The player dribbles into the open court past blue and white uniforms alike. There is a quick exchange of passes and then with a sudden leap, a jump shot over an opponent's outstretched arm. The ball swishes through the basket. Kelly Ballentine has scored again.
It may be just another two points in a college basketball game, but Ballentine is no ordinary player. In fact, the George Washington forward is the nation's third-leading freshman scorer at 22 points a game.
She is also the player her teammates look for in key situations. Against Navy last week, Colonials Coach Denise Fiore called time with two minutes left and told the team to set screens for Ballentine.
"The older players understand; everyone wants to win," the confident 18-year-old said. "It's a lot of pressure for a freshman, sure, but I knew coming in I would be looked to for a lot of scoring."
Ballentine has always had that positive attitude; even before she got to Annandale High School. When she was in eighth grade she decided, "I would be as good as anyone ever from Annandale and that I would get a college scholarship." Braggadocio perhaps, but she was proven right on both counts.
Ballentine was a four-year starter for the Atoms, who perenially dominated the Potomac District. She also played tennis and was an all-District soccer goalie before concentrating on basketball.
As a freshman, Ballentine was a 5-foot-4 point guard. By her sophomore year of 1979-80, Ballentine had grown to within an inch of her present 5-10, and was providing instant offense for Coach Laura Hagan.
The following season, Ballentine could no longer be kept on the bench for any length of time. She and Emily Harman, now at the Naval Academy, gave Annandale another undefeated District campaign and conference crown. Harman, a senior, was the star, but Ballentine averaged 14 points a game.
"Kelly changed into a forward that year," Hagan said. "She held her own inside. I think it's helped her today because she played so many positions in high school."
Ballentine became the shooting guard for Annandale in 1981-82 but, despite her 24.4 point average, the Atoms fell to second place.
Ballentine is not totally happy with her part in GW's 6-11 start. "My quickness and defense will always need improvement and I'm disappointed in my shooting (.448)."
Ballentine's best asset is her long-range shooting. The 15-footer from the free-throw line is her best shot, but even with a hand in her face Ballentine can make jumpers from 18 or 20 feet look easy.
According to Hagan, "Kelly's very gifted, but what makes her so good is her attitude. She wants to play ball. She's worked at it constantly; not many kids will do that. Combine those factors and she's bound to be good."
Fiore would like to return her scoring whiz to shooting guard. "I like the guard position more," Ballentine said. "I'm more comfortable out front."
Out front is just where Fiore wants Ballentine for the next 3 1/2 seasons. Said Fiore, "Kelly's the first step on the right road."