They live in dormitories and talk about life on "their" campus. But the barbed-wire fences and the armed guards in the towers tell a far different story about the Lortob Correctional Complex.
For so many Washington-area athletes, this is the only institutions they will attend. Yes, they can go to classes for high school diplomas and college credits. Yes, they get bed and board. And yes, they can box, lift weights and play football and basketball on organized teams.
But no, they can't get out until their time is up. And once they're back outside, the statistics say that 45 out of 100 of them probably will be back within two years.
Some of them have been athletes, bona fide all-Metropolitan, all-state and even all-America in high school. Several were besiged with hundreds of college scholarship offers, and a few even accepted.
But somewhere down the line, the great American sports dream turned into a nightmare. Here are some of their stories:
Ever since that long-ago day when he told the barber to shave his head bald, Randolph Milam had been known as Apple. Then one day, when the doors slammed shut and the sound of steel rang in his ears, they called him something else.
He was No. 175317, D.C. Department of Corrections.
But Milam is back on the street now, even if he does have to report to a halfway house every night until his parole comes through. "Any day now," he says.
He is 25 and single, but with a 5-year-old daughter to support. He drives a truck for a moving and storage company. He would like to go back to school, study to be a dental technician.
But most of all, he still wants to play basketball in the pros.
Back then, in the winter of 1969, it certainly seemed possible. Everyone told him so. He probably was the most talented guard in the Washington area, three-year starter at McKinley Tech.
As a junior, he made first-team all-Met. As a senior, it was all-Met and all-American and an Interhigh championship for a McKinley club some people believe may have been among the greatest high school teams in the history of this city.
They called themselves the Magnificent Seven in those days, and Milam, made them go. It was a wonderful world: Huge crowds, an adoring student body and a faculty, according to Milam, "that let you slide by as long as you wore that Tech jersey."
His coach was McKinley Armstrong and, Milam said, "As far as knowing basketball, he was fine."
"But he never really gave me any advice," Milam said. "He never told me to stay in class or that I had to get certain grades to get into school."
Armstrong disagreed. "If he says that, he's lying," said Armstrong, who no longer coaches at McKinley but still teaches at the school.
"The kids knew they had to have the grades to stay eligible," Armstrong said. "Apple was an average student, but he still had to go to class. Sure I tried to help him, I tried to help all the kids. It wasn't just time in the gym. I'd have them over to the house, I'd call them, I tried to help them with their colleges. But kids have a certain responsibility, too. They have to show some initiative. You can't do everything for them."
So Milam, by his own admission, took the free ride.
"Yeah, I went to class, but my mind wasn't on the school work," he said. "All I thought about was basketball. I kept up a C average, but I wasn't there to go to school. I was there to play ball."
A counselor at McKinley Tech allowed a reporter to examine Milam's transcript. It showed that he received 200 on the verbal portion of the college boards in November, 1968, the lowest possible score. He scored 296 in math.
Four months later, he took the tests again and improved dramatically, to 346 on verbal and 550 in the math.
Milan explained the variation in the test scores, saying, "the first time I took it I had just gotten out of the hospital with pneunonia. I came to the test late and I didn't really know what was going on.I did a lot better the second time, that's about all I remember about it."
A source connected with the college board service said that kind of jump in scores is extremely unusual, but not impossible. Yet, that 550 in math came even though Milam had taken only one high school math course, and had failed it.
Milam's grades show about a D-plus average over his last three years, with two failing final grades - in Spanish and in government - and a class ranking of 530 among 656 graduating semiors.
He was always eligible to play basketball.
When it came time for Milam to pick one of the 300 schools that had contacted him about a scholarship, he learned he had few options.
"The only place he could get into was a junior college," recalled Art Tolis, now an assistant coach at LSU and then head coach at Indian River Junior College in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
"Yes. I remembered Apple," Tolis said."Just a great player. But he never when to class. I remember when I found out about it I went to talk to him. You know that kid actually ran away from me. I'd go to a building where he was supposed to be and he'd see me coming and head out the door.
