When Patrick Ewing, Georgetown's prize 7-foot freshman, decked a member of Yugoslavia's Cibona team with a vicious elbow Wednesday night, a shudder went through the crowd at McDonough Arena.
Although the player, Aleksandr Petrovic, was not seriously hurt, there was reason for everyone connected with Georgetown -- starting with Coach John Thompson -- to be concerned.
This is not the first time Ewing has demonstrated a mean streak. He showed it last spring in the Capital Classic and in subsequent all-star games. Certainly, Petrovic provoked the incident by climbing all over Ewing; certainly the officials were at fault for not noticing that Ewing was being fouled.
But this was not the last time Ewing will be provoked this season. It was not the last time an official will miss an obvious foul. It was, however, probably the last time that he will throw that kind of elbow and not be ejected.
And that has to concern Thompson.
The coach says he doesn't think it will be a problem because other coaches will not send a player out to try to provoke Ewing. "That's old-time basketball," Thompson said. "I wouldn't respect a coach who would do something like that and I don't expect it to happen."
It may not. But, at the very least, coaches are going to be telling their players to get physical with Ewing. "If he (Ewing) thinks my guys are going to be intimidated, he's got another think coming," said one local coach after watching film of the incident. "My guys will go out and play him physical. If John doesn't get the kid under control, he's going to get thrown out of some games."
Ewing is going to be pushed, shoved and manhandled this year, the same way Ralph Sampson has the last two years. It is hoped he won't be subjected to anything as disgusting as the Lee Goza incident last year when the Georgia Tech center spat on Sampson.
"If that happens," Thompson said, "I'll be in a fight."