Basketball practice for most area colleges starts Saturday and, for the second straight year, Maryland coach Lefty Driesell is restraining himself until 10 a.m. Thursday.

The day of the midnight practice is gone, and so are starters brad Davis and Steve Sheppard. But perhaps Driesell can afford to loaf for the first 10 hours of the preseason with vaunted freshman ALbert King due to put on his first pair of Maryland sweat socks.

King has had a variety of ills lately - tonsillitis and mononucleosis among them - but the wrost, Driessell fears, is his chronic generosity.

"Given the choice to shoot or pass, Albert will pass, even though he often would be better off taking the shot," said Driesell. "He wants people to like him, accept him. He's too conscious about what other people think of him.

"If a publicized player like him came in here arrogant, there would be trouble. But he's the opposite, almost to an extreme. I want him to take over, be himself."

Driesell's starting lineup will be a week-to-week thing, but count on seeing a lot of Lawrence Boston (174 rebounds, 13 points per game), Larry Gibson (228 rebounds, 10-point average) and Mike Davis (172 rebounds, five-point average) in the front court. JoJo Hunter, the likely replacement for Davis at point guard and Bill Bryant should share time at the guard spots again.

And don't forget King, Driesell will use the early practices to decide where the lanky 6-6 King will fit in.

Only one thing never changes at Maryland.

"As usual, our strength will be coaching," said Driesell, then, thinking it over, added, "Naw . . . only kidding." GEORGETOWN

Georgetown isn't kidding about improving on last year's 19-9 record with four starters and 12 lettermen returning, including its leading scorer and assist man, guard Derrick Jackson.

Craig (Big Sky) Shelton, high school player of the year in Washington two seasons ago, appears to be back to full plays up to expectations at Larry Long's vacated forward spot, the Hoyas' hopes will soar.

AMERICAN

American begins preparing for its opener with Maryland, looking to fill some gaping holes. Five of the top eight scorers are gone, and among the 10 lettermen only senior center Howie Lassoff returns from the starting lineup.

The Eagles may move Lassoff (6-10) to forward, start 6-5 sophomore Leon Kearny at the other forward, divide center between 6-10 Tom Pfotzer and there will be much to decide in practice. GEORGE WASHINGTON

The Colonials may undergo a transformation from their familiar, guard-oriented offense to an inside team, fueled by leaping 6-5 forward Les (High Rise) Anderson. Guard John Holloran, the team's leading scorer, is gone, and there is a gap at the other forward.

Eight lettermen return from last year's team that went 14-12 and finished third in the Eastern Eight. HOWARD#TAll five 1976-77 starters will attend Howard's opening practice, but the first five spots aren't necessarily taken. Nathanial Speight led the team in scoring during its tour of Brazil with 18 points per game and will challenge guard David Whitehead for a starting spot.

The Bison expect 6-10 center Dorian Dent to become more of an offensive threat than he was last season, when the Bisons went 18-10. CATHOLIC

The Cardinals begin their second year in the NCAA's Division II after a respectable 13-13 showing last season. The schedule is tougher, and leading scorer Glenn Kolonics has departed.

But backcourt volunteers are plentiful, and the charge is headed by big gun Dave Butler, the nation's leading junior-college scorer last year with a 33.6-point average at Burlington Community College in New Jersey. NAVY

Can the Mids top last year's 13-11 record, their best in 15 years?

Only six lettermen return, including top scorers Hank Kuzma and Kevin Sinnett, and two starting positions are up in the air. Front-court depth could be shaky. BOWIE STATE

Bowie State waits until Sunday to welcome back its three returning lettermen and one starter from the 5-21 team of last year. Taft Hickman, from Laurel High School, takes over as head coach and must replace leading scorer George Moore. U of D.C.

On Monday, coach Emory Waters begins the task of assembling a basketball team from the remnants of his Federal City team, D.C. Teachers (which went 23-6) and Washington Tech, the three schools that merged this year to form U.D.C. The team needs a center but has good forwards in Barry Frazier from Tech an Gary Simmons from Teachers. GALLAUDET

Ten lettermen and five starters are back and will begin practicing this week. Gallaudet won five games outright and two by forfiet while losing 17, and the schedule looks like more of the same. GEORGE MASON

George Mason unveils a team Monday with more muscles up front than ever before. Two freshen from Brooklyn, 6-10 center Andre Gaddy, the tallest player in the school's history, and a 6-6 forward Riley Clarida, are expected to team with Loyola of Chicago transfer Keith Lewis (6-7) t ogive GM its biggest front line. MONTGOMERY ROCKVILLE

Coach Don Drown says his club has more potential than in years past, but he won't look at his prospects until Oct. 24. Seven lettermen and three starters return from last year's 9-13 team. VIRGINIA

Nine lettermen, including four starters, will be back at Virginia, where Tulane transfer Tom Hicks and Jeff Lamb, the most highly recruited prospect in the school's history, figure to strengthen the squad that went 12-17 last year. But the Cavaliers are making a tradition of reaching the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament finals, no matter what. Six-10 center Otis Fulton has forsaken hoops for schoolbooks in preparation for medical school. VIRGINIA TECH

Tech starts practice Saturday without leading scorer and rebounder Duke Thorpe and two of his starting friends. Just six lettermen back from last season's 19-10 team make for a young flock of Gobblers. STRAYER JC

Strayer goes from a seven-game schedule to 16 and coach James Brown was able to recruit for the first time. He hopes newcomers Richard Benson (6-8 center), Junius Fowlkes (6-4 forward) and Tyrone Irby (6-1 guard) will bolster a team that returns three letterman from a winless season.