Charles Smith, Georgetown's 6-foot-1 junior guard, has the ball and is on the move, as always, looking to the wing. No luck there. Seton Hall's Pookey Wigington, a guard of Muggsy Bogues' proportions, has already picked him up and now follows Smith to the right baseline.

Smith drives and is airborne. Wigington expects inside help from 6-foot-9 Mark Bryant and 6-5 Michael Cooper. They oblige, and Smith suddenly finds himself with nowhere to go.

They don't know that he has them right where he wants them, that he's going to get something off, that he's Georgetown's leading scorer this basketball season precisely because similar shots he takes fall with regularity. And that in a season in which 18th-ranked Georgetown -- which will play Pitt at 2 p.m. today -- has had to scramble for everything it's gotten, Smith exemplifies scrambling and spontaneity.

And they may not know this is the same Charles Smith who was recruited by Georgetown out of Washington's St. Anthony's High School (now All Saints, an all-girls school) and expressly told he would never start a game for the Hoyas. The same player who performed in relative obscurity for nearly two seasons before scoring 19 second-half points in an NCAA tournament game last season. And the same one who had been branded a "defensive specialist" although he's always been more of a scorer.

"I'm used to it," Smith said recently. "I'm used to taking those kinds of shots. I'm used to throwing up crazy stuff. People are amazed by it. My teammates know by now. First, they were amazed by it, but now, it's just usual. It's just an everyday thing. I always throw something crazy up."

In short, he likes to shoot.

"I don't think Smitty's developed," said Seton Hall Coach P.J. Carlesimo, who coached a Big East all-star team that Smith led in scoring, assists and steals last summer. "I just think that the team needs Smitty to be more offensive-minded this year. Charles Smith was always capable of scoring, but when they had Reggie and the other guns, he didn't have to do as much."

Back to Smith, airborne in the lane: He has reached the apex of his jump and is falling. He spins in the air and finds himself, temporarily, with his back to the basket. Bryant is still in the air, but there is a smidgen of space between various arms, about the same amount of space Syracuse's Sherman Douglas and Rony Seikaly left Smith last month before he burned them with a last-second basket. As Douglas and Seikaly did before him, Wigington figures Smith has no chance to make this shot.

"That's Charles' game," said freshman forward Anthony Tucker. "Whatever he throws up has a chance to go in, no matter how he throws it up."

Smith gets between the Seton Hall players and, just before he lands on his back, flicks the ball toward the hoop. It kisses off the glass for an improbable two points.

"I've got two people helping me, and he flicks up some crazy shot and it falls," Wigington said. "There's not too many things he can't do. He doesn't have too many flaws in his offensive game. But I don't think he can repeat this performance again. I really don't think so."

It's a microcosm of the season for Smith, now the primary offensive threat for Georgetown, scoring 15.6 points a game. A lot of the points have come on double clutches, high bankers and other shots that sound like wrestling holds. When the Hoyas have needed a basket, more often than not they have gone to Smith.

Monday night against Villanova, Smith scored 11 straight points midway through the second half, and Georgetown held off the Wildcats for its third straight Big East victory. After the 22-point performance, Smith thanked his teammates for setting the screens that enabled him to get open.

"He is very, very quiet," said Calvin Ash, his former athletic director at St. Anthony's and now the principal of Mackin High School. "But he's very capable, very sure of himself. He's certainly a social person, but he's not the type that hangs out. He comes from a very quiet, Christian family."

A Contradiction

"Here's a kid," Georgetown's coach, John Thompson, said, "that for three years we said, 'Give it to the open man, pass it,' and now here's this big coach over on the sideline yelling to you, 'What the hell did you pass the damn ball for?'

"That's a contradiction, but we don't have the pieces we used to have before. So Charles has got to do it."

Smith's game is a combination of sharpshooter and grunt. The gunner comes off of screens and hits long-range jumpers (he leads the team with 35 three-pointers); the hand-to-hand guy creates shots when it appears anything but shooting the ball would be the proper move.

One of his favorite moves involves coming across the lane, left to right, drawing much taller defenders toward him.

Normally, the next move would be to pass to an open teammate. But Smith will toss up a minihook, scoop or bank the ball high off the glass, through the mass of defenders.

As a youngster at the Watts Branch Playground in upper Northeast, Smith had the same trouble with disbelieving opponents that he does now. It's nothing Smith hasn't heard before. "They always said that it was luck," Smith said. "As soon as I started making it all the time, I guess they thought it was skill."

