District police yesterday identified a man shot to death Sunday in an apparent dispute over drugs as Carlos Yates, George Mason University’s all-time basketball scoring leader and a one-time NBA hopeful.

Yates, 27, was shot several times in the chest shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday near 18th and East Capitol streets SE, across the street from Eastern High School. He was taken to D.C. General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

D.C. police said they believe the slaying was linked to drugs. No other details of the shooting were available, and officers said they had no suspects.

Yates was arrested in Maryland this spring and charged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, said Harvey E. Eisenberg, an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore and coordinator of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Eisenberg said last night that Yates’s trial was pending and that he was out on bail.

Yates, who grew up in Reston but whose last known address was in the 400 block of 14th Street NE, played for George Mason from 1981 to 1985. Coaches and athletic department officials last night described him as the single biggest factor in the growth of the university’s fledgling basketball program in the early 1980s.

“He put George Mason basketball on the map,” said Joe Harrington, who was head coach at George Mason when Yates played there. “He turned down Purdue and West Virginia to come to George Mason at a time we were beginning to build the program . . . . I’m really shocked and saddened by the news.”

Yates, who did not graduate, became the school’s all-time scoring leader with 2,420 points, a title he held at the time of his death. He is the second-highest scorer in the area, behind Navy’s David Robinson.

A 6-foot-5 guard, Yates was described by school officials as an outgoing student who knew nearly everyone on the school’s Fairfax campus.

“We are stunned by the loss of one of our athletic family,” Athletic Director Jack Kvancz said in a statement. “Carlos Yates will be remembered as not only an outstanding basketball player but a personable young man who did so much for our basketball program.”

Carl Sell, the school’s sports information director, said yesterday that Yates, a communications major, left school after his final basketball season. Officials said Yates hoped to be picked in the National Basketball Association draft, but wasn’t.

“That was a bitter disappointment for him,” Sell said.

Sell said Yates then left for Europe, where he played professionally for one or two years. He then returned to the United States and reenrolled at George Mason, trying to finish his degree while working for Sell in the university’s sports information office.

“At the time, he appeared to be on the right track,” Sell said. “He was a good ambassador for us with all the press guys at the games.”

But Sell said that Yates left again in the spring of 1988, still several credits short of graduation.

What Yates did after that was unclear. Athletic department officials and coaches said they had had only intermittent contact with him since he left school the second time.

While at George Mason, Yates led the school in scoring in each of his four seasons, averaging 26.8 points per game in his sophomore year, third best in the nation that year. He was named first-team All-East Coast Athletic Conference South four times and was named co-player of the year in 1982-83. Yates also earned honorable mention all-America honors four times.

“He was a tremendous player,” said Juan Jones, a former American University player. “Everybody thought he was going to be in the NBA. He had such great athletic ability and talent.”

In 1985, in a game against Navy, Yates set the school record by scoring 42 points.

Yates played high school basketball at Flint Hill Academy, which played its home games on George Mason’s court.

Staff writers Mark Maske, David Aldridge, Christine Brennan and Monica Copeland contributed to this report.