When the final buzzer sounded in the final regular season game of this summer's Nike/James Kenner Summer Basketball League at Georgetown University's McDonough Gymnasium, Eddie Saah smiled and took a moment to reflect upon the previous eight weeks.

Saah, commissioner of the Kenner League, felt he had succeeded in his preseason goal of drawing top college players away from Washington's other top-caliber summer league, the free-wheeling Urban Coalition League, and into a more disciplined atmosphere.

"This year, we have better ball players," said Saah, who took over the league this summer in an attempt to restore its credibility. "Maryland is participating in the league {as well as all the other major area colleges}. The Nike organization outfitting the league was great. More area colleges are participating in the league.

"{The players} have realized they have to do something during the offseason to keep in shape. I like doing it. I like being around it. I like seeing the former {area} high school kids come back because they know its no nonsense. They know it is a good level of competition."

In recent years, many top collegiate players have opted to play in the Urban Coalition League, which is also the summer recreation home of present and past professional players. Under Saah's direction, the Kenner League sought to upgrade its competition this summer.

Steamy McDonough Gymnasium, with huge fans in each corner acting as a cooling system, was the scene this summer of 41 games decided by four points or less and six that went into overtime. Aside from the competitiveness, the Kenner League also offered a chance for Maryland's Keith Gatlin and Tony Massenburg to shake off some rust after sitting out last season for disciplinary reasons.

For seven high school star players, the league was an opportunity to hone their games even more. For several former high school stars who will be college freshmen in September, such as Georgia Tech's Dennis Scott (last winter's high school player of the year), Maryland's Cedric Lewis and Georgetown's Anthony Tucker, the Kenner League provided a taste of what is to come in the fall: tough defense and fast-paced action.

Scott, playing for the DCI Eagles, and Tucker, who played for The Tombs, were on two of the league's more talented squads. Scott scored 26 points Sunday leading DCI to a 100-97 victory over The Tombs in the league championship game.

DCI, a team composed of seven American University players, Jaren Jackson of Georgetown and Massenburg, finished with an 11-3 record. Two of those defeats occurred when Scott was in North Carolina competing in the Olympic Festival. The other was in a 105-102 loss to The Tombs (11-3).

"It's fun playing in this kind of a league," said Scott, who starred for the area's top high school team, Flint Hill. "I'm trying to play as much as I can to get back into the shape that I was in at the end of the season. I'd like to lose around 10 more pounds so I can play No. 2 guard to check the quick No. 2 guards in the ACC."

In several games, Scott played point guard for DCI and, to the surprise of few, he looked sharp dishing off to Massenburg in the middle for authorative jams and American's Ron Draper and Ronald Davenport for easy baskets.

When The Tombs outlasted DCI three weeks ago, it did so with a superb outside shooting game from Maryland's Steve Hood and inside dominance from Tucker and Allegany Community College's John Turner, who on more than a few occassions, rattled McDonough Gymnasium with his dunks.

Turner scored 19 points in the title game against DCI and was named the league's most valuable player.

With each summer league game, Turner's stock grew. After next season, he will transfer to a Division I school and among those competing for his talents are Georgetown and Maryland.

Gatlin and Massenburg spent the summer competing and looking as if they were never absent from the collegiate court. Both were named to the Kenner all-league team.

Gatlin's return for his senior season next year will be a great personal challenge.

"{Playing in the Kenner League} has helped me out a lot," Gatlin said. "I sat out a year and now I'm working on some of the things that I was rusty on, such as finding the open man and picking up defenses. I'm scoring real well, and if I can keep my passing up, we will do fine."

The factor that has made the Kenner League a spectators' favorite has been the fine overall quality of play. Other players who have made an impact on the league have been George Mason's Kenny Sanders, who put on a scoring show for Coca-Cola; Maryland's Dave Dickerson, who showed offensive potential for Jiffy Lube, and another Hoya, Mark Tillmon, who led Jiffy Lube's running show. Virginia's Derrick Sunns made Hazel Construction look respectable, along with Georgetown's Charles Smith.

Saah seems to have achieved his goal of firming up the league. College coaches have already began calling him about entering teams next summer. In addition, businesses and organizations have been acquiring about sponsoring future teams.

"We had pretty good coaches that also made the games that more intense and interesting," said Saah. "The quality of play was just tremendous."