Georgetown Coach John Thompson said yesterday he doesn't understand the shock many people have expressed over his meeting earlier this year with Rayful Edmond III, the alleged leader of a Washington drug network. Thompson revealed on ABC's "Nightline" Thursday night that he asked for a meeting with Edmond, who had been associating with at least two Georgetown basketball players, Alonzo Mourning and John Turner. On April 15, Edmond was arrested and accused of running a massive drug ring that local law enforcement officials say could be responsible for 20 percent of local drug trafficking. After the explosive special edition of "Nightline," which was broadcast live from Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Anacostia and lasted 2 1/2 hours, many people expressed surprise that Thompson would meet with a reputed drug dealer whose organization has been linked with the deaths of more than 30 people and the distribution of as much as 440 pounds of cocaine a week. "I don't understand this expression of amazement," said Thompson, who said he received a number of phone calls on the subject yesterday. "We cannot close ourselves off from the whole of society. Anybody who experienced the Len Bias situation knows we cannot isolate {ourselves}, seal ourselves off from people. We'd better start confronting these problems. We'd better understand we're incorporated into these problems. This isn't them or they. The people involved with the drugs and being killed are our children. It's not like somebody crawled out of some hole who is so different from us." Thompson, upon returning from the Summer Olympics in Seoul in October, was told by law enforcement officials and other people around town that Turner, a sophomore forward, and Mourning, a freshman center, had been seen with Edmond. Turner grew up with Edmond in Glenarden, Md., but Mourning is from more rural Chesapeake, Va. Turner and Mourning were not available to comment yesterday. Law enforcement officials said previously that there was no indication the players were involved in any drug or criminal activity. After talking with his players shortly before the start of the recently completed season, Thompson made it known on the street that he wanted to talk with Edmond, an avid Georgetown follower and one of the city's best playground players. "I didn't get into his background or conduct an interrogation; that's for the police," Thompson said. "But the legal process is a long one, while the problem is an immediate one. I tried to make sure he knew the goals and objectives of my kids, and {tried to} make it very clear to him that I didn't want anything going on with my kids. I was trying to deal immediately with a specific problem. "I'm not about to reveal all of my conversations with him. It wasn't secretive, just personal. I asked him to come to my office, but not to accuse him of anything. He came to talk to me with good intentions. No secrets were told. I didn't find out specifics about him until I read them in the paper. "I knew he wasn't a fugitive from justice when we met," Thompson said. "I had heard the rumors and innuendo, but it's still an obligation if I hear of something going on to check it out. I figured, 'He plays basketball, he loves basketball. Let me talk to this man. My thing is basketball. Let me try and confront this problem immediately.' " Thompson said yesterday he has spoken with local law enforcement officials and other associates about the dangers of The Chapter III, a nightclub in Southeast where a woman was killed in a drug-related incident last fall and a notorious gathering spot for drug dealers. "I told them {his players} that The Chapter was off limits," Thompson said. "That this place is not where we want to be anymore. Don't go there." Thompson said his son, Ronny, a member of the team, said, "Where do we go where we're not going to be exposed {to possible drug deals}, a monastery? It's virtually everywhere. We've got to be able to exercise our judgment." Thompson said he realized the association between Edmond (or alleged or reputed drug dealers) and some of his players dates back to childhood. "They played on the same playgrounds," Thompson said. "Some of the kids {including Turner} knew Rayful from when he was young. I had heard things through the grapevine. Inquiries came to me. People said, 'Have you heard this or that.' I knew none of them {his players} were involved with drugs because of the testing that we do." Thompson said this was not the first time he has gone to the source of potential problems involving his team. He said he once warned a merchant in Georgetown to stop calling players in the dormitory inquiring about their chances against a particular opponent. Turner's high school coach, Melvin Johnson, said he spoke with Turner about his association with Edmond. "{Turner} said he knew {Edmond}, but wasn't hanging around with him as such," Johnson said. "He said he had been with him at the playground where he played, but that was just where he had been and the guy happened to have shown up. I sat down and talked with him about the people he was associating with. We didn't name names per se, but we just talked about being careful because of what certain people represent or seem to represent. I thought he took it well. After that, I didn't think it was a problem. "We had quite a few talks like that. He knows about what's going on. The youngsters he grew up with were more streetwise than him, but he learned from them. He catches on pretty quick to things. That's one of the reasons I don't think he would get led down the wrong road." Aaron Long, who played for Thompson and has coached Washington-area high school all-star teams in the summer, tried to provide some insight into how Turner and Mourning could wind up in Edmond's company. "They may see him at a club and he suggests they go get something to eat," Long said. "The guy's got money; what are you going to do? They just didn't use good judgment. But you have to remember, you're still talking about guys who are 18 years old, and at that age . . . I don't think they sat down and thought about it and said, 'We're going to do this anyway.' " With the proliferation of drug trafficking in Washington, the players don't always know who is involved. "What my son said was interesting," Thompson said. "If you tell them to not associate with anybody who is in any way involved with drugs, you might as well tell them not to go to church, not to go to the Boys Club, not to go to any party anywhere. The frightening thing is that we're beginning to isolate too much. There's got to be some dialogue, not just shutting them out. The people {who are involved with drugs} aren't getting any counseling, whether it's from adults or peers." Thompson said that 20 years ago any number of neighbors would have talked to Edmond, but in the current climate of record drug-related homicides in the District, most people simply are afraid. "Years ago, nobody would have been surprised at this," he said. "Policemen would walk the beat, the older boys wouldn't let the young kids get involved in this. Somebody would counsel you, kick you in the butt and then lock you up if necessary. The neighbors would do that. Now, people are scared to get involved, scared to confront. That type of informal counseling is nonexistent. There are very few people like that in the streets anymore. The total pressure now is on the police." Diane Smith, mother of Georgetown all-American Charles Smith, said, "Coach Thompson is a very concerned person. He's very concerned about the kids on the team. I think he felt he had a responsibility to do this and find out what's going on. I know there are drugs out there. I know my kids are going to school with {people dealing drugs}, and know kids that do this. I'm not blind to the fact that's going on. It would be dishonest for me to say my kids don't know these people." Thompson indicated he will not be reluctant to meet again with people whose dealings may make them a part of the underworld while at the same time bring them into contact with his players, his children or his neighbor's children. "I'm not trying to service the whole city," Thompson said. "I'm tired. But being tired when it comes to this is a luxury we cannot afford. Ted Koppel said to me, 'You were scared as hell weren't you?' And I said, 'Yeah, not of Rayful, but every time my kids leave the house.' I'm frightened that the kids involved are becoming younger and younger." Staff writer Steve Berkowitz contributed to this report.