The high school basketball player's summer days often are crammed with hours of playground ball, foul shooting, one-on-one play and weight lifting.

Mount Vernon athletes Tag Entwisle and Mark Cottom have been especially busy. The two players who may be the keys to Mount Vernon's basketball hopes this winter have been honing their skills on the court most of the summer, but this week, they became rivals of sorts. Both also play football, and each would like to be the starting quarterback when the season begins.

Entwisle, a 6-foot-3 senior, and Cottom, a 5-8 junior, were marginal players last season. But in the St. Stephen's summer league, they helped the Majors to an impressive finish. Although they were eliminated in the semifinals by Herndon, the eventual league champion, the Majors finished with an 8-3 record.

"It's difficult," Cottom said recently. "Tag and I are real good friends, playing basketball and off the court, too. But when it comes to football, we're competing for the same position."

When Entwisle was injured early last football season, Cottom started. But when Cottom hurt his toe, Entwisle got the position back and kept it until he tore ligaments in his ankle in the last game of the season.

The injury kept Entwisle out of the first 11 basketball games, making the summer all the more important.

"Tag's progess was slow last year because of the injuries to his ankle and back," Mount Vernon basketball Coach Don McCool said. "He didn't start coming around until late in the basketball season. He's come around as one of our leading scorers."

Entwisle has progressed so impressively this summer that, all things considered, he'd rather keep it a secret until next season.

"I'd rather not play (in a league) during the summer," he said, sitting inside the Mount Vernon High School gym where he has spent his days the last four summers playing pickup games with Mount Vernon teammates and alumni. "In here, the summer is important. I come here, play (basketball), lift and throw the football."

Cottom, too, has seized the summer as a time for advancement.

"I didn't get a summer job because I'm trying to get ready for the season," he said, referring both to basketball and football. This summer he ran on the Mount Vernon track three days a week, played basketball in the gym five days a week and threw the football on weekends.

"I guess we're just two teen-agers trying to be recognized," Cottom said.