Chris Gray, who recently finished the eighth grade at Hoover Middle School in Rockville, is months away from playing his first high school basketball game. But the 5-foot-10 guard already is at the center of a controversy including allegations of recruiting and canceled tournament invitations.

The Gray situation isn't unique. Although recruiting is a violation of league rules in every area jurisdiction and the number of student-athletes who change schools for athletic reasons has decreased, the business of athletes switching schools is still a concern.

According to Gonzaga Headmaster Joe Ciancaglini and Coach Dick Myers, Gray selected Gonzaga as his first choice of high schools, requested his junior high school records be sent to the Catholic school and made a visit. But after a visit to DeMatha, he decided to attend that school.

"It was strictly a process of elimination," said his father, Brian Gray, an administrator at Howard University. "We wanted Chris to attend a private, parochial school for a number of reasons and we looked at a few schools. First, there is the financial aspect. Assuming I didn't get financial aid {from Gonzaga}, attending DeMatha would save me 8,000 dollars to 10,000 dollars over a four-year period. I think both schools are sound academically and athletically.

"Maybe I was a bit naive to the process, but in order to take the test for admission to any Catholic school you had to name a school of your choice and we named Gonzaga. After visiting, my son decided on DeMatha. I know the Gonzaga people are upset, but attending a school strictly for basketball reasons was hardly on my mind. We looked at everything and my son felt more comfortable at DeMatha."

Ciancaglini said students often change their minds about schools and this is not a big issue. "I have talked with DeMatha Principal John Moylan about this and there was a slight misunderstanding," Ciancaglini said. "Usually when a student names the school of his choice and sends the transcript there, another school will not talk with that student until he officially informs the {first} school he is no longer interested. Chris did not officially register here but he talked with DeMatha before telling us he was no longer interested in attending Gonzaga. That is what happened and it's a dead issue now."

Myers said the situation was a major reason DeMatha was not invited back to Gonzaga's basketball tournament in December.

"We just thought it was a breach of ethics," said Myers, who has coached at Gonzaga 15 years. "We were tickled pink Chris Gray was coming here. I never saw him play but some people have told me he could be a good player. Something like this could create animosity but the situation was taken out of the coach and athletic director's hands. The headmasters had to solve it. I think for that reason, we decided not to renew the contract with DeMatha for the tournament."

DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten said he has spoken with Myers about the situation and hopes there will be no hard feelings. He was surprised his team was not invited back to the tournament.

"We are the defending champion and had verbally agreed to return," Wootten said. "Then I found out we are not being invited back. This is the first time we have ever been uninvited anywhere."Raiding Public Schools

Public school coaches feel their teams are being raided by private schools that want top athletes to keep their programs and schools operating. For instance, Harker Prep in Potomac has begun a major upgrading of its basketball program in the hopes of attracting more students to the small, expensive private school. Headmaster Chris Kieffer recently hired Stu Vetter, former coach at private school Flint Hill, as coach and athletic director. Kieffer said he believes Vetter's reputation as a coach and motivator will attract top players.

More than 1,500 boys and girls will participate in the dozen or so summer basketball leagues that have recently begun play. Most coaches say that although a handful of players will transfer schools at season's end, very little recruiting occurs during the summer months.

"A lot of the recruiting that is done is done by the kids themselves," said Largo Coach Louis Wilson, director of the Falconers' Summer League. "The kids look around and approach coaches and inquire about transferring schools. It happens a lot. I know kids have talked to me but I can't do anything about that. There are rules regarding transferring. I know the private schools can raid the public schools at will and there is nothing we can do about it. It isn't fair, but sometimes it is hard for a 15-, 16-year-old kid to say no to the programs like DeMatha who are rich in basketball tradition."

Dunbar Coach Mike McLeese said recruiting is a dirty word but most of it is done before summer leagues begin.

