The Washington area generally has fielded well-rounded basketball teams for national tournaments, with good chances of winning titles. But a cloud of uncertainty surrounds the all-star team that will represent the area in the 18th annual Boston Shootout that begins today at Boston University.

A year ago All-Met players Curt Smith and Michael Tate led the D.C. team into the eight-team shootout with high expectations. But they lost a thrilling fast-break affair to Boston in the semifinals, before falling to New York in the consolation game.

This year's representatives to the prestigious tournament for high schoolers and college-bound seniors haven't practiced much. And, as of Monday, the roster had not been set as five of the 10 players on the original list dropped out because of prior commitments or schedule conflicts.

Providence-bound Michael Smith, an intimidating 6-foot-8 All-Met from Dunbar High School, figured to be one of the team's catalysts, along with Duke-bound Grant Hill from South Lakes and Georgetown recruit Charles Harrison of Carroll. On Wednesday night, however, Smith told Coach Aaron Long he had decided not to play.

Smith, who would have been making his third straight shootout appearance, said he has to be at Providence for school-related business on Sunday. Also off the roster are Robert Churchwell, a Georgetown-bound All-Met out of Gonzaga; Robert Garner (Potomac, Md.); and Sidney Shelton (Carroll). Herndon senior Luteke Kalombo, a cousin of Georgetown's Dikembe Mutombo, was dropped because he missed a practice session, Long said.

Dunbar players Johnny Rhodes, a 6-5 swingman, and 6-7 James Marshall, were chosen as replacements. The team also includes Duke-bound Kenny Blakeney from DeMatha, and aggressive 6-7 shot blocker Deo Djoussou from Suitland.

"Basically the kids are smart enough to adjust to what's going on when they go out onto the court," said Long. "Every team has the same problem, but we will be together when we get up there. When they throw up the ball, we will be serious."

Area players such as Hill and Providence-bound Dickie Simpkins, a 6-10 two-time All-Met from Friendly, might be a little more hungry this time since they have not won the tournament in their previous two trips.

"We just have to dig down a little deeper," said Simpkins. "It's a great experience to play in the Boston Garden {site of the championship game Sunday} and there is a lot of exposure. We haven't won it, but even if we don't this year we're still going to have fun."