After the grind of their season, many pro athletes just want to get away from it all, to relax and recuperate for the next on slaught.

But D.C. native Adrian Dantley finds time in his off-season for his old Northeast Washington neighborhood, and basketball camps around town where he talks with young athletes about how to improve their game as well as their lives.

Dantley can often be found driving through his old neighborhood, remembering, he says, how it was on the playgrounds and at Bertie Backus, his junior high school alma mater.

Despite his full schedule of camp visits, workouts and business trips, he says he still finds time for old friends.

"Because of my life style, it's difficult for me to spend as much time as I would like with my friends," he says. "But it's still always good to see them and know they're doing all right. It does affect me a bit sometimes, when I see some who aren't doing so well."

Which is perhaps in part why in his talks with young athletes he tries to set them on the right track. He is a natural for the role, calm and easygoing with a smile that captivates young people.

He can tell them about obstacles he faced as he came along the hard way from De Matha High School in Hyattsville to the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

He was a chubby ninth grader at De Matha who people said would never be a basketball player. Dantley became both a high school All-American and two-time All-Metropolitan.

Later, when he earned a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, his detractors said he was too slow to become an accomplished collegiate player. Again he proved them wrong as he became a two-time All-American and earned a spot on the 1976 Olympic team, ultimately leading his team to a gold medal.

But the doubters still weren't convinced. They said the true test is the NBA.

There, Dantley was named Rookie of the Year, finishing in the top 10 in annual scoring and ultimately earning All-Pro honors this season with the Utah Jazz.Dantley attributes his success to countless hours of weight training, running and practice shooting.

On the court, he combines his strength and superb conditioning with a fierce intensity to out-muscle and wear down his opponents.

But he's a pushover for the kids.

His rapport was never more evident than during a recent basketball camp at St. John's High School, where he talked to more than 280 youngsters. As he recalled his basketball and life experiences for the youths, ages 8 to 18, he held them spellbound.

"No matter what you do," Dantley told the group, "you have to start hitting those books now."

He earned a degree in economics from Norte Dame, and says he is now financially secure, adding quickly that success has not changed him.

"I'm just a regular guy. Many people get the wrong impression about me because they think since I've gained a little fame and fortune, I'm different or something. It's not that way at all. That's why I try to make people as comfortable as possible when they're around me."

Which is a good thing since Dantley is one of the most traveled players in the NBA. In just four years, he has played in five different cities -- Buffalo, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New Orlean and Salt Lake City. So, it is no small wonder that one of the major points he makes with young people is the importance of adjusting to change.

"I've been making adjustments all my life," he said at St. John's. "You will also have to make them in your life as well. In the long run they will help you make a better person."

He fielded questions, agreed to a one-on-one match with one of the counselors and signed autographs.

Eric Reed was among the students. "He really gave us a lot to think about," Eric said. "I don't know about anyone else, but it means a lot to me to have someone like him come here and spend this much time with us."

Dantley started giving talks and demonstrations after college eight years ago. He stresses the need for self-confidence.

"When I talk to young people, I'm always thinking that maybe there's one guy that I can reach who can benefit from the things that I'm trying to get across."

Morgan Wootten, Dantley's former high school coach and one of his biggest fans, was at St. John's. "I think the biggest thing about Adrian Dantley is that he never forgot where he came from," the coach said. "He's always giving and he always has time for everybody."

The major philosophy Dantley employs, Wootten said, is that "it's not the size of the man; it's the size of his heart . . . These kids can relate to that more than anything else. He's living proof."

Dantley has visited more than 10 camps in the metropolitan area since returning home this year. He will visit as many as six a week in this part of the country before taking his one-man show to Utah for his own program, the Adrian Dantley Basketball Camp. Then he'll begin preparing for the NBA exhibition season.

But in the meantime, Dantley will be leaving lasting impressions on youths like 14-year-old Ernest Jenkins.

"I'm still thinking about some of the things he said," Jenkins said moments after Dantley's talk. "If someone who has the money and position he has can take time to come here and talk to us about making adjustments in life, then he must really be about something."

Dantley explains his involvement this way:

"When I was young, a lot of people helped me. By doing the things I'm doing now, it gives me a chance to give something back."