"I knew one day there would be a professional women's basketball team in Washington," grinned Winsome "Skinny" Davidson, 23, between huge gulps of ice water. "I'm just glad it came in time for me."
The 5-foot-11-inch former Howard University basketball star was among 68 hopefuls who dribbled, dunked and danced their way through a grueling four-hour tryout last week in the sweltering D.C. Armory.
Although they ranged in height from 5 feet to 6 feet 1 and came in all shapes, each athlete had a single dream - to win a spot on the Metros, Washington's first professional women's basketball team.
The Washington Metros are an expansion team of the year-old Women's Professional Basketball League, which nearly doubled its size this year to 14 teams nationwide.
Since the team has already tapped 26 month, only four openings were available for the more than 100 women who tried out in Baltimore, Washington and Virginia.
Rookie-camp survivors go on to the September training camp, from which 12 team members will emerge.
"I'm looking for athletic quality, jumping ability, ball handling, court sense and physical courage," said Metro coach Nat Frazier, a former assistant coach for the New York Knicks.
"The only difference from men's basketball is physical stature. So far as necessary skills and training are concerned, it's the same ball game.
But it's "an entirely different ball game from the discrimination and lack of facilities when I was in high school," said 23-year-old Terry Neville of Poolesville, Md., who has been invited to rookie camp. "Back then if there were two gyms the girls always got the ratty one."
A basketball player since age 10 when she used to out-shoot her brother (now a 6-feet-8-inch member of Catholic University's team), Neville has arranged to take leave from her job as assistant manager of Household Finance if she makes the Metros.
"It's time for an organized women's professional sport to be accepted by the public," said Metro's general manager Jerry Lewis. "We've accepted women's tennis, and women's golf has made tremendous strides. The interest in a women's team sport is there.
"The one (WPBL) team that had televised games last year, the Chicago Hustle, had ratings that outdrew the Chicago Bulls," he said, adding that some Metros games will be televised.
"Title IX said schools must give equal time, money and equipment to women, and we're seeing the results now."
The average salary (about $7,500) of a Metro player, however, is a far cry from the megabucks male athletes earn.
"At least it's a start," shrugged 21-year-old Debbie Stewart, a Vienna, Va., powerhouse who holds a degree in law enforcement. "To say you're part of the beginning of a game that will be great throughout history is a terrific feeling."
Area coaches give these suggestions for teen-age girls interested in playing professional basketball:
"Place academics first": Towson State basketball coach BrezhnevJude "Breezy" Bishop. "We've had to turn down a lot of athletically-talented girls because their grades were lacking. What's the use of signing a professional contract if you can't read it?
"When trying out, present yourself in topnotch shape," adds coach Bishop. "You've trying to sell yourself to us, so groom yourself to look like a professional, even if you're dripping wet.
"Have on a good pair of high-top tennis shoes, neat gym shorts and T-shirt, tie up long hair and don't wear bracelets or dangling jewlery. We can usually tell a real basketball player by how she presents herself."
"Get proper coaching": U.D.C. assistant coach Deborah Bush. Get on a playground or school team or call your local recreation department to find out about teams and summer basketball camps.
"Be willing not only to practice basketball, but to run, bike, eat properly and build up strength": Chevy Chase coach Harold "Cherrooke" Jerome.
"Be confident, but not cocky": Morgan State coach LaRue Fields. "Try to shine over everybody else out there on the court." CAPTION: Picture, no caption, by Ken Fell - The Washington Post