On humid summer evenings throughout most of the 1980s, basketball enthusiasts and college recruiters didn't have the luxury of being able to watch quality summer league basketball at more than a few gymnasiums in the Washington metropolitan area.

But in the past few years, more leagues began to organize and the start of the 1990s indicates the trend is continuing. Best of all, for spectators, all summer leagues have no admission charges.

The Eddie Saah League for high school players and the Urban Coalition League at Dunbar High, which has professional, collegiate and top high school players competing, once were the premier places to watch organized basketball in the heat of the summer.

The James "Jabbo" Kenner College League, which begins this weekend at Georgetown's McDonough Arena, and the Say No To Drugs Summer League at H.D. Woodson and the Sugar Ray Leonard League in Palmer Park, both of which have some professional players, have steadily taken away some of the Urban Coalition audience.

Saah's league has drawn excellent talent -- and large crowds -- over the years despite its nomad status. Among those who have played in the Saah league are Danny Ferry, David Butler, Anthony Tucker, Donald Hodge, Jerrod Mustaf, Dennis Scott and John Gwynn. Over the past four years, however, Saah's league has moved from Sidwell Friends to Coolidge High to the University of the District of Columbia and this season, it will play at McDonough.

Once a showcase for the Interhigh League and Metro Conference teams to settle bragging rights in a relaxed atmosphere, the league has trimmed down from 16 to eight teams this summer as all the Metro squads moved to the Sidwell League.

"It's still going to be a good league," said Saah. "Watching some of the Christmas tournaments in the area, it dawned on me that some of the talent out there is in Virginia -- it's not all in D.C. -- so I decided to invite some of the Virginia teams."

Herndon, one of the selected Northern Virginia teams, is thankful for the opportunity.

"We are going to see a different style of basketball," said Herndon Coach Gary Hall. "The best basketball in the nation is in Washington, D.C., and hopefully, when we play teams in our league {next season}, we won't be intimidated because we would have already been battle tested."

More emphasis is put on learning and honing skills during the summer, and though winning still is a first preference, losing can be digested.

"You have to play basketball in the summer because it gives the kids the type of experience that they need," said Coolidge Coach Jerrell Robinson. "It's all more like a regular season and it doesn't matter who you play, just as long as the kids play."

The atmosphere in the 18th summer of the Falconer's League will be a lot cooler with a switch from muggy Central High to Largo. "It feels pretty good because we have a nice facility and a nice gymnasium," said Lou Wilson, who concluded his first year as Largo's basketball coach in March.

In southern Prince George's, the Slam-N-Jam League continues to grow and improve. This summer, 19 teams will compete at Suitland High School.

School renovations forced the tradionally tough Blair League to move its games to Kennedy High. But the change led to Dunbar and Coolidge not entering because of the distance.

One league whose major change came in the form of upgraded competition is the Sidwell Friends League because Metro Conference teams like Carroll and DeMatha will be competing for the first time.

"We're right back there at or above the other summer leagues," said Sidwell Friends League organizer Rich Fairley. "The quality of players, and the way the league is run, has made it all the more better and we think that we are more balanced."

A new league in Fairfax County is the Flint Hill League, organized by former St. Stephen's Coach Win Palmer, who recently replaced Stu Vetter {now at Harker Prep} as Flint Hill coach. The league will play at George Mason University's Physical Activities Building.