Playing in the Blair and Nike/Sidwell Friends summer leagues, Coolidge High School's slender, leaping center, Donald Hodge, has finally begun to use his 6-foot-10 frame and offensive skills to develop into the dominant player his coaches have long anticipated.

The death of Colts Coach Frank Williams in June may have had something to do with the way Hodge has been able to maintain his court composure to become the captain and inspirational leader of Coolidge. The last couple of years, he has had the spring in his legs and the sweet offensive touch to take command of games, but his failure to exert full effort in games seemed to counter his great potential.

But now he is running the floor well and keeping his teammates mentally in games.

"I don't know if it's the passing of Coach Williams {that has motivated Hodge}, but one thing is that he just made up his mind that he was going to come out and do the fundamental things to be a team leader," said Coolidge summer league coach Jerrell Robinson. "He is really exerting himself on both ends of the court. Off the court, he is trying to be a role model to the new guys coming in."

Recognized this summer as the most improved player in the Nike/Sidwell Friends League, Hodge is playing under control and with determination to win.

"I planned on starting off this summer with a new attitude," Hodge said. "With the coach passing, that made me play harder. I am trying to rebound better and not force as many shots. I'm not worrying about scoring. In the past, that's all I worried about."

"He has a lot of potential, but he just needs to work on his ball-handling skills a little bit and build up his body a little bit more," said Robinson. "But I think that he has a lot of potential to be a tremendous player."

In games against Spingarn and Mackin, sharp-shooting and fast-breaking squads, Hodge soared for rebounds, went over defenders for offensive follow dunks and was an intimidating defensive figure in the low post. He had 23 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and three assists in a 67-64 loss to Spingarn. In a similarly fast-tempo 81-80 victory over Mackin, Hodge had a 35-point, 19-rebound performance that enabled the Colts to offset the hot three-point shooting of the Trojans' Curt Smith (28 points).

The Nike/Sidwell Friends League overall has been quite formidable this summer with Ireton and DeMatha both posting undefeated records through last week. DeMatha, with 6-10 center Jerrod Mustaf doing damage down low and 6-3 forward Bobby Hill exhibiting more versatility, was expected to be one of the top teams, but Ireton is somewhat of a surprise.

The Cardinals, with a three-man scoring punch of 6-5 forward/center Horace Scruggs and brothers Carl and Charles Hatcher, have been delivering from both the inside and outside . . .

Spingarn has turned 6-7 forward-center Ricardo Leonard loose and he has produced big numbers. Leading the league in scoring with a 26-point average, Leonard had a 44-point game against Gonzaga. And when Leonard has not been shooting, guards Weldon Parham and Ray Thomas have consistently made three-pointer shots.