It was June 1975. Summer school had just started at the University of Maryland, and Len Elmore had a problem. He was enrolled in an English course, but couldn't make the first couple of classes on the College Park campus because he was in Indianapolis, playing for the Indiana Pacers against the Kentucky Colonels for the American Basketball Association championship. So he sent his girlfriend, Gail Segal, to sit in for him in the class until the season was over. Mr. Elmore had been a star player for the Maryland basketball team in the early 1970s, a 6-foot-9 center with ferocious rebounding and defensive skills. He had helped the team rise to the highest levels of college basketball, and was on his way to a promising professional career with the Pacers. He had been a big, big man on campus. But not everyone was impressed. "The professor pulled her aside," Mr. Elmore says now, recalling the situation with a smile. "He said, 'You're here for Len Elmore? Well, you tell Len Elmore that he's not going to breeze through this class. I'm not going to give him a grade. He's got to work his a-- off just like anyone else.' "Well, I had two reactions. One, I took his remarks as a challenge: I wanted to do well because I needed to, because I was short 18 credits for graduation. Secondly, it was like, 'Hey, what do you think -- that I'm just a dumb jock?' Or worse, racially sensitive -- a dumb black jock? That was the challenge I took. I just can't stand it. It raises every hackle on my back." Just days after his Pacers had lost the ABA championship, he dug in to his studies. Mr. Elmore looks almost triumphant now: "I wound up getting an 88 and just missed getting an A." And by going back to school every summer, he got his B.A. degree in English in 1978. Everywhere Len Elmore has gone, there have been challenges And every time it seems someone has told him he can't do something, Len Elmore has shown that he can. A late bloomer who had preferred baseball as a child, Mr. Elmore took up basketball only when he started sprouting up in his midteens. He was a streetwise young man from a working-class family who had grown up in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y. An awkward, gangling teen-ager, he became a star high school player after honing his skills on some tough proving grounds, the New York City playgrounds. "I was terrible, just terrible," he concedes readily. "I'd fall for the littlest fake, and most of the time I had absolutely no idea what to do. But there was that old word -- challenge -- again. I was determined to be a good player." He became good enough to be named All-City his senior year in high school. Many colleges came to recruit Mr. Elmore, but Maryland got him. He came back from a serious knee injury as a freshman at Maryland to become a top-flight college player. Another knee injury, in his third year with the Pacers, severely limited Mr. Elmore's mobility and jumping ability, but he revamped his game, becoming a solid, respected reserve known for intelligent, team-oriented play. "It hurts a little, to this day, that because of injuries I did not have the kind of career I had hoped for," says Mr. Elmore, who averaged 6.0 points a game for five teams during his nine-year professional career. "When you're 22, you never expect to finish out your time in the NBA on the bench with two bad knees." But when his career was over, Mr. Elmore, at age 32, was not just another ex-pro athlete with no life to turn to. He went to Harvard Law School, getting his degree in 1987, and became an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn for three years before forming his own law firm in Washington. He also began doing television commentary on college basketball games in the mid-'80s, and within a few years was a rising star in that field. That's a full life for almost anyone, but not for Mr. Elmore. At age 40, he's taken on another challenge. As president and chief executive officer of the Columbia-based Precept Sports and Entertainment Inc., he's entered the notoriously competitive and pressurized world of player representation ("don't say I'm an agent," he says, half-seriously). In its first year of operation, Precept attracted two top clients, Harold Miner of the University of Southern California and Walt Williams of the University of Maryland. Each was a first-round draft pick in the National Basketball Association -- Mr. Miner by the Miami Heat and Mr. Williams by the Sacramento Kings -- and Mr. Elmore helped each of them negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts. In a life characterized by performing under pressure, Mr. Elmore again is competing, seemingly against high odds: According to the NBA Players Association, there are more than 200 active player agents registered with the NBA. By contrast, there are just over 300 NBA players. Still, his early success in landing two top players as clients has given Mr. Elmore a strong start. Among those impressed is super-agent David Falk, whose high-visibility clients include Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. "Len has an unusually good background, being both an ex-player and a lawyer," Mr. Falk says from the offices of ProServ, the Washington-based company he heads. "So many people come into this business who are not qualified. He obviously is, and it's to his advantage. Also, Lenny is a very honest, ethical guy. I'd say that getting two No. 1 draft picks in his first year, he did very well." Becoming involved with Precept carried a steep price. Mr. Elmore estimates he made about $85,000 last year as a TV analyst, but gave up announcing for CBS-TV, Jefferson-Pilot Sports and ESPN because he began to hear complaints that as a college basketball analyst, he had an unfair advantage in soliciting potential clients for Precept. Mr. Elmore angrily denies the charge, but he concedes the appearance of impropriety made it difficult for him to continue doing TV work. "It's too bad, because Len had become an outstanding announcer," says Bill Walton, who played against Mr. Elmore in college and the pros, and now is an analyst for NBC-TV. "He has such a good mind and feel for the game." Also, the demands that Precept has made on Mr. Elmore's time have meant he no longer is a partner in the Washington law firm he helped form three years ago. "I have had to devote so much time to this that I pretty much resigned from the firm at the end of October," Mr. Elmore says. "I didn't think it was fair for me to take up space and maintain a relationship with the firm if I was here so much." Because being at Precept demands he be in the area, Mr. Elmore lives in western Howard County. His wife, Gail Segal (the girlfriend who sat in for him at the University of Maryland), lives in New York City, where she is an international banker. The two were married in Baltimore in 1987. Mr. Elmore tries to see his family on weekends, but admits that having to saying goodbye to their 2 1/2-year-old son, Stephen, "gets harder and harder." (That situation will change in April, however: His wife is expecting their second child in March, and in April the whole family is to live in Howard County.) And so in 1993, Len Elmore is on the ground floor of buildin something big -- just as he was 23 years ago when he started playing basketball in Cole Field House at the University of Maryland. He looks back fondly on those years. "Playing at Maryland -- it was the best stuff in the world," he says, growing animated. "I've been to a lot of games and seen a lot of conferences, but if you're talking about the Atlantic Coast Conference in the early 1970s, you're talking great coaches, great players -- and then only one team could go on to the NCAA tournament. It was unbelievably competitive. We were so focused that to this day I don't remember half of the gyms we played in. I had to come back as an analyst to see what the interior of these places were really like." There were many high points -- Maryland was 83-17 during his three years on the varsity, and won the National Invitation Tournament his sophomore year. "He was a great defensive player," says Lefty Driesell, the former Maryland basketball coach who recruited Mr. Elmore, in 1970. "Len blocked more shots and took more charges than anyone else on the team in the three years he played at Maryland." But there were disappointments as well, especially in 1973-74, his senior season. Maryland lost to Mr. Walton and defending champion UCLA by one point in the opener, and North Carolina State edged the Terrapins, 103-100, in overtime to win the ACC )) championship. After his senior season, Mr. Elmore was drafted by the Washington Bullets of the NBA in 1974. He was elated, but when the Pacers offered a significantly better contract, Mr. Elmore signed on with the ABA club. (The two leagues merged in 1976.) But after two seasons of steady progress (he averaged a personal-best 14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in 1975-76), he severely injured his right knee early in the 1976-77 season. "It just scared the hell out of me," Mr. Elmore says now. "No one even touched me. No question it was frustrating, especially when the coach was forced to play Danny Roundfield, who happened to be a good friend of mine. I was cheering him on and the team on, but I was thinking, 'I'm not going to have a job when I get back.' That's when I first gave serious thought to law school." He was not to go to law school for another seven years, but with two bum knees, his NBA career was radically changed. No more could he soar in the air to swat away opponents' shots, or finish off a drive with a monster dunk. "That's one of the most disappointing things in all of sports -- when you're really good and your body just won't do it anymore," Bill Walton says. "But Len became a better basketball player because of his mind and intellectual approach to the game." Mr. Elmore agrees: "I had always tried to be a smart player, but it became paramount. And I took pride in working with younger players. Toward the end of my career, I knew I wasn't going to be scoring 20 points