Fifteen area youngsters will vie for berths on the District's 10-player basketball team that will participate in the 19th Youth Games in Newark, N.J. Aug. 6-11.
Players that have made it to the final cut are 6-foot-4 forward Jay Bias of Northwestern High School; 6-9 center Jerrod Mustaf and 6-6 Pete Reece (DeMatha); 6-5 forward Michael Venson (Oxon Hill); 6-8 center Cedrick Lewis and 6-1 guards Eric Hill and Aaron Jordan (Carroll); 6-2 guard Henry Hall (Parkdale); 5-6 guard Curt Smith (Kelly Miller Junior High School); 5-10 guard Nate Jay (McNamara); 6-5 forward Recardo Leonard and 5-8 guard Kenneth Diggs (Hines Junior High); 6-5 forward Brandon Adams (St. John's); 5-7 guard Weldon Parham (Roper Junior High), and 5-11 guard George Leftwich Jr. (Gonzaga).
"The games are fun and the level of competition improves my basketball skills," said Venson, one of two returning starters from the 1984 team. "It's also a challenge to compete against players from other cities."
Mustaf, who played varsity at DeMatha as a freshman, also returns.
The 1985 group has been practicing against a team of local Youth Games alumni that includes Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz), Lenny Bias (Maryland), Curtis Champion (Bowie State), Ron Williams (Peace Corps) and Alonzo Hollaway (Roving Leaders).
"I don't think I could ever get too popular to forget where I came from," Dantley said. "The U.S. Youth Games is a worthy cause. I remember when I played how much it meant to me for college and professional athletes to get involved."
Coach Oscar Phillips' teams have won two championships, but he feels this year's squad may be the best.
Phillips, in his seventh year as the District's Youth Games basketball coach, said, "We have the individual talent to win the championship. It's just a matter of getting the kids to play together as one unit. We try to give the kids exposure and prepare them for high school competition."
Phillips says his team has size and quickness, and will rely on the outside shooting of Hall to open up the middle for Lewis and Mustaf.
"Jay Bias should control the rebounds," said Phillips. "He's an excellent offensive and defensive rebounder.
"Winning a championship is important, but we want the kids to enjoy themselves," Phillips said. "Staying on a college campus for one week gives the players an opportunity to experience a different environment."
The Urban Coalition league began last weekend at Dunbar High School. Teams participating are the Washington Bullets, Pro Products, Smith Litho, Tennis Haven, Baltimore Lakers, Devil Cavs, Green Fuel, Executive III, Big M Trotters and the Urban Coalition All-Stars, league champions for the past five years.
Among the professional players participating are Dantley, the Washington Bullets' Gus Williams and the Los Angeles Lakers' Earl Jones. League play continues through Aug. 11.