts of Atlanta already had a star-studded lineup at the start of the 2001-02 boys’ basketball season. Starting for Marietta High School was Wake Forest signee Chris Ellis, son of NBA sharp shooter Dale Ellis. So was Jazz Ross, an explosive small forward that had turned more than a few heads in summer league games.

Then it was announced that the son of another NBA great was transferring to the school: Patrick Ewing Jr.

The Marietta Blue Devils were among Atlanta’s biggest celebrities during the season. A poll on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site asked whether the squad could finish undefeated. Before their quarterfinal loss to two-time defending state champs Lakeside High School, sports analysts openly questioned whether they were the greatest high school basketball team ever to come out of the state. At a game against crosstown rival Wheeler High School, ranked No. 2 in the state, the 2,500-seat arena sold out hours in advance and some 3,000 more people were turned away at the door.

Ewing was a key component of that squad. On a team where half a dozen players could reach double figures on any given night, he regularly lit up his opponents for double figures, most notably in the preliminary rounds of the state playoffs when co-star Ellis was injured. In one of those games, he threw down six thunderous dunks, including more than one crowd-pleasing alley-oop.

But he can do more than just dunk. Just as easily as he can slam it through the rim he can turn around for a quick fadeaway. On the court he’s a hard worker, though his skills seem surprisingly raw for an NBA legend’s son. At 6-foot-7, he spends less time around the basket than his father, though reports suggest he is still growing.

In Marietta’s loss to Lakeside, he fouled out in the game’s pivotal moment when the Blue Devils had pulled within two points in the closing minutes and had the crowd of more than 8,000 at Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum roaring. His energy, though, was perhaps what his team needed – Ellis and the rest of the team played with the kind of lethargy that has dogged Georgetown at times this year.

Patrick Ewing Sr. (CAS ’85) led Georgetown to the Final Four on three occasions, bringing the National Championship home to the Hilltop in 1984. But since his time, no one – not Dikembe utombo (FLL ’91), not Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92), not Allen Iverson – has been able to duplicate that success.

Hoya fans have been following Ewing Jr. for years. Some on the Hoyatalk message board have speculated that his father will pay for his education, not even forcing the school to use a basketball scholarship. Others have questioned whether he would come to Georgetown and spend four years in his father’s shadow.

Either way, he faces an uphill battle. Under Georgia High School Association guidelines, this is Ewing’s fourth and final year of eligibility, despite the fact that he is academically a junior. According to MHS Athletic Director Jeff Wheeler, his first two years in high school were spent at a prep school in New York. But following a custody dispute between his parents, Ewing Jr. moved to Atlanta to stay with his mother and enrolled in Holy Innocents Episcopal School, a Division AA school, though he officially registered as a sophomore. While there, Ewing Jr. played his first year of high school basketball.

For his junior year, Ewing Jr. transferred to Marietta, a Division AAAAA school, where he was forced to remain on the sidelines his first semester awaiting eligibility under GHSA guidelines. Even so, because it was his fourth year as a high school student, he will not be allowed to play basketball his senior year in the state of Georgia because of the GHSA rule that the first four years a player is in high school are the only years that the student is eligible.

Ewing Jr. and MHS are set to appeal that decision March 25 on the grounds that he did not play basketball in New York. According to Wheeler, it is not clear whether he would remain at Marietta if the appeal is unsuccessful. If he were to transfer, Ewing would be attending his fourth high school. Attending so many schools would likely lead to problems with graduation credits and, further down the road, NCAA Clearinghouse requirements.

Georgetown knows this situation all too well, as freshman forward Harvey Thomas was forced to sit out the first month of play, including preseason practice, while waiting for the Clearinghouse’s decision. Thomas attended five high schools and was forced, his senior year, to play on the junior varsity squad because of eligibility issues.

Even so, if Hoya fans’ dreams come true, Ewing could manage to avoid this trouble and follow his father’s footsteps all the way to the Hilltop and beyond.

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