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Despite small shell, Clifton's 'Nut' Rogers headed for big time KING OF THE COURT

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was a frigid January night in 1992, but inside the Walbrook High gymnasium, the action was hot and heavy.

Even the home fans were being captivated as a diminutive freshman guard from Lake Clifton was making the scoreboard work overtime.

When Shawnta Rogers had finished firing at the Junction in his ninth varsity game, a Baltimore basketball legend had been born.

"That has to be my most memorable game," said Rogers. "I had 38, and I was making shots every which way. I even had one falling out of bounds."

Said Walbrook coach Gus Herrington: "Everything he threw up there went in. We couldn't stop him. And now, three years later, Shawnta is probably the best college prospect in the city."

In a big man's game, Rogers, a 5-foot-4 whippet, is standing taller than everyone.

"I play with him every day and twice on Sunday," said Lakers teammate Henry Hurst. "And believe me, he's a lot bigger than his size. Everywhere we go during the summer, he makes the all-tournament team. I think he's going to have a great college career."

Rogers isn't self-conscious about his size, which he turns to his advantage on the court. His speed and quickness mesmerize, and his will is unrelenting.

"I feel good about myself," he said. "You get used to the size. I've always had it. When I was born, I was the smallest person in the hospital, so a doctor called me Nut [for Peanut]."

It's a nickname that has stuck, along with some other good-natured ribbing.

"We joke with him from time to time," Hurst said. "We'll call him Muggsy Bogues' son."

Ronald Byrd, a fellow Lake Clifton guard, said opponents underestimate Rogers because of his stature.

"So many players do that, but Shawnta [pronounced Shawn-tay] is strong," Byrd said. "And he'll fool them sometimes by taking the ball before they even realized he was there or coming up behind a bigger guy to block his shot."

The comparison to Bogues -- at 5-3 the shortest player to make the NBA -- is inevitable, but not valid.

While at Dunbar, Bogues was surrounded by teammates with great offensive skills and acted primarily as a floor leader, ball distributor and defensive force.

Rogers possesses those same traits, but he is much more of a scorer. He has had 33 games of 20 or more points.

"Muggsy was more of a true point guard," said Herrington. "Shawnta is a mix between a point guard and shooting guard. He reminds me more of a Sam Cassell [now with Houston Rockets]. If he was 6-2 or 6-3, he could go either way in college."

Pete Pompey, who coached Cassell at Dunbar and against Bogues while at Edmondson, said Bogues was stronger than Rogers, but is impressed by Rogers' knack for getting his shot off against much taller players.

"Shawnta has a chance to accomplish the same things as Muggsy, but he still has a long way to go," said Pompey. "Guys like Muggsy only come along once in a great while."

Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore said Rogers doesn't like being measured against Bogues, though Rogers said, "It doesn't really bother me. I know Muggsy is a good person."

Moore said his team knows Rogers is in charge on the court, although Rogers isn't particularly vocal about it.

"He's our general," said the coach. "He'll say something once in a while, but mostly he uses facial expressions. They can tell from his gestures when he's not happy."

When Rogers makes a mistake, he will pound his chest and look at his coach, acknowledging that he knows what happened.

"It's a pleasure to coach a player like this," said Moore. "Shawnta is very determined, a hard worker and good kid. He's very special. You run across a lot of kids who can play in this business, but very few with his approach."

Said Rogers: "I don't say much to them [teammates], because I don't want their heads getting out of the game. I don't want them getting an attitude where they can't play well."

Byrd agrees that Rogers is the undisputed leader. "He's an all-around person, easy to get along with on and off the court," said Byrd. "He'll look to take charge himself, but he is also a good distributor of the ball. We all get along well with him."

When Rogers was growing up, his first love was football, although he already was proving himself on the basketball court against older youths at Cecil-Kirk Recreation Center.

But his mother, Tina Porter, with whom he lives a few blocks from Lake Clifton, was set against his continuing to play football.

"So I turned to basketball and nothing else," Rogers said.

Now, college basketball recruiters are wooing him in droves. While awaiting his Scholastic Assessment Test scores, Rogers has made Maryland, Clemson, Xavier, Georgia Tech and Dayton the finalists, and expects to make his choice in April.

