KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When Patrick Ewing rekindles the memories of his four years at Georgetown, there's a contented smile on his face.
"I felt like I came into college a boy and left a man," said Ewing, the headliner in the 2012 National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction class. "Coach (John) Thompson and all the people at Georgetown did an outstanding job of helping me, not only as a basketball player but also as a human being."
Ewing's stellar college career came during an era of celebrated centers. From 1983 through 1985, the No. 1 overall picks in the NBA draft were centers Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ewing. Sampson and Olajuwon didn't come away with NCAA titles, but Ewing did in 1984 when Georgetown defeated Houston 84-75 in the championship game. It was the highlight of a four-year span in which the 7-foot Ewing led his team to three NCAA championship games and a 121-23 record.
"I was fortunate to be able to go to three of them and blessed to have won one," Ewing said. "I treasure every victory that we had."
The Sunday induction ceremony also honored players Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Phil Ford, Clyde Lovellette, Kenny Sailors and Willis Reed; coaches Joe B. Hall and Dave Robbins and contributors Jim Host and Joe Dean Sr.
Ewing went on to a 15-year pro career with the New York Knicks, but Georgetown and Thompson have always remained close to his heart.
"The main reason I chose to go to Georgetown was coach Thompson," Ewing said. "He played the center position. And also, he was a man that I could aspire to be like."
Ewing was a dominating defender in college and his shot-blocking and intimidation often overshadowed his offense. As he matured in the pros, he became one of the great jump-shooting centers of all time.
"I've always been able to shoot," Ewing said. "I worked on my shooting tirelessly as a young player. But it was just that coach Thompson told me 'son, get the ball inside and work from the inside out.'"
Monroe also became a Knick, but traveled a much different path from Ewing to get there. With his trademark spin move, Monroe averaged 41.5 points per game as a senior for Division II Winston-Salem.
Monroe hopes his induction can serve as an inspiration for small college players who are far removed from the Division I spotlight.
"There are lots of fine basketball players who aren't in Division I," Monroe said. "There's only room for five guys on the court. There are some really fine players in Division II, Division III, NAIA. Maybe that point will be reinforced with me being here, representing a small school."