Although Washington long has had a rich basketball tradition, the girls game didn't really develop locally until the mid-1970s with the emergence of such players as Gwen Jones of Ballou, Chrissy Reese of Holy Cross and Tara Heiss of Walter Johnson. In 1981, college women's programs came under the jurisdiction of the NCAA and recruiting for the top girls has become almost as intense as it is for the boys.
"Under the AIAW, contacts had to be made by phone and campus visits couldn't be paid for. This year, the whole game has changed," Blair Coach Bill Lindsey said. So much so, that at schools such as Virginia AAA champion W.T. Woodson, the top players' fast breaks and jump shots are videotaped by eager college recruiters.
Those recruiters were pursuing the Cavaliers' Lorraine Rimson and Helene Baroody, who were ranked in one publication among the top 25 prospects in the nation.
Baroody, The Washington Post's player of the year and a four-year starter at point guard, shot 53 percent from the field and averaged nine assists a game. Rated as one of the top playmakers nationally, she will be running the offense for Auburn next season.
Rimson, a forward who averaged 18.7 points and 13 rebounds, was looking for a school with a strong public relations program and opted for Florida State. Maryland, the local college power, recruited both players early in the season, but they wanted to attend school away from home.
H.D. Woodson Coach Bob Headen had two more top players. Colleges came looking for 5-6 guards Lisa Riley and India Frazier, who shared both guard positions while the Warriors were losing only five games over the past three seasons. Riley, an honor student who edged Frazier for the city's top player in junior high school, looked at Harvard, Fordham, Massachusetts, George Mason, George Washington and Howard before deciding on American.
"With no pros for the girls, education is more important than basketball," Headen said. "Lisa knows the game very well. Her best shot is the jumper up to 19 feet. India's best move is her drive. No one can stop her one on one." Frazier chose to stay home, too, selecting Howard over West Virginia, Morgan State, Virginia State and Tampa.
Kas Allen of Potomac District champion Wakefield was contacted by more than 30 schools before the season began. Allen, a 6-foot power forward and All-Met selection, averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds a game while making 54 percent of her shots. Allen will join 1982 Annandale star and freshman All-America Kelly Ballentine at George Washington next season.
West Springfield All-America Liza Lank (16, 10.5) hasn't worried about tempting college offers. The 6-foot forward's first-ever letter came from Virginia her sophomore year, and the Cavaliers have been her choice ever since. "The academics were very important and at Virginia they don't put pressure on you to score 20 points a game," Lank said.
Like Lank, Seton's Lisa Green made up her mind early: the 5-11 post player will follow her sister Karla to Mount St. Mary's. Seton Coach Ginny Pontius termed Green (17.6, 12.4) "a take-control type player. She's the team leader, the kind of loose kid coaches like to have."
Blair's Charlene Thomas, twice a first-team All-Met center, spurned more than 100 offers, including a last-minute bid by Iowa, to take passes from Baroody at Auburn. The 6-foot Thomas led the Blazers to 63 wins in 72 games over three seasons while averaging 22.4 points and 16.8 rebounds.
"The nice thing about Charlene is that she's always looking to improve," Lindsey said. "She can score and rebound inside and handle the ball on fast breaks. One college coach said he could see her as a big guard."
Largo's Angie Lewis is only 5-5 but is also an All-Met guard. Lewis was 90 percent set on Cheyney State and Coach Vivian Stringer when Stringer opted to move on to Iowa. Lewis chose to follow Stringer, who has the mandate to start a first-class program in Iowa City. According to Largo Coach Barbara Tyner, Lewis, who averaged over 13 assists, "is the best player I've ever coached. She's a natural-born leader on and off the court. She has the ability to read offenses and defenses in a split second."
A few years ago, good players could review their college offers almost that quickly. Today, the NCAA administers recruiting equally for both sexes and the quality of the college women's game has improved as fast as recruiting has boomed. Still, five of these top nine players decided to play college basketball in the tri-state area.
"I've had to learn the NCAA rules very quickly for my players' sake," Tyner said. "You have to avoid the technicalities that can make you ineligible. Kids have to be aware of that when they start playing and so do their parents. Schools are already looking at my sophomores."