Mike Brown, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound center from East Orange, N.J., who led his team to a state letter of intent yesterday at attend George Washington University in the fall.
Brown, according to knowledgeable sources, could mean as much to GW's program as Pat Ewing will to Georgetown's.
On his 15th birthday as GW coach, Gerry Gimelstob said: "I don't have a place to live yet, I don't have a secretary and I don't have any assistant coaches. But I got a good inside player with whom we can win next year and I told you that was my first priority."
The other finalists in Brown's choice of colleges were Vilanova, North Carolina State and Syracuse. Brown, 17, said he chose GW because it is "a good academic school and I trust him (Gimelstob). He was honest with me." Brown said he has been interested in science and math since grammar school and was looking toward chemical engineering as his major.
In other recruiting developments on the first day for signing national letters of intent, American University signed 6-8 forward J.D. Springer from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., and Dunbar all-America Anthony Jones said he will announce within a week whether he will attend Georgetown or North Carolina.
By getting Brown, who will play power forward next season when transfer Penny Elliott (Virginia Commonwealth) gains his one year of eligibility to play center, GW's Gimelstob established some instant credibility for a program that has been seen as a poor sister and noncontender since the Eastern Eight Conference was established.
Gimelstob has two scholarships remaining for next season and is hoping that Brown's signing will help him land a shooting guard and a point guard.
Gimelstob, who was an assistant coach with this season's NCAA champion, Indiana, says he is trying to build a team that can win the league championship and win games in the NCAA tournament. Since the Eastern Eight was formed, GW never has won a league tournament game.
Coach Gary Williams of American called Brown "a hell of a recruit for GW."
"This is a shock," said Brendan Malone, Suracuse's chief recruiter. "We had him up for a visit and thought we were leading. What you just told me is like I'm standing on the 10th floor and the first nine were just pulled out from under me. He's a good player. He hasn't reached his potential."
Brown, who has not yet visited GW, averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals per game while shooting 63 percent from the field and 74 percent from the foul line for C.J. Scott High, which compiled a 24-3 record and won the New Jersey Group 2 state championship. The team played mainly larger Group 3 and 4 schools in compiling its record, according to Greg Tynes, Brown's coach.
Brown transfered to Scott from a parochial school in East Orange, where he was a part-time starter as a junior. In two weeks at Howard Garfinkle's Five-Star Camp, Brown was named the camp's outstanding rebounder both weeks.
He is considered mobile for his size, has excellent hands and has a good jump shot in the 15- to 17-foot range. Tynes said that Brown is probably more adept as a power forward than a center and that was probably another reason why he chose GW.