Summer basketball camps are big business, especially for star college players, who can earn as much as $500 a week, plus expenses, by working as counselors.

Some camps received so many requests this summer that they have had to turn away prospective counselors, even though some prominent camps employ 15 to 20 a week. Virginia all-America Ralph Sampson, who isn't likely to be a reject anywhere, has worked at camps in the Midwest, East and South.

NCAA rules state an athlete cannot accept pay or the promise of pay for any form of participation in his collegiate sport. Nor can an athlete directly or indirectly use his athletic skills for pay in any form.

Yet basketball and, to a much lesser degree, football players, can make thousands of dollars during the summer by using their athletic skills for pay in the summer camps. David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, said last week, "Camp participation is not unusual at all, and, yes, is permissible.

"I can't tell you what the normal pay is," Berst said. "But as long as it's an actual job and he gets paid according to the normal going rate for those services, it's fine. The athlete is not supposed to be paid additional monies because of his individual athletic reputation, however." Berst said the NCAA doesn't specifically monitor summer camps, but added "there is no special abuse" he is aware of.

Of course, not all athletes holding summer jobs are counselors. Interviews conducted by The Washington Post during the last two weeks with athletes and coaches showed college athletes holding a variety of summer jobs, from construction work to interning with the Senate Finance Committee (Georgetown's Patrick Ewing) to clam diving (Virginia football player Kevin Riccio).

More than 30 Howard athletes, including basketball player Bernard Perry and Tracy Singleton, the school's all-time leading receiver, work for Colorado Security, making $4 to $5 per hour. Raven Systems and Research Inc. (an information-processing company) employs seven basketball players from the University of the District of Columbia.

A large percentage of players, like their peers not involved in athletics, are unemployed. Just as many are going to summer school. But most employed athletes got help from coaches or influential alumni.

"Most of the guys I know couldn't find jobs, so they either went to summer school or are just hanging out," said Kenny Payne, a UDC basketball player. "I bet only 2 or 3 percent were able to find jobs on their own."

The percentage of basketball players working during the summer is decreasing, too, because many tour Europe or the Far East for special tournaments. Kentucky's basketball team just returned from three weeks of exhibitions in the Orient. Earl Jones and Michael Britt of UDC and Mark Nickens of American have been playing abroad much of the summer.

Still, of all the summer occupations, one of the most interesting is that of camp counselor.

Rich Grawer, the new coach at St. Louis University, has had Sampson at his camp twice this year. Sampson came because of a long association with Glenn Korobov, Grawer's assistant. The camp, which never had more than 100 youngsters before, had more than 400 (at about $200 each) for the two weeks. So many college players were interested in working as counselors that Grawer had to turn down Randy Reed, a starter at nearby Kansas State.

The 7-foot-4 Sampson, not suprisingly, was the feature attraction.

"Ralph worked a station (a brief demonstration post) on inside play for 90 minutes each morning, coached a team and lectured a lot," Grawer said. "The counselors also referee three-on-three games after lunch, then perform in two or three five-on-five scrimmages in the evenings.

"We paid their travel expenses and we gave everybody different fees," Grawer said. "The lowest was about $100 and it went up to about $400. Everybody fit in, according to who he was (coach, counselor, teacher, etc.) and how long he worked for us. I'd rather not say how much we paid Ralph or any specific individual.

"I can tell you that you can't call Sampson and say, 'Hey, Ralph, we'll give you $1,000 for doing camp this week.' You have to pay him within the structure," Grawer continued. "You have to pay the going rate for your camp staff."

Bill Cronauer, who runs the B/C camps in Indiana and Georgia, has hired Glenn Rivers of Marquette, Kenny Patterson of De Paul and Voise Winters of Bradley as counselors already this year. Dominque Wilkins, the former Georgia star, has worked for Cronauer three summers.

(Incidentally, another Georgia star, Herschel Walker, is just hanging out at home in Wrightsville, Ga., this summer, according to the school's sports information department.)

"We pay $100 for three days, and no expenses," Cronauer said. "I don't know how much counselors at other camps are making. Nobody's going to make a bundle off of us, though. If we weren't in demand, getting the caliber of kids that we're getting, maybe we'd have to pay them more money.

"People come up to me all the time and say, 'Hey, you've gotta be paying Dominique Wilkins more than you're paying Darryl Smith from Memphis State.' But we don't. We've never had a problem treating the stars and the subs the same."

Pete Holbert, Maryland's reserve guard/forward, said he can make about $200 a week for six weeks during the summer, working at area camps like Red Jenkins' Camp in Fairfax, run by his former high school coach. But Holbert often works the entire week--not three or four days as most camps require--for six hours a day or longer.

"It's fun, I can keep myself in shape and it certainly isn't the hardest thing in the world," Holbert said.

Howard Garfinkel, who runs the nationally renowned Five-Star Camp for some of the best high school players in the nation, said he pays a "$100 flat fee" to a counselor. Garfinkel usually employs 25 per week; they have included Mark West of Old Dominion, Tony Wilson of Western Kentucky and Trent Tucker of Minnesota.

"If the kid does extra work and stays a whole week (as opposed to three or four days), we may pay him $50 extra," Garfinkel said. Five-Star (held in Pittsburgh this summer) pays less than most camps because it has no trouble getting big-name college players. "When they come here," he said, "they work. A lot of guys go for cheesecake--sign an autograph or two and leave after two hours. A big-name guy could make $300 to $500 just to hang out for a little while."

Very few college athletes in this area are working the camps. Adrian Branch, Maryland's sophomore-to-be basketball star, has been in summer school. Other Maryland basketball players, like Ben Coleman, Ed Farmer, Herman Veal and Jeff Adkins, are working at Safeway stores.

