Michael (P-Bird) Britt stood at the top of the key looking directly into the eyes of Harrisonburg's 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson. Britt had no idea what he wanted to do or could do against the giant. All he knew was that his team was trailing and he had to try to fire it up.

The 6-5 1/2 Britt faked left, faked right, pushed the ball between Sampson's legs, grabbed it and went up for slam-dunk.

The capacity crowd for that high school championship game last year at Virginia's University Hall went crazy. The fans had come to see one great player (Sampson) and found another.

"Everyone was there to see him, not me," said Britt, now a freshman at the University of the District of Columbia. "He was the tallest person I had ever seen and I had to defend him. I couldn't stop him but I don't think he abused me. I made a few shots and dunks against him, too."

Britt scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Suffolk, which lost to Sampson (26 points, 26 rebounds) and Harrisonburg. In Suffolk's semi-final win over Carroll County (63-59), Britt had 17 points and 15 rebounds.

"I played as hard as I could both games," said Britt, who drew as many oohs with his sleight-of-hand array of dunks.

Britt's performances sent many of the college recruiters hurrying to their programs to find out the correct spelling of his name. Even UDC Coach Wil Jones, who earned the reputation as an excellent recruiter while an assistant at Maryland, had never heard of Britt.

"I wanted him right away when I first saw him," said Jones, in his first year as head coach. "I went to Virginia one night to see another kid (Willie Barnes) and his team happened to be playing against Suffolk. I ended up getting both players.

"Britt has the potential to be a great player. When he comes to play, he comes to play," said Jones. "His work rate, intensity and enthusiasm is extremely high. His teammates know how good he is. He tricks them every day in practice."

Britt has tricked quite a few folks. The soft-spoken player is leading the Firebirds in scoring (18.7), rebounding (11.8), steals (22), blocked shots (13) and is second in assists with 14. He put on a clinic in all-around play in UDC's first tournament victory ever in the Gino's Holiday Classic last weekend.

"He had 16 points, 20 rebounds and four steals in our big win over UMBC (89-84) in three overtimes," said Jones. "He had 10 rebounds and 14 points in the win over Gettysburg. And he didn't even make all-tournament.

"But he didn't say a word; didn't pout. He's that kind of kid," Jones continued. "He knows we are trying to start something here and he wants to be a part of that."

Jones is still patting himself on the back for landing Britt. His grades were low and Britt had almost decided to forget about continuing his education.

"I have five sisters and a brother and I was going to get a job to help out my family," he said. "My grades weren't that good and I didn't want to go to a junior college. But after I talked to Coach Jones, I decided to try college. I got a lot of advice, bad and good. I felt Coach Jones was sincere. Then my grandmother said get it (education) now. You listen to your grandmother.

While Britt admits basketball "is about all I ever cared about," he has adjusted pretty well to college life.

"It isn't easy but I'm adjusting okay," said the 19-year-old. "I know I'd rather be here than working eight hours a day. When I left high school, I had a lot of things on my mind and college wasn't one of them. Right now, school's fun. I like the Washington area and the school atmosphere is fine."

Britt is one of several starting freshmen on the young UDC team. He has set no personal goals for himself.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said laughing. "I just go out and play. Sometimes, I don't know what I'm going to do with the ball. I learned all my fancy moves and tricks from the winos where I grew up. They could do anything with the ball. I would play with them on the playgrounds and pick up things."

Britt said he has yet to "break loose."

"We're a young team and all do different individual things," he said. "No one is supposed to do it all. In a couple of years, we'll be tough."

Britt believes UDC would be unbeatable if one of his best friends, Earl Jones, decides to come to UDC. Jones is the 6-11 senior who transferred to Spingarn from West Virginia. He is ineligible to play at Spingarn until February.

"Earl is better than Sampson and I should know," said Britt. "I've played against both and Earl is better. I'd sure like to see him come here."

Britt's college career got off to a rocky start. In UDC's first game against Hampton, he invited his entire family to see him make his debut.

"I did everything wrong -- couldn't make a basket; couldn't do anything," he recalled. "But the whole team was nervous. I scored 14 points but most of them came after the game was long over."

Britt plans to invite his family back to watch him very soon.

"I've done much better since that game," he said. "I think they'll come back. People in Suffolk felt I was a pretty good player."

And soon, the folks in the D.C., area should think so, too.