LeBron James is traveling like a professional player these days. And not just on the court.

James, the nation's most hyped player and expected No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, is driving a Hummer H2, a sports utility vehicle popular with many pro athletes, around Akron, Ohio.

James's ride -- with a base retail price of nearly $50,000 -- has state high school officials wondering if the 18-year-old has jeopardized his amateur standing.

"We have some concerns," said Clair Muscaro, commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. "The thing I'm concerned about is that it was a gift from the outside. . . . When our schools see something like that, it throws up a red flag. It's different than a parent buying their son or daughter a small vehicle."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that James, a senior at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, was given the vehicle as an 18th birthday present by his mother, Gloria.

The SUV is outfitted with three televisions and a hookup for computer games. Gloria James obtained a bank loan to finance the purchase, the paper said quoting anonymous sources close to the team.

Gloria James declined to comment.

Muscaro said the athletic association is interested in hearing what the 600-student private Catholic school has to say about the young superstar's vehicle.

According to an athletic association bylaw, an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."


Coach Proves Inspiring

Diane Geppi-Aikens has had three operations to remove a recurring brain tumor and endured exhausting radiation treatments. She now faces the reality of no cure and considers herself lucky.

"I'm fortunate to know my situation. I get to say goodbye every day and that's a pretty special thing," she said. "It's not like the people in the World Trade Center. They didn't have a chance to say goodbye."

The 40-year-old women's lacrosse coach at Loyola College in Baltimore was honored yesterday with the NCAA Inspiration Award at the organization's convention in Anaheim, Calif. The single mother of four is determined to coach as long as she can.

"It's frustrating because my left hand doesn't work as well, and I'm not able to use it on the wheelchair now," she said. "But I have four kids and a team to keep me going."

Geppi-Aikens led Loyola to a 15-4 record last year and to its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Her 14-year record at the school is 180-69.


Yao Plans to Play

Rockets center Yao Ming, who left Houston's game against Denver on Saturday late in the first quarter with a mild ligament sprain on the outside of his left knee, said he will play tonight against Boston. . . .

Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl is willing to sell a majority interest in the team. Kohl, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, has asked a New York investment banking firm and Commissioner David Stern to help him assess the franchise and its value, and help identify people or investor groups that would have an interest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.


Japan Ties Up U.S.

Japan surprised defending Women's World Cup champion United States by playing to a scoreless tie in San Diego, snapping the hosts' 12-game winning streak. The Americans, who outshot Japan 12-4, failed to convert on a number of scoring chances in the first half.


Tapia Is Improving

Boxer Johnny Tapia's condition was upgraded from critical to serious, a day after he fell down in Las Vegas and lost consciousness. A University Medical Center spokesman provided no further information other than the five-time world champion's condition had improved.

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, with the help of a knee brace, plans to give his teammates proper support in tonight's game against the Celtics.