Max Blank, George Washington University's prize 6-foot-9 freshman center who missed most of this basketball season with knee problems, is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery on his right knee in May and probably will be redshirted, Coach Gerry Gimelstob said yesterday.

"Quite frankly, I'm not planning on having him next season," Gimelstob said. He called the damage to the interior cruciate ligament of the knee "a tough, tough, tough injury."

Blank said the ligament is "shot." He expects to be at "95 percent of me" 12 months after the surgery, which will prevent him from competing for the United States in the Maccabiah Games in Israel in July.

"I'll try to redshirt this coming season," he said. "I'll be fine, I think."

Blank, who played only 48 minutes in seven games this season and scored 16 points, injured his knee last spring as he jumped for a ball during Pittsburgh's Dapper Dan high school all-star game.

He left the game, but, in the following days, continued to play and did not receive treatment, Gimelstob said. Finally, Blank underwent arthroscopic surgery and spent most of the summer and fall in rehabilitation.

But the knee did not heal. Blank played sporadically early in the season, "five minutes here, six minutes there," Gimelstob said.

His last game was Jan. 5 against Duquesne. "After two or three minutes, his knee fell out on him and that was it," Gimelstob said.

Gimelstob said a decision on where the surgery will be performed will be made within the next week or so. There still is a remote chance the surgery will not take place this spring, but, as Blank said, "At this point, it looks like it's going to have to be done."

This news seems to be a fitting end to what Blank called "a disappointing season." The Colonials, preseason cofavorites in the Atlantic 10, struggled through a 14-14 season that included the controversial one-game suspensions of guards Troy Webster and Joe Dooley for "conduct detrimental to the team."

Blank, 19, who averaged 25 points a game at Philadelphia's George Washington High School, lived in Odessa, in the Soviet Union, until five years ago. His family emigrated to Italy and lived there for one year, then moved to Philadelphia.

There, Blank discovered basketball. His uncle bought him a basketball for his birthday and Blank, not knowing exactly what to do with it, jumped and dunked it through a rim at a playground.