Jake Wasco tonight will make his first career start as a varsity basketball player when Franklin Learning Center opens its season with a non-league game at La Salle.

In his back pocket will be a Division I scholarship.

Wasco, a 6-8, 200-pound center and power forward, has made an oral commitment to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

A season ago, he made just brief appearances for the Bobcats and sometimes remained anchored to the bench for all 32 minutes. He totaled