Bob Pollard, Bishop Ireton High School's 6-foot-9, 280-pound center, shoots with a soft touch and demonstrates excellent shot-blocking ability.

Brad Turnell, the Cardinals' point guard, runs the offense and distributes the ball to his teammates -- the most important being Pollard.

Pollard and Turnell are Ireton's most visible players, but the entire team is getting a crash course in competition this summer playing against some of the area's best high school basketball players in the Sidwell Friends league. The lessons will be useful next season when Ireton moves into another highly competitive league -- the Metro Conference.

"That's the reason I got them into this league," said Paul DeStefano, who will be coaching Ireton for the first time next year. "We were already in the St. Stephen's league, and it's a good one, but this league offers the best competition."

Although DeStefano is a first-year coach at Ireton, his experience in the Metro will be invaluable. DeStefano is a proven winner; he coached Mackin between 1979-84 and went 93-51.

"I had some pretty good teams," he said. "But the major reason was I had great players. They were dedicated. They played in summer leagues and they applied themselves."

Pollard and Turnell have shown the same diligence. In addition to the two summer leagues, Pollard plans to play in the Urban Coalition League and attend the Five-Star basketball camp. Pollard, Turnell and teammates Jerry McFarland and Scott Bloomingburg spend their summer days at such places as Lyles-Crouch Elementary School in Alexandria, the Fort Belvoir Army base and Rolling Rock Park in Burke, looking for pickup games.

Pollard knows how important this summer is for his progress. "I have to get in shape," he said. "It'll improve my jumping ability and my ability to stay in the game."

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are making the grade in the Sidwell Friends League. One week ago, they pushed city champion Spingarn into overtime before losing, 85-83. They lost to Eastern, 57-53, but beat Lee, 41-38. The Cardinals lost their first game to Metro power DeMatha, 62-55, but Pollard and Turnnell believe they would be more competitive if they weren't without Sean Smith, a 6-1 shooting guard who averaged about 17 points last year but is sitting out the summer with a broken leg.

In the St. Stephen's league, they beat Herndon, 66-62, as Pollard scored 20 points, McFarland 18 and Turnell eight.

The Sidwell Friends league, however, will give the Cardinals the best indication of how they will do next season.

"The key to doing well in the Metro is taking one game at a time," DeStefano said. "When you have DeMatha, St. John's, McNamara and Gonzaga twice, you can't look ahead too far . . . This summer is very important. It's important to get everybody involved and to learn how to play these types of teams."

"I like the league," Turnell said. "Everybody that you play against has college potential. It's also a chance to come together and to see competition for next year."

* Among the other Northen Virginia teams in the Sidwell Friends League last week, Flint Hill defeated Theodore Roosevelt, 62-50, as Mike Scott scored 23 points and Bill Jefferson 12. W.T. Woodson lost to Roosevelt, 76-74, despite 20 points from John Szymczyk.

In the St. Stephen's league last week, Lake Braddock beat Hayfield, 69-67, as Jeff Woodbury had 20 points and sophomore Hubert Davis, a nephew of NBA guard Walter Davis, scored 16.

Orson Williams scored 20 points and got 10 rebounds, and Jimmy Molster had 14 points and 11 rebounds as St. Stephen's defeated Stuart, 75-53. Erik Jurgensen, a junior and the son of former Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, scored 11 points for the Saints.

Sean Andrews had 14 points and Tag Entwisle 13 to lead Mount Vernon past West Springfield, 80-64. But the Cavaliers came back later in the week to hand the Raiders their second loss, 65-53, as 6-5 center Kevin Davern and Keith Warren, a 5-10 guard, had 16 and 13 points, respectively. Hayfield defeated Langley, 76-58, as guards Mark Mallisham, Bruce Toliver and Robert Thorne each scored 18 points.

T.C. Williams beat O'Connell, 75-33, and Robinson, with Shawn Johnson scoring 27 points, defeated Annandale, 86-59.