It last, big-time recognition was Michael Britt's teammate today.
Here he was, the University of the District of Columbia's 6-foot-7, 185-pound George Gervin ice-alike, playing with all the Division I nobility--guys like Missouri's Steve Stipanovich, Notre Dame's John Paxson and UCLA's Rod Foster--in the East-West All-American game for seniors today before a near sellout of 4,178 at the University of New Mexico's Johnson Gymnasium.
Though Britt's East team lost, 99-94, Britt won.
True, Britt scored just eight points and took just four rebounds in 18 minutes, numbers far subordinate to the 20 points, 10 rebounds per game he averaged over the past three years with UDC's fast-forward Firebirds.
"I didn't even get a dunk today," said Britt, who got plenty at UDC.
What Britt won today--with a 20-foot base line swish and several nifty transition baskets, including one breakaway steal and crossover layup--was supreme recognition: Britt was the only Division II player among these 20 all-Americas.
And that says something.
"I don't think any of these guys are better ballplayers than me. We all have the same ability, we just played at different levels," Britt said. As he spoke, Britt signed so many autographs, saying such blushful things as, "This kind of thing never happened in Division II" and "I wish I knew shorthand."
Britt's college career will end next week with another all-star game in Hawaii. It has been a career crammed with compliment, Division II all-America honors and such, and a career cluttered with the constant question of "What would he have done in Division I?"
"Some people say I will go late in the first round or early in the second round of the NBA draft. I don't know," Britt said. "I wasn't trying to impress any NBA scouts today."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who coached the East team, said, "Mike is a tremendous offensive talent, particularly on the transition."
And UDC Coach Wil Jones, whose Firebirds' attempt at a second straight NCAA Division II national title ended with a 92-73 loss to Wright State in the championship game last month, walked along courtside today, wearing shaded sunglasses, saying, "Michael Britt's career is on the upswing."
Most of these all-Americas said they had never heard of Britt.
"What school is he from?" asked UCLA guard Foster, who played on the West team, coached by North Carolina's Dean Smith.
"UDC? Isn't that Earl Jones' school?"
"No, I never heard of him," said Utah forward Pace Mannion. "I guarded him for 10 minutes today, though, and I found out he's a smart player . . . A lot of good players pop up that you never heard of."
Missouri's 6-11 Stipanovich, who played with Britt on a team that took a tour of the Far East last summer, knew Britt just fine: "He plays really well. I kind of follow him and Earl Jones (UDC's 7-foot junior center)," Stipanovich said.
"There is no difference at all between his level of play and the top Div. I players. He's great in the transition, he's so deceptive . . . He's so thin, but he moves real well."
Stipanovich added, "He reminds me so much of Gervin it's unbelievable."
After 18 minutes of Britt's sleekness, even Foster admitted, "Man, he really does play like the Iceman."
And Britt, having achieved a recognition of equality with the Division I nobility, said, "I think these guys know what I can do--take it to the hoop."