"He was a scorer and another point guard," said Dwight Datcher, a former player for Thompson at St. Anthony's who coached there before taking a job at Roger Williams College in Rhode Island. "Having three point guards {Hoyas teammate Bobby Winston, Michael Best and Smith} who could shoot the ball was a real threat. The first time I saw him {in} AAU {competition}, he did the same thing. He scored on little running hooks, the same things he does now. The people who are surprised at him are the ones who don't know him."

Smith was hardly the focal point of his St. Anthony's teams, either. His junior season, there were Sam Jefferson (another current Hoya) and Winston, and the team wound up fourth in the country in some polls. But the two big stars were Phil Gamble, now at Connecticut, and Best, who played at Clemson before transferring to San Diego State.

"I knew I had to play hard," Smith said, "because I knew I wouldn't get looked at as much as Philip and Michael, because they had the publicity. I didn't let it bother me."

It was a reticent group. "I used to take them on trips," Datcher said, "and no one would say anything. It would be a very quiet bus ride. Bobby was very quiet. Charles was very quiet. I used to ask him if he was scared. If I saw him in the hallway, I'd ask him that. If I see him today, I'd say the same thing. It's just a way of getting him more confident."

Datcher left for Roger Williams before Smith's senior season, in which he averaged 15 points. Smith was originally interested in going to Seton Hall. Indiana State also expressed some early interest. Then Georgetown came calling early in 1985, late in the recruiting period.

Smith was told two things when he decided to attend Georgetown: he would have to wait his turn, and he would never hear his name on the PA system before a game.

Hard Work Pays

Thompson is always direct, but he was rarely more emphatic than the day he visited Smith and told him he would never begin a game for Georgetown: Charles: You. Will. Not. Start. Period. Of course, in Thompson's system, who starts the game is not nearly as important as who finishes it. Still, it's a tough thing to hear.

"I didn't let that bother me," Smith said. "I knew that I had to stay the same. That's my trademark, to work hard. I knew that that would pay off . . . if Georgetown had showed interest from the jump, I would have come to Georgetown, anyway. {Thompson} knew that I really wanted to come here."

"He reminds me so much of Gene Smith {the former star defensive guard, who also came off Georgetown's bench}," Thompson said. "I told him not to forget when I got him that I told him he'd never start. That's my prerogative, and he'll do what we ask him to do."

Defensively, Smith can strip the ball the conventional way, slapping from behind or in front of the player, or simply grab and snatch, belying his 185-pound frame. But Smith's quick hands enable him to reach where a slower player would surely be called for a foul. Smith leads the team in steals, with 60, and most likely will finish somewhere in Georgetown's all-time top 10 for steals in a season. So, to what do opponents react more strongly: the unlikely basket or the key steal?

"Equally demoralizing," he said.

Smith played behind Michael Jackson, David Wingate and Horace Broadnax his freshman season, and says he had to learn the system, that he could "play offense all my life, but we didn't need my offense my freshman year." Last season, of course, Reggie Williams carried the team, until the second round of the NCAA Southeast Regional, when Georgetown played Ohio State.

Williams scored 24. Ohio State expected that. But Smith came off the bench to hit five of seven three-point shots and score 22 points. "I had to shoot," he said. "The day before, in practice, coach said if I didn't start to take the shots, he was going to recruit over me. I had to start taking it and making it."

Trip to Australia

Last June, Smith was selected to go to Australia with the Big East all-stars. Not only did Smith lead the team in scoring (18.1 points a game), assists and steals, but he also shot 35 of 40 (87.5 percent) from the foul line. In the final game, against the Australian national team, he scored 30 points and had seven steals, three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.

Smith didn't start Georgetown's first few games this season, but Thompson was forced to break his edict and has put Smith on the court with the first five the past two months.

"I've been trying to convince him," Thompson said earlier in the season, "that roles have changed. I think that people like Charles have to know. A lot of times, he's off the ball, and I constantly have to remind him, 'You're the man now. You've got to be the one ducking and getting open, setting the screen for somebody, popping to the weak side to get open.' "

Now, even when he is off target, the ball goes up. Witness a six-for-23 shooting night in the first Villanova game. Smith missed his first three-point attempt, made his next two shots, but then sank just two of his next 11 shots -- all in the first half.

Normally, a shooter that cold would face Thompson's wrath for taking so many shots. But, with Georgetown having so few offensive options, Thompson has adjusted its team concept to an offense in which Smith is the focal point. And, as people continue to learn, he's reserved everywhere but on the court.

"It has to be easier {to shoot} because Reggie is gone," Smith said. "We know we have to shoot. We know we have to produce. I'm not worried about people keying on me, because it makes me work harder."