- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

George Washington coach Karl Hobbs had a one word answer when he was asked before the season what this Colonials’ team would need from Carl Elliott.

“Everything,” he said.

That is exactly what he has been getting.

The lone returning starter from last season’s 27-3 team, Elliott became the first player in the 93-year history of the program to record a triple-double last Saturday when he tallied 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over Temple.

“All the coaches always say to me, ‘I am a triple-double guy,’ ” Elliott said, wearing his usual wide grin. “I just laugh. I’m like ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Not surprisingly, the Colonials are not having anywhere near the season of a year ago, when since-departed stars Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall and Omar Williams led GW to an undefeated regular season in the Atlantic 10.

The Colonials have won two straight after losing four in a row, and enter tomorrow’s game at La Salle at 17-8 overall and 8-5 in the A-10. They are most likely not headed to a third consecutive NCAA tournament in what is regarded as a rebuilding season.

However, the Colonials are winning and considered a dark horse in next month’s conference tournament thanks to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior guard.

“Carl Elliott is the most valuable player in the Atlantic 10,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said after Elliott totaled 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals in a win over the Hawks on Jan. 24. “That doesn’t mean he’s the best player in the conference, but I don’t know of another player whose team needs him as much as his needs him.”

It was not scripted to be that way.

Elliott was expected have an enhanced role with the graduation of Mensah-Bonsu, Hall and Williams, but was to form the league’s best backcourt with explosive scorer J.R. Pinnock. That was before Pinnock, the team’s leading scorer last season, left early to enter the NBA Draft. The junior was drafted in the second round before being cut by the Los Angeles Lakers and is now playing for Arkansas in the NBA Development League.

Suddenly, GW’s NCAA prospects took a major hit while Elliott’s role became paramount.

“It just put me more in the mind-set of not only being the leader by example, but also the vocal leader,” Elliott said matter-of-factly. “The younger guys came in and mixed in well with the team. It’s just that they are younger guys. I know how it is coming in as a freshman. I just try to take those guys under my wing and keep them focused.”

Elliott is averaging career highs in almost all categories with 13.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and is leading the league with 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals. The jovial guard is second on GW’s all-time list in assists and steals, trailing Shawnta Rogers in each category.

“He has that unique combination of size, strength and speed and quickness,” Hobbs said “People forget what a terrific defender he is. He has all the terrific attributes that separate him. Not a lot of guys can do a triple-double. It is the first time it happened in school history. Think of all the great players that have played here. And he followed it up with a double-double.”

Elliott had 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in Wednesday’s win over Richmond and might have had another triple-double if his teammates finished inside and made open jumpers. While he has struggled with his shooting at times, he has done the unheralded things — most recently rebounding to help a front line lacking bulk — while keeping teammates involved.

Though for all his gaudy statistics, his most important role might be molding younger players such as freshman guard Travis King, his heir at point guard.

“I am like the in-between guy, between Coach Hobbs and the players,” Elliott said. “Instead of him going nuts on a player, he will tell me to tell one of the guys to do something. It is fun for me to be able to tell guys what to do. I joke around with them a lot and tell them, ‘Get over there’ just because I can. It’s fun.”

Elliott took the lead in trying to lift the team’s spirit during the losing streak and is seen directing younger players on the court. That is in addition to his no-look passes, his uncanny ability to anticipate passes on defense to make steals and his role as the team’s most physical rebounder.

Elliott admits he gets a little nostalgic when looking around the locker room. Instead of seeing Mensah-Bonsu and Pinnock hamming it up, he sees an entirely different group and now considers himself “the older brother.” He has adjusted to the role and the lesser expectations of the team, but the different circumstances have made him further appreciate his situation as his college career draws to a close.

“I am a little sad, but it’s here,” said Elliott, who plans to attend the NBA predraft camps in hopes of raising his prospects. “I tell these guys before you know it you are going to be a senior and you are going to be getting out of here. So you have to have fun every day. That is the key playing basketball. If you are not having fun playing basketball, you are not going to have fun doing anything.”

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