WASHINGTON -- After eight hours of driving and a night at a Super 8, Wendy Rudolph came to Georgetown's McDonough Arena early yesterday, plunked down $100 and was happy about it.
"This was the chance of a lifetime," said Rudolph, 34, looking at a group of players while explaining why the tryouts for the Washington Mystics of the Women's NBA were worth the drive and the money. "I expect just a fair chance."
The sentiment was not unique to Rudolph, an unemployed factory worker from Cleveland, Tenn., who played at Lee College of Tennessee during the mid-1980s. The "chance of a lifetime" refrain could be heard from more than a few of the 400 assembled.
And such chances attract all types, pros to teachers, engineers, coaches and correctional officers. Some came from as far as Australia, while most of the group was from the Mid-Atlantic Region.
By tonight, 400 will become eight, the number of players who will be invited to the team's preseason camp beginning May 13.
Some players could be heard expressing doubt as to getting a fair shot with the team, but Mystics GM Wes Unseld said he's interested in talent, not politics.
"That's not my main concern," the NBA Hall of Famer and Washington Wizards executive said of the public relations aspect of the tryouts, which will probably garner more attention than the training camp itself. "I will not let that interfere with what we're trying to do with basketball."
Mystics coach Jim Lewis took a wider view. "We're hoping that everyone can have a positive experience this weekend, and if at the end of the day, they're not included on the roster tomorrow, they will become a Mystics fan."
One of the local dreamers was Carolyn Allen, a 34-year-old AT&T; employee from northeast Baltimore and a third-team All-Metro pick at Dunbar in 1982.
Allen, a four-year letter-winner at St. Peter's in New Jersey, sent a letter to the New York Liberty last year, got only lukewarm response, and didn't try out because she didn't know the events were open.
"I feel that I have as much chance as anyone," said Allen, still active in several area semipro leagues. "I can't go on thinking 'what if I had a tryout.' The only way to find out is if I have an actual tryout."
Allen wasn't one of the 63 players asked to return today for a second day of tryouts, but Becky Dowling, Navy's leading scorer last season, was.
Primed for a flight school date in July, Dowling found out about the camp from teammate and friend Marie Coppins.
"[Coppins] said, 'I always do what you do, so you've got to try out so I can do it next year,' " said Dowling, who was struck by the diversity at the event. "You have everything from the 40-year-old who hasn't played in about 15 years to awesome players."
Indeed, some of the players who showed up played in the WNBA last season, including Maryland alum Jasmina Perazic-Gipe, who played with the Liberty last season.
Perazic-Gipe, now working as a sports agent, said the tryouts also were an opportunity to reunite with players she's met in the past.
"I know a lot of the people here," said Perazic-Gipe, who played at College Park from 1979-1983. "There's a bunch of people who I've been playing with in tournaments and leagues."
Other former Terps Christy Winters, Subrena Rivers, Dafne Lee (Walbrook) and Marcia Richardson were among those making the first cut, as did former UMBC player Michele Quille.
When cuts were made, there was some grumbling, even tears. But the dreams did not fade.
Before these events were held in Washington and Detroit, all eight previous franchises did the same. It should be no different next year in Orlando and Minneapolis, 1999's expansion clubs.
Chris Little and Mystic hopeful Robin Common flew in Friday night from Oak Park, Ill.
"We'll be there too, next year if she doesn't make it here," Little said before Common was cut. "Hopefully she'll be better prepared for this."
Pub Date: 5/03/98