"During the year coaches will talk with your players and try to convince them their programs are better for one reason or another. I don't call it recruiting, I call it raiding," McLeese said. "I have one kid on my team who transferred {Scoop Marshall from Anacostia}. But he did that on his own and I called his coach {Tom Hargrove} to let him know I had nothing to do with Marshall's leaving. But recruiting is not as bad as it used to be.

"Now, most kids stay at the school they selected initially. Kids coming out of junior high now look at the travel, look at the schools with winning programs and the schools that get their players in college.

"I think there should be a one-year sit-out rule for transfers just like in college," said McLeese, whose teams have won back-to-back city championships. "If a kid transfers, he should not be allowed to play. That would discourage any notions about switching schools.

"Parents should take more of an interest in directing their kids in the ninth grade. Kids are too young to make that kind of decision. Coaches send kids to Dunbar and DeMatha because we are supposed to have so much. I hope one day to have the reputation of Morgan Wootten. We are teachers first, coaches second, and the goal is to get the kids in college."

The sit-out rule is in effect in the Metro Conference, and most coaches say they can't remember a player tranferring from one conference school to another to play sports.

"I certainly don't remember any impact player transferring schools within our conference. That just doesn't happen," said Carroll Holmes, the coach at Archbishop Carroll the past eight seasons. "The kids don't do it because they know they can't play. Of course, if there are certain extenuating circrumstances the issue would go to the commissioner {J. Dallas Shirley} and he would make the ruling. Now, if kids transfer from another school system, he would be eligible, but we don't get much of that either.

"As far as recruiting kids, I don't do it. Don't believe in it. I have never been to a junior high school or CYO {Catholic Youth Organization} game to see a kid play simply because I don't want to give him the impression I'm recruiting him. We take the kids who come here and work with them. It works for us."

Young players know the reputations and winning traditions of coaches such as Holmes, McLeese, Wootten and Myers, and don't need to be wooed. Wootten said he receives dozens of calls from coaches, former alumni and friends telling him about potential players.

"I have recommended kids stay where they are. I happen to be in a unique self-perpetuating position where people will call here," Wootten said. "I don't go see {junior high} kids play. If a coach calls, sometimes one of my assistants will go. I don't have to recruit anyone."Attempts at Reform

In the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, recruiting is almost nonexistent, mainly because of the close scrutiny of residency requirements by the Maryland State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League.

"Out here, kids need cars and you almost must attend the school in the area where you live. Loopholes are getting tighter every year," said W.T. Woodson Coach Red Jenkins. "If you decide to transfer without having a corresponding address, you have to sit out a year. The VHSL has taken a very strong stand on the transfers and very few kids do it. In D.C., all kids have to do is jump on the Metro and they can get to any school in town. Getting caught recruiting kids isn't worth the hassle."

The coaches do agree that because the importance of the summer leagues, recruiting continues to rear its ugly head.

"If you expect to be seen {by a college coach}, you better be playing somewhere. A lot of kids get signed from their summer league play," Wootten said. "No pressure is placed on kids to play, but most will be playing somewhere most of the time. It's an evaluation period for coaches, you just want to see what the kids can do before the fall."

The Metro Conference eliminated its rule prohibiting coaches from handling their summer league teams, but Myers, Wootten and Holmes still prefer sitting in the stands while assistants do the screaming.

"The era of the three-sport athlete is gone. It is almost a year-round commitment for the kids who are the very good players," Myers said. "With a few exceptions, kids play all year. The summer provides exposure and, rather than spend a lot of money going to camps, they can play in the summer leagues."

McLeese says he doesn't attend every game but keeps up with his players' progress.

"Winning isn't the objective of summer league and hopefully, the kids who haven't played much will learn something and adjust to being in a highly competitive environment," he said. "Kids gain confidence but more importantly, experience."

Holmes, a former player at DeMatha and American University, says he attends the games because he is also a big fan.

"I don't know if the kids would suffer if there were no summer leagues but I think it is worth it for them to play," Holmes said. "I think summer basketball is fine for the kids because a lot of them get a chance to play organized basketball and improve. I certainly don't look at the summer leagues as a recruiting tool."