"One day he finally told me he was going to withdraw. I told that was fine, just make sure you go to the registrar's office and tell them. He never did. He just left. And every grade he got that semester was a failure."
Milam's recollection of his two months at Indian River don't jibe with Tolis' account. He said he was conned into attending the school by promises of a campus near the beach, of room and board in a college dormitory, of other fringe benefits.
Instead, he insisted, he was placed in a dilapidated rooming house 25 miles from campus and given a meager allowance that barely covered expenses at the local McDonald's. "I never did find the beach," he said.
So he came home. He wrote the coach at the University of New Mexico and managed to get it. Then something else came up. His girl friend called him one night and told him she had had a bady.
He left Albuquerque and came home again. "That's when I started getting hooked up in the wrong environment," Milam said. "I started dealing with a few drugs, working over at a department store and a moving company." He tried registering at the University of Maryland in a program for minority inner-city youths. That didn't work out.
Milam went back to the corner, occasionally selling drugs, mostly using them. "I was a sorry salesman," he said. "I didn't make anything out of it, and since I wasn't selling it, why not use it? I was never what you'd call a heroin addict. It was mostly reefers, coke, every once in a while heroin."
One day he went for a ride with a friend. The friend had a .38 stashed in the back seat and 150 stolen checks in the golve compartment. They were stopped, Milam was charged with two counts of grand larceny, receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The bottom line was 2 1/2 to 10 at Lorton. Milam has served 2 years. "I really got myself together," he said. "I played ball all the time but I really think I learned to prepare myself for life.
"Yeah, dudes were always coming up to me out there and saying wow, how could you be here, you had so much going for you. They knew it hurt me, but they were right.
"After I got myself together. I figured I was glad to get locked up. At the rate I was going, I probably would have been dead or getting 20 to life. I've been to hell, and I don't ever want to go back."
So now the man they call Apple works during the day, still wanders over to the playground on the weekend, and hopes to play in the Urban Coalition League this summer.
"I know I could still play with those guys (the pros) if somebody gives me the chance," he said. "Yeah, I'm still dreaming."
Milton Wallace often would sit in front of his television set watching a major league baseball game and say to himself. "Hey, that could have been me."
'I knew I could play the game," said Wallace, 25, now serving a 3-to-9-year term at Lorton for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. "In fact, at the time I felt I was better than some of the catchers in the league. I just never got a chance."
Wallace's impatience for quick money destroyed any hope he had of wearing a major league baseball uniform.
After graduating from Calvert High in southern Maryland. Wallace enrolled at Maryland-Eastern Shore.
"I didn't like it so I transferred to Federal City College," Wallace said. "In the meantime, I was going to every baseball clinic and tryout ever held in the area. I wanted to be a pro baseball player that bad."
According to George Jefferson, athletic director at Calvert, Wallace was a pro prospect.
"Oh, he could really play," Jefferson said. "But at times, he was hard to handle, always had his own ideas of how things should be done.
'He had leadership qualities and was very likeable but at times he refused to accept criticism. I think had he gotten himself together mentally he would have been fine."
Wallace's patience wore thin as he waited for the break that never came. Meanwhile, his friends were driving big cars, wearing different suits each day.
"I realized it was wrong and I could see what it could to to people," Wallace said. "Selling drugs was an easy money maker and it started coming in like water.
"I still had hopes I would still make it to the pros, but I started making good money then," Wallace estimated he was making close to $2,500 a week at the time of his arrest.
"I was hoping to clear $100,000 by age 30 and get out of the business, but I got caught," he said. "When I get out, I'm not coming back."
Wallace doesn't blame the schools or society for his misfortunes.
"Academics is the key," he said. "There are a boatload of brothers out there that are great ball players or athletes but couldn't cut the grades. Finances are also a big problem for blacks.
"The fact that many young kids don't make it right away sends them back to the street and consequently crime. It's very heartbreaking thing to fail and many can't take it.
"If I had to tell a young kid a piece of advice, I'd say. 'Get your grades. Make that your No. 1 priority and everything else second.' When I was in school, I did just enough to get by. I just wanted to roll out on that baseball diamond.
