Last year's top-ranked high school basketball team, Dunbar, had a starting five of 6-foot-7, 6-6, 6-3, 6-3 and 6-2.

But this year, No. 1-rated T.C. Williams has proved a team need not be tall to be first.

The Titans are led by 5-5 Willie Jackson and 5-9 Craig Harris, who form the most explosive backcourt tandem in the area.

Before he realized "small was in" Williams coach Mike Hynson said, "I was scared to death before the start of the season. But after that first game (Williams beat Groveton, 85-74) and I saw the job those two did, my fears disappeared.

"I wouldn't trade them for anybody."

Ronnie Hart, coach of a good Potomac team, said "The quick, tall kids are jewels if you can find some. But you can find the good, quick small kids everywhere. I know. I have three good ones."

The 12th-ranked Braves (12-2) are led by point guard Mark Jackson (5-8), Eddie Egan (5-8) and Jeff Perry (5-7). The Braves are second in the area in scoring (90.4 points per game), with the under-6-foot trio usually accounting for 70 per cent of the scoring. They also average 20 assists and 20 steals among them per game.

"We have to run and press all over the court," said Jackson, "becaise once they get the ball inside on us, it's a bucket. So far, not many teams have tried to post us underneath."

Egan often finds himself in a mismatch battling bigger opponents for rebounds.

"That's the biggest disadvantage, tebounding," said Egan, who weighs 130 pounds. "you can block out all you want but the taller gusy are going to jump right over you. On defense, you always have to check bigger people and worry about them taking you inside."

T.C. Williams' Jackson said he doesn't have time to worry about his height limitations.

"I got a job to do and I do it," he said. "Besides, I've played with bigger players all my life.

"We always play man, so if someone wants to take me deep, let him try. If I get beat, I know I'll get help."

Other highly regarded players who are 5-9 or less include Paint Branch's Dave Emanuel and Dana Robinsob, Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Gary Hall, High Point's Ken Jenkins, Coolidge's Layard Banks, Theodore Roosevelt's James Canty, Poolesville's Ricky Thomas, Suitland's Brian Walker, Edison's Dave Grady, Groveton's Jeff Fells and Eastern's Rodney Wright, Tony Hawkins and Tony Riley.

College scouts and recruiters are always looking for unselfish players with court sense, ball-handling skills and, above all, the ability to penetrate and pass off.

George Washington coach Bob Tallent was convinced he saw one of the best at that in the area after watching Eastern point guard Wright rock and roll through McKinley defenders in their Interhigh league clash Tuesday.

McKinley rallied to nip Eastern, 70-69, but Wright's fine play sparked the Ramblers to an early 15-point advantage.

"Anyone who says he's (Wright) too small to play in major college is crazy," said Tallent. "I'll take him right now. He's very quick, handles the ball and finds the open man. He can play."

On one play, Wright raced downcourt on a three-on-two fast break, doubled up in the air and without bating an eye laid off a perfect pass to Steve Blackman for a layup.

"I didn't think he could get that ball past the defender.' said Tallent. "But he sure did it. When he left his feet, I said to myself, now what's he going to do?"

Many of the shorter players find their size to be an asset.

It's a little easier to squeeze through a tight spot on a drive," said Egan, Potomac's leading scorer at 19 points per game.

Harris, who is Williams' sparkplug and leading scorer, raised a few eyebrows recently when he soared high to block a shot and was called for goaltending.

"Craig and Willie are just two tough guys," praised Hynson. "Last year, Craig was only 5-6 and doing the same things."

The conscensus among area basketball coaches is that Williams, 22-2, 19-6 and 17-8 during Hynson's previous three-year coaching tenure, may have the best tea mever produced at the Alexandria school.

"They raced past my players four quarters," said one coach. "I swear, I didn't notice anyone small. Everybody out there played like they were 7-11."