The financial cloud hovering over women's professional basketball in Washington appears to be lifting.
With their sale Friday to Alcon Food Products Inc., the Washington Metros have little standing in the way of their season opener scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the D.C. Armory Starplex against the San Francisco Pioneers.
Alcon, a company based in East Rutherford, N.J., that is listed on the over-the-counter stock exchange, purchased the franchise for $1.5 million in a stock transfer. The new ownership said it plans to keep the team in Washington but has decided against the original plan of dividing games with Baltimore.
Washington will play seven of its 17 home games at the Starplex and two at Capital Centre. The Metros are expected to announce today that their remaining eight home games will be played at Catholic University.
Nat Frazier, Metro president and coach, said he is thrilled to see the last business questions being ironed out so that the public's attention can shift to basketball.
"We've just been working on getting ready for the season," said Frazier. "Now that everything is cleared up, I'm just interested in getting people out to watch the team and see the quality of the league."
During the exhibition season, in which they won two and lost two, the Metros were a fast-breaking, high-scoring ensemble that scored more than 100 points on three occasions.
"With the 24-second clock, you have to play a fast-paced game. If we get the break, we take it. If we don't, we set up. We can score in any offense. tWe have people like Cathy Shoemaker, who can hit the outside jumper like Sam Jones or Jerry West," Frazier said.
The Metros have talent just out of college. Shoemaker, a 5-foot-10 forward who was All-Atlantic Coast Conference three years at North Carolina, will start at forward, along with Bertha Hardy, a 5-10 rookie who averaged 18 points and 18 rebounds at Jackson State.
Hardy's teammate at Jackson State, 5-7 Evelyn Bender, will start at guard with 5-5 Vivian Green, out of Norfolk State. Green was the fourth-leading scorer in the league last season with the now-defunct Dayton Rockets, and had a 31-point exhibition game for the Metros against the New Jersey Gems.
The center slot is wide open, with 6-foot-4 Willodean Harris, from Alabama State, currently splitting time with 6-foot-2 Charlene McWhorter, from Georgia's Albany State. Things in the middle will be further complicated when Debbie Stewart, from Maryland, returns. The 6-foot-2 Stewart, also named All-ACC three times, has a cast on a sprained ankle.
Frazier has spiced the team with other such experienced players as Accronetta (Neat) Cooper, a 6-foot forward acquired from the Minnesota Fillies, and Carmen (Cheese) Fletcher, a 5-9 forward from the New York Stars.
"We have a great mix of talent, youth and experience," said Frazier. "With seven expansion teams in the league, I'm sure we'll be among the top ones and I think we'll be very competitive with the established clubs. We have a great offense . . . we just could stand to be a little more serious-minded on defense."