Wallace feels to stay at Lorton has helped him adjust and convinced him dreams are just that, dreams.
Wallace is enrolled in the Washington Lorton-Federal City College education exchange program. He also fancies himself a decent photographer.
"I thought I'd give school another try," he said. "I've always thought positive and I can always improve academically. Besides, I've got the rest of my life in front of me."
He plays for the Bullets, and his team is leading the league. But those are the Lorton Bullets and the league is known as the LBL, (Lorton Basketball League).
Ten years ago, Donald Bullock though he had a chance to play in a league that goes by the initials NBA. He was 18 then, a first-team all-Metropolitan from Cardozo High School.
He said he received offers to attend places like Utah State, Southern California and UCLA, that he was an average student who did his homework and went to class, that he believed basketball might give him at least a chance for a scholarship.
When Bullock graduated, he found he couldn't get into those big schools, the ones he read about in the newspaper. His grades and his college board scores were too low. He took what he could get.
He got into Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, Wash. He stayed two years - make that two basketball seasons - then withdrew because of what he now describes as "family ties."
What were the "family ties." "I just had some things going on back here and I wanted to come home," he said. So he did.
Bullock worked part time as a teacher's aide at Chamberlain High and as recreation counselor for the D.C. government. He enrolled at Strayer Business College. He also started experimenting with drugs.
"I was running with some dudes who indulged in it, so I tried it and I got hooked into it," he said. One bad decision led to more and six months ago he was sentenced to two to six years for receiving stolen property.
Bullock is 27 and hoping for a parole in the next few months. The dream of playing professional basketball is over. He knows that 15 hours a day he used to spend on the playgrounds perfecting his jump shot, working on his moves, were mostly for nothing.
The only games he looks forward to now are those played in the Lorton Basketball League. "It relieves a lot of tension, and tension is part of every dude's life out here," he said.
When he gets out, he would like to work as roving leader in the recreation department "to help the kids."
And what would he tell them?
I'd tell them to stay on top of school. I'd tell them basketball is nice, but it's not the only thing. It was for me, and look what happened."
Carlton Wright's name has never appeared in the sports section of a newspaper. He never got the chance to make all-city or all-anything never played much on the varsity team at McKinley. So he quit.
"I played on the junior varsity in 10th grade and the next year I went out for the varsity," he said. "But they never gave me a fair shake. I stopped smoking. I was working out, my game was going good, real good.
"But the man wouldn't play me. I know I was better than most of the guys he had. But what was the use of staying on the team if you weren't playing. I tried to get transferred to Roosevelt the next year, but that didn't work out. So I quit school in 12th grade."
Wright's coach at McKinley also was Armstrong. "Yeah, Carlton Wright. I remember him," Armstrong said. "I don't even think he played on the team. Was he any good? If he didn't make our team, he couldn't have been.
"You know what call guys like that. Thugs. Yeah, that's what he was, a thug."
Carlton Wright is 22. He has a 3-year-old son. He is serving an eight to 24-year sentence for an armed robbery he insists he never committed.
"Very few of them will admit they're guilty," said Wayne Wilkins, recreation director at Lorton. "I don't even talk to them about it. It's not up to me to decide. Carlton Wright? And I can tell you is he's one of the basketball players we're got out there.
"Yeah, he could have gone to college. He's that good."
Wright started playing basketball when he was 8 in an alley behind his elementary school.
"I'd be in the court at 7 before school play for an hour, go to school, play during lunch, and go back and play until it got dark," he said. "It was basketball, basketball, basketball. That's all I thought about."
Even now, he is not shy about describing his talents. "I jump extremely well," he said, "and I use both hands. I'm a good shooter. Yeah, the way I see it, I should be playing college ball instead of being locked up.
'When I was growing up, my dream and my fantasy was to play in high school, play in college and maybe even get a crack at the pros. The only thing that kept me in school was sports, and when I could't play, I didn't need school.
"When I get out, I'd like to go back to school. I've got a son waiting for me, and this won't happen to him. I'll tell him what it's like. He'll know. "This ain't no playground. This is a jungle."