a game." Actually, by his last season, 1983-84, Mr. Elmore wasn't even sure he would get off the bench. He was with the New York Knicks, a reserve power forward with bad legs who was ill-suited for the team's pressing defense. "I started really getting down on myself. That was when I really started thinking, 'I don't need this game anymore.' I remember when we were playing Boston, I told Ernie [Grunfeld, a teammate], 'I won't be with this team next year. I'll be watching you from the stands.' " He ended the season -- and his career -- with a bench warmer's statistics, averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds. In the fall of 1984, Mr. Elmore quietly announced his retirement and moved to Cambridge, Mass., to begin law school at Harvard. "Just before school was to begin," he says, "I woke up one night and told [Gail], 'What have I gotten myself in for?' But it turned out to be a great experience. I enjoyed the mature college life, and loved law." After graduating, Mr. Elmore became a prosecutor in Brooklyn, N.Y., he says, because he liked the idea of spending his time in the courtroom -- "trial work is all about pressure and competition, and God knows as a former basketball player I loved it." He handled mostly robberies, assaults and larcenies, and impressed his former supervisor, Steven Schwartz, as someone who "had a very nice presence and tremendous grace under pressure; he did not get rattled. Len was hard-working and very fair, which was important as a prosecutor." In 1990, Mr. Elmore moved to Washington to form a law firm with two friends. But when Mike Flannery, a consultant for a Northern Virginia financial planning firm, approached Mr. Elmore in 1991 with the idea of starting a black-owned sports representation agency, he was game. "I had seen the business from so many perspectives," Mr. Elmore says. "And in the back of my mind I had always thought about being a sports attorney. This was the chance to put some of my beliefs into action." Mr. Elmore's serious side comes out when he talks about the philosophy behind the formation of Precept Sports. The company, he says, stresses the responsibility of pro athletes -- particularly black athletes -- to give back to their communities. "It's so important, in this day in which more African-American males are incarcerated than go to college, and the African-American family in general is under siege, for there to be positive black role models out there," Mr. Elmore says in his Precept office, located in a high-rise in Columbia. "I tell young athletes that yes, the money is awfully nice -- and remember, I was a player, too, and appreciated a good contract as much as anyone -- but you can do a whole lot more than play ball on national TV and bring home a fat paycheck. I want the athletes we represent at Precept to get involved in the community as well, to be strong images for others to look up to -- to be leaders." His firm currently has one football client (former Maryland defensive tackle Derek Steele, cut by the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason) and one basketball client other than Mr. Miner and Mr. Williams (ex-Duke player Brian Davis, who is playing for a French team). Mr. Elmore says Precept's goal this year is "to represent five potential football players and one or two first-round players in basketball." To those who have known Mr. Elmore over the years, his eclectic professional career, and his successes, are no surprise. "He was a very intelligent man -- a bright young person and a deep thinker," says Mr. Driesell, now the coach at James Madison University. "Early on, he had more interests than just basketball." Says Quinn Buckner, a former teammate of Mr. Elmore's on the Milwaukee Bucks in the early 1980s and an analyst for NBC-TV: "It may be difficult for a lot of people to do the things that he has, but that's the telling thing about Len. He decided he was going to law school, and then made it perfectly clear to the team at the time that he was going to law school. . . . That's character, and that's why Len has been such a success." Mr. Elmore, for his part, is aware that some might perceive his frequent career-changing as a sort of dilettantism. But he says: "The last thing I want is to be seen as some kind of jack-of-all-trades and master of none. And I think I have done pretty well in all the fields I ventured into -- college and pro basketball, law school, prosecuting, TV work and now Precept. I worked very hard in each area." At 40, Len Elmore is back in the familiar situation of having a full plate in front of him -- a new business to get going, and a young family to raise. And he's at an age where looking forward and looking backward often are intertwined. "If I get to raise my son in this area, I hope he can go to Cole Field House and see his dad's jersey there, and read the scrapbooks, and hear people talk about his dad," Mr. Elmore says reflectively. "I'm proud of that. I hope he will be proud, too, and I also hope all that won't inhibit him but motivate him."