The colonials' Alexander Koul and Shawnta Rogers are affectionately known to their teammates as the Twins, which is amusing because Koul is a TV Belarussian behemoth and Rogers is a 5'4" Baltimore bumblebee. Coach Mike Jarvis is so tickled by the notion that he asked Rogers to change his jersey number to 54 this season, both as a reference to his height and as the flip side of Koul's number, which is 45. Still, despite all efforts to connect the pair, Rogers is constantly reminded about the difference 21 inches can make. "Alexander's size drove him to the game, and now everybody loves him," Rogers says. "People didn't come looking for me; I always have to go chase them."
A year ago at this time Rogers was working in a sporting goods store at a mall in Towson, Md., and waiting for the results of his fifth attempt at the SAT to arrive in the mail. He made the required score and joined the Colonials for the second semester. Then he took over the team in just his second college game. Down by two with :() 01.2 left in regulation against Idaho, he sank two free throws to send the game into overtime and then clinched an 84-83 victory with nine points in the second OT Despite his diminutive stature Rogers was GW's third-leading rebounder a year ago and dished out a team-high 150 assists. And still this summer he was often chosen last for pickup games in his own hometown.
Meanwhile, Koul was signing autographs on the streets of Minsk. The junior center, who describes his younger self as "this tall, fat, clumsy guy who just wanted to read books all day," didn't even begin playing basketball until he was 13. Koul developed slowly on the Belarussian junior national team and through a season under Jarvis before establishing his dominance last year, when he averaged 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 64.2% from the field, fourth best in the country.
Koul was the first through a pipeline that has since delivered three other Belarussians, including 6'8" starting forward Yegor Mescheriakov, an All-Atlantic 10 freshman team choice last season. Canadian-born sophomore J.J. Brade, a solid wing scorer, also returns from a team that won 21 games, the most wins in a season at GW in 41 years.
George Washington fans have taken to calling their team Koul and the Gang, but make no mistake about who is the soul of the Colonials. "I always listen to the small guy," Koul says. "Shawnta may look tiny, but he is a giant on the court."