Many whites who watch Georgetown basketball have heard from one friend or another, or perhaps, as in my case, from many friends, "John Thompson is a racist."

Len Shapiro's new book on the Hoya basketball coach "Big Man on Campus" delves into this theme, but Shapiro concludes that Thompson is not a racist. I agree.

When I was growing up in Washington, I became acquainted with John Thompson when he was coaching at St. Anthony's High School. Later, when he became Georgetown's basketball coach, I got to know him a little better and, on a few occasions, actually played basketball with him.

I was a gym rat in those days and spent many hours playing basketball in McDonough, Georgetown's gymnasium. During high school, I would often spend all day at McDonough working on my game; on school nights, I would play basketball there until late at night.

I'm not exactly sure how my mother found out that I was at the gym more than I was at the university library, but rumor has it that Thompson made a discreet inquiry as to how my studies were going.

When it came time for me to apply to college, I was at a loss. The security I had known was being disrupted by the fact that it was time to move on.

Occasionally, Thompson would ask me where I was going to go to school. I could never tell him, but I was always hoping he would ask me to come to Georgetown to play basketball. He never did, and it was clear that my physical abilities on the court didn't reach the level that would interest him.

The only school other than Georgetown that I wanted to attend, the only one that I loved even more than Georgetown, was the University of North Carolina. But because of the school's policy to accept only a small percentage of incoming freshmen from out of state, I was afraid I wouldn't be accepted.

Late in my final semester of high school, I was still undecided about college. Then one night my phone rang. It was Coach Thompson.

"Where do you want to go to school, little buddy?" he asked.

I told him that I wanted to go to Carolina. I told him I wanted to try to make its team as a walk-on. Thompson said that would be difficult but that UNC was a very good school. He said he would call down there and see what he could do.

It wasn't easy, but I got into UNC. It turned out to be everything I had hoped it to be. And I've never forgotten that John Thompson took the time to help just another kid who needed a little guidance from a coach. In my case, a white kid.

-- Sean Kelly

is a member of The Post's national desk staff.