George Washington University's basketball Colonials, homeless band of athletes for many years, have rediscovered their identity and their pride.

The Colonials (8-4) have won five in a row and are 3-0 in the new Eastern Collegiate Basketball League. They will be trying to extend both strings when they play Rutgers Thursday at Smith Center.

"I'm glad to see that people are starting to notice that the Washington area has another school, GW," said John Holloran, 21-year-old, 6-foot-1 senior guard who has averaged more than 25 points in the last five games.

"My biggest pleasure is playing at Smith Center, which we opened last year. You have no idea what an oncampus field house means to those of us who had to go through the bus league, taking buses to play at Ft. Myer for every home game. We used to practice at a gym on the campus called the "Tiny Tim Taberacle. It was so small you had to go outside to take a deep breath."

Holloran represents the new athletic era at GW. A native of Washington, he attended St. John's High and played under Joe Gallagher, one of the best high school coaches in the country.

"I wasn't a top prospect," he said, "but I did get quite a few offers from other schools. I've had a lot of playing time at GW and I couldn't find a finer coach than Bob Tallent, who has instilled confidence and pride in all of us."

Bob Tallent is 29, one of the youngest major college coaches in the country.He started his career under Adolph Rupp, the legend of the University of Kentucky, and transfered to George Washington, where he broke all the Colonial's one-year scoring records.

Tallent's game emphasizes lots of movement and fast breaks. "We have a young team," he said. "Three freshmen - Mike Zigardo, 6-foot-10, from Timonium; Tom Glenn, 6-7, from Youngstown, Ohio, and Bucky Roman, 6-4, from Springfield, Va. - have really helped. Then there's Kevin Hall, a 7-2 center from Pittsburgh, and Les Anderson, a 6-4 Washingtonian, who accounted for 17 rebounds against Duqesne. He's a real jumper."

Tallent was 17-8 in his first season as head coach and 20-7 last year. Like Holloran, he thinks the Smith Center has helped rally the once-indifferent students around the Colonials.

"There's nothing like a home crowd," Tallent says."We haven't done too well on the road with a 4-4 record which means we're unbeaten, (4-0) at home. Smith Center has made the difference.

"Everybody recruits in the Washington area. Every Atlantic Coast Conference team has one or two players from this area, but we're getting our share. The trend is for kids to stay home now because our local schools have programs that match anybody else's in the country. "Lefty Driesell did a lot for this area when he came to Maryland. He really picked up everything."

Tallent also thinks that the new basketball league has helped give GW incentive. The Colonials are in the division with Rutgers, Villanova and the University of Massachusetts. The other division has Penn State, West Virginia, Duquesne and Pittsburgh.

"We'll have our league tournament in Philadelphia's Spectrum," says Tallent, "and the winner will go on to the NCAA championships."