"The best part is none of the schools recruiting him have mentioned his size," said Moore.

Will Rogers make the impact that Bogues did?

Herrington said he will need to choose the right college -- as Bogues did.

"Shawnta seems to have a real good feel for the game and a wealth of talent," said the Walbrook coach. "He got started young, so he is wise beyond his years. He knows when to do things and when to hold back.

"I think he can play at the same level of Muggsy, who was fortunate to go to a school of Wake Forest's caliber, where he got the kind of playing time that could showcase him."

Said Pompey: "There's no question this kid is a big-time player. He was a solid player before he ever got to Lake Clifton. Now, it's a question of how far he wants to expand himself."

Moore said some weight work will make Rogers stronger to cope with the rigors of more games and more pressure. "He can score, penetrate, dish and get everybody involved and play defense," said Moore. "That's a pretty good package."

Maybe Hurst said it best.

"I've never seen anybody shut down Shawnta. He can go 0-for-9 from three-point range and still score 30 points," he said. "He's just a winner."

Tomorrow: Baltimore's queen of the court, Chanel Wright.

ROGERS' STATS

A look at senior guard Shawnta Rogers' high school career at Lake Clifton:

.. .. .. .. G .. FGA-M ... 3PM-A .. FTA-M .. Pts. .. Ast. .. Stl. PPG

1991-92 .. 18 . 68-168 .. 44-130 . 92-123 .. 358 ... . 93 ... 93 .19.9

1992-93 .. 22 . 63-133 .. 48-152 . 77-105 .. 347 .. . 137 .. 104 .15.8

1993-94 .. 23 . 87-192 .. 47-144. 155-189 .. 470 .. . 217 ... 98 .20.4

Totals* .. 65. 229-510 . 142-443. 347-446. 1,229 .. . 460 .. 304 .18.9

* Includes first two games of this season.

BEST OF THE REST

GUY BUTLER

School: Lake Clifton

Height: 6-7

Year: Senior

Position: Center/Forward

Colleges: Boston College, Georgetown, NMebraska, Northeastern, Pittsburgh, Rutgers

Snapshot: Butler transferred from Woodlawn, where he was a first-team All-Metro selection last season, averaging 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds. In his first two games with Lake Clifton, Butler is averaging 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. His size and strength makes him a force on the inside, but he also can handle the ball and score from the perimeter.

BLANCHARD HURD

School: Milford Mill

Height: 6-7

Year: Senior

Position: Center

College: Loyola

Snapshot: The firs signee for new coach Brian Ellerbe at Loyola College, Hurd is averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds for the state Class 1A champions and was a second-team All-Metro selection. Versatile and athletic, Hurd can score in the paint or from the perimeter.

MARK KARCHER

School: St. Frances

Height: 6-4

Year: Sophomore

Position: Forward

Snapshot: The state's top feshman last season, Karcher averaged 21.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.8 blocks and became the first freshman since Indiana Pacers forward Duane Ferrell (Calvert Hall, 1980-81 season) to be named first-team All-Catholic League. After playing at power forward and center last season, Karcher will be playing at small forward and/or shooting guard, which probably will be this position in college.

PATRICK NGONGBA

School: Mount Hebron

Height: 6-7

Year: Junior

Position: Center

Snapshot: Ngongba, originally from the French-speaking Central African Republic, may be the area's top junior. Nearly every major college in the nation is after him following an impressive showing this past summer. He's listed among the nation's top juniors in Reidel's Roundball Reviewe (7th) and the Adidas High School Report (18TH). An excellent defensive player, NGONGBA a shot-blocking machine and solid rebounder, but his offensive game still needs polishing.

JASON SMITH

School: Broadneck

Height: 6-2

Year: Senior

Position: Guard

College: Rutgers (football)

Snapshot: Smith, the school;s all-time scoring and steals leader, was a first-team All-Metro seclection last season, averaging 18.7 oiubtsm 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists. An all-around athlete, Smith holds the state football record for receptions in a season (75 in 1993) and won state track championships in the 100- and 200-meter runs last spring.

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