Second in an occasional series of articles

Friday was Marie Bolton's first basketball-free day in what seemed like weeks, and there were three things she definitely wanted to do: sleep, watch some television and drive a car.

Bolton hasn't had a chance to do much of those three things this summer, in between early-morning conditioning workouts, her job, summer league basketball games and basketball camps. She is trying to get ready for her senior basketball season at Loudoun County High School, but at the same time she's also trying to think about college and her pursuit of a basketball scholarship. It's been tiring.

"I haven't gone on vacation this summer. It's hard because I work, and I took off two weeks [of work] to go to basketball camps," Bolton said. "We might go to the beach for a weekend, though. The summer has gone by really fast; basketball season starts soon. And once that starts, all you do is eat and sleep basketball."

Which is kind of what she has been doing already.

Colleges Come Calling

Bolton started taking a proactive approach to college recruiting last summer, sending letters introducing herself to prospective schools that her father, John, had researched using magazines and the Internet.

Bolton said she wondered whether any coaches would contact her but that she didn't sit around waiting for calls. Soon after July 1--the first day that coaches from Division I and II schools were permitted to contact seniors they are interested in recruiting--the phone started ringing.

Coaches from two Division III schools--Averett College in Danville, Va., and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.--made introductory calls, talking about their schools and basketball programs. Bolton also received letters from Pittsburgh, Army and Drexel, and e-mails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne College and Division I Lafayette College.

Bolton is getting ready to send another letter to her list of colleges, along with the Raiders' fall schedule and directions to the games. Her original list of schools, which numbered close to 70, has been pared down to fewer than 50--schools that didn't respond to the initial letter last summer were crossed off the list, as were schools that are not recruiting shooting guards (Bolton's position), or schools that Bolton decided she was not interested in.

Bolton has yet to narrow her list to 10 or 15 schools, and she said she is going to wait to see whether more schools contact her once the summer is over.

"I'm still trying to figure out what kind of school and program I want to be a part of," she said. "I think I know what kind of [basketball] program I want--I like the way we do things here, and I think I'd like something like that."

Bolton attended two camps in the last two weeks. From July 12 to 16, she was at the College of New Jersey for the Eastern Invitational Basketball Clinic, a showcase camp that close to 80 college coaches attended. The players participated in stations, which helped them improve--and show off--their individual skills and played games each day.

On Friday, July 16, Bolton returned home from New Jersey at 4:30 p.m., left at 6:15 p.m. to play summer league in Falls Church and then went to sleep. She left for High Point (N.C.) University Saturday at 10 a.m., in order to attend a team basketball camp with the Raiders. "I wasn't even home for 24 hours," she said.

Bolton enjoyed both camps, though each had different purposes--she went to New Jersey so she could be seen by college coaches, and she went to North Carolina to get to know her high school teammates and have fun.

"Right now, I'm concentrating on getting ready for the season, and this [college] thing is in the back of my mind," Bolton said. "I want to play really well this year because I want our team to win; I don't worry about what schools might think. I want to do whatever I can for our team to win."

Shaping Up for the Season

Loudoun County basketball practice begins Aug. 9. The Raiders lost in the Region II semifinals last year, one victory shy of advancing to the Group AA tournament, and Bolton wants to make sure the Raiders take that extra step this year.

She reminds herself of that when she wakes up every weekday morning at 7 in order to go to a conditioning workout at 7:30. A small group of female athletes, usually about 10, meet Loudoun County girls basketball coach Bob Pingley at the high school. They go for a long run on the bike path Mondays and Wednesdays; they do a sprint workout Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they run a timed mile Fridays. They also lift weights three times a week.

Pingley started these optional workouts--which are open to any athlete--four years ago, when Keri Fellows, a 1996 graduate of Loudoun County, received a scholarship to play at Queens College (N.C.) and was given a summer workout to follow.

To be sure, the conditioning workouts help the Loudoun County players get in shape for the up-tempo, pressing game they play in the fall. But the workouts also give the players a taste of the kind of offseason commitment they need to make if they plan on playing a sport in college.

"When I talk to [college] coaches about players, they always ask, 'What's their work ethic like? Do they work hard?' " Pingley said. "In a case like Marie, the answer is yes. She will make the commitment [in college] because she's made that kind of commitment already."

Bolton usually leaves the high school at 9:45 to go to her job; she works as a junior counselor at a summer camp. Then in the evening, she's off to Falls Church to play with Loudoun County's summer league team, which is coached by her father, John. Some nights, Bolton doesn't get home from a 9 p.m. game until after 11.

"I don't get tired of the basketball, but I do get tired. It's hard getting up at 7 when you had a game the night before and didn't get home until 11:30," Bolton said. "But we do it because it makes us better, it makes us improve, and it'll make our season better."

About This Series

The nation's top high school student-athletes don't have to do much when it comes to earning a college scholarship: the schools recruit them, and they just have to decide where it is they want to play. Things aren't so easy for student-athletes such as Loudoun County's Marie Bolton--who plays basketball at a small high school in the fall, an untraditional recruiting season. This is part two of Loudoun Extra's periodic look at how Bolton navigates the college recruiting process in her aim to earn a college scholarship.