Patrick Ewing, Georgetown's 7-foot sophomore center who could become a millionaire by playing in the National Basketball Association, said yesterday he would rather not think about turning professional until after his senior season.
Just nine days before Georgetown begins practice for the 1982-83 season, Ewing discussed a number of topics with The Washington Post, including the Hoyas' national championship game and their Dec. 11 game against Virginia and its 7-4 all-America center, Ralph Sampson.
Asked if he is aware many teams in the NBA would pay him as much as $2 million a year for leaving Georgetown early, Ewing said, "People always talk, and I can't stop them from saying it. But I haven't been thinking about the pros. I'd rather not think about it until my senior year."
The Houston Rockets traded center Moses Malone to Philadelphia on Sept. 15 for a player and a draft choice that could be the first pick of the 1983 college draft. Houston General Manager Ray Patterson said he thought Ewing might be available, one reason Houston made the trade.
"If only Sampson were available, it might be a gamble," Patterson said at the time. "However, the possibility of picking Sampson, Ewing or (Kentucky's Sam) Bowie makes it that much more attractive."
But Ewing said yesterday, as he did last year, that he wants to graduate from Georgetown.
"People might seem shocked," Ewing said. "I don't know why. I don't know why they think it's odd for somebody to want to finish college just because he is a basketball player. I know what my priorities are. I'm here to better myself, to graduate and get my degree.
"It started from my mother," Ewing continued. "She keeps telling me to graduate. No matter what other people say (about turning pro), I know my mother wouldn't mislead me.
"I remember when I was nothing in basketball. I was just tall and skinny and people used to laugh at me. Really, I know how it is to be terrible. I was 14 and 15. My first game in high school, I fouled out in three minutes and got only one point.
"People laughed. I got depressed and wanted to quit. But my mother said it was a good lesson. If basketball doesn't work, I've got to be able to do something else. And this is where I have to prepare for that."
Sampson, in his senior year at Charlottesville, turned down offers beginning at $400,000 after his freshman year, $800,000 after his sophomore year and $1 million last year. Some NBA scouts have indicated that Ewing, one of the best defensive players ever, would be drafted before Sampson and Bowie if all three were available.
Sampson and Ewing will play against each other for the first time at the Capital Centre in December.
"Ralph is great," Ewing said. "He can do a lot of the things I need to be able to do, like freeing up other players and passing more. I admire his overall game. But I feel I'm just as good as he is in some things, too, like defense. I guess I am more of a defensive player, since that's what I was taught when I was younger.
"But I think people are making too much out of an individual matchup. It's not me against Ralph. It's Georgetown against Virginia. It won't be the NCAA championship game."
Ewing also reflected on last year's championship game, and the near-championship season that ended with Georgetown's one-point loss to North Carolina in the national final.
Ewing matured into one of the most dominating players in the country and had a spectacular performance against North Carolina, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds. He also was called for goaltending North Carolina's first five baskets.
"I've looked at it (on videotape) twice," Ewing said, "and I really felt that only two were goaltending." Ewing said he wasn't trying to intimidate the Tar Heels, but just said to himself, "Whatever goes up is coming back down."
Defense was definitely Ewing's strength last season, and probably will be again this year. But his offense most of the season consisted of dunks and lay-ins.
"This year I want to study the game as a science," Ewing said. "I want to do things to become complete. I know people will collapse on me more this year, so I'll have to make better passes. I'm going to try and be more active at both ends. Defense is my game, but I need to score more."
When asked about what some call overaggressiveness on defense, Ewing said he wants "to learn when to mix it up and when to walk away. The only way to do that is by repetition and thinking about it constantly.
"I always thought I was good," he said, "but I didn't know how good. I still haven't found out. That keeps you working harder."
Sitting in his dormitory room, with the radio playing softly in the background, Ewing talked about how he has changed in the last year since enrolling at Georgetown.
"I've matured," he said. "Physically, it's easy to see. I'm stronger and that type of stuff. But socially, I've become more outgoing. I'm more comfortable with going out and hanging out with my friends, when there's time."
Then Ewing turned off the radio and said he had to study. "I've got midterms this week," he said, "and I've got my priorities."