Football camps are not as common as those for basketball. Maryland players Mike Lewis, John Nash and Boomer Esiason, the starting quarterback, worked as counselors at Joe Namath's camp in New York for a week this summer. Howard's Craig Cason has worked at camps in western Maryland and California.

Every year there are reports of varsity athletes showing up at some firm for two hours, collecting $10 an hour for a full day's pay. Quintin Dailey, a basketball star at the University of San Francisco last season, reportedly was paid handsomely last year for a summer job he never worked.

Bobby Ross, football coach at Maryland, said this week he doesn't want his players "doing nothing harder than opening a door for $15 an hour."

"I'm all for them making as much money as they can for honest work," Ross said. "I'd prefer them working hard jobs (construction work, moving companies) because it keeps them in shape. I've seen guys who had been given everything in college, including the easy summer jobs, and it always shows up somewhere down the line."

Ross said he has enlisted alumni to help athletes find summer jobs.

Alumni assistance can be a sensitive issue in itself. In a recession, permanent employes and unemployed students aren't always thrilled when an influential alumnus throws around a little weight and comes up with a nice-paying job for a guy who just happens to run fly patterns well.

The wealthier schools, of course, are likely to have the more prominent and influential alumni.

At Georgetown, the relationship between alumni and the basketball program apparently is strong, but closely monitored. Alumni, according to one former player, are required to go through the basketball office before approaching players about summer employment.

Bob Lighthizer, chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee and a Georgetown alumnus, hired Ewing as a summer intern at a reported $800 per month. Last summer, Lighthizer hired Mike Hancock, who graduated this year. Lighthizer did not return a reporter's phone calls the last two weeks to talk about his relationship with the Georgetown basketball program.

Steve Martin, who played basketball at Georgetown and is now an accountant in Washington, worked a variety of jobs on Capitol Hill for two summers when he was a student. Martin, from Louisiana, said he initiated contact with his state senator and a Georgetown alumnus about working as an intern, which led to his interest in finance and accounting.

"I have no problem with alums helping athletes find jobs as long as it's done professionally," said Martin, who has since recommended students for summer jobs. "Find a kid who can handle the job and help him to get something meaningful out of it. I have seen guys (who) alums should not have put in some work situations. And I don't like to see it happen.

"But not utilizing alumni contacts would be ridiculous," Martin said. "After all, what are alumni associations for?

"Athletes are giving a whole lot to their schools--financially, I mean. For a school to say, 'We're giving you an education and that's enough,' isn't a good attitude. Helping athletes find summer jobs isn't too much to ask."

There is another side to the alumni-student connection. Athletics at Howard have been emphasized only since 1969. Most alumni who actively support Howard's biggest sports (soccer, basketball and football) are under 35, meaning few have been working long enough to influence summer hiring.

"A lot of our successful grads are doctors and lawyers. They're influential, but those professions don't really control jobs or positions," said A.B. Williamson, Howard's basketball coach. "We've got a major problem getting Washington alums to help our kids get summer jobs. If some would step forward, I'd be very happy."

Perry, one of many Howard athletes working at Colorado Security, is guarding the Harvard Towers, a home for the elderly. "After some football players had worked there a couple of years ago, the people at the company asked if there were any more guys who needed summer jobs," he said.

"I was looking for a job but everybody else kept putting me on hold, so I took this. It's 30 hours a week, and sometimes on weekends, which keeps me from playing Urban Coalition (summer basketball). I haven't heard of anybody making $10 an hour doing nothing. I think that stuff happens less now than it did a few years ago because of the economy. I know I wouldn't mind dumping trash for $15 an hour, though."

One coach who was successful in helping his players find jobs is UDC's Wil Jones. Jones went to James Brown, an executive at Raven Systems, one day and said, "I need some jobs for my boys."

Brown, an all-Met basketball player at De Matha High School, a Harvard graduate and broadcast analyst of college and pro basketball games, went to the company president, Ray Mott, and got approval to hire seven UDC basketball players.

Four players work in the corporate headquarters; three more--Johnny Jones, Greg Carson and George Gibbs--work in the warehouse. Several players have done so well this summer that their supervisors have assigned them additional duties.

Payne, a computer programming major at UDC, works in the data processing divison. He and Jeff Carmichael (micrographics lab worker) operate some of the company's most expensive computer and photographic equipment.

"I don't know what I would have done this summer if I didn't get this job," Payne said. "With unemployment like it is, I'd probably wind up just hanging out and playing basketball." Payne already has told Mott he'll be back for a permanent job after graduation.

James Neal works in personnel and marketing. He often interviews prospective employes for Raven. Phil Morgan, a confidential assistant, said the job has become "a source of personal pride, because I didn't want to get paid for dumping trash this summer."

Mott, 43, a self-made businessman who grew up on welfare in New Haven, Conn., told the players before he hired them, "You'll be out the door if you don't work like everybody else here.

"I'm seeing too many (athletes) who don't develop a work ethic," Mott said. "A lot of them don't even have the verbal skills to sell themselves. So many alums see that student athletes have something that pays, but doesn't teach them anything. That's as bad, if not worse, than having a teacher giving a failing student a passing grade. It's another example that you can pass if you can put the ball in the hoop or throw a good curve."

Brown worked at the Department of Commerce in the office of minority business enterprise one summer, thanks largely to a neighbor who was a personnel officer. He is optimistic the number of "cheesecake" jobs is diminishing.

"There are definitely guys from big-time basketball and football schools who work two or three hours a day, making significant dollars for tasks that weren't taxing intellectually or physically," Brown said. "Some of those same guys are struggling today. That's why we're trying to teach these guys that sliding by, even in a summer job, isn't going to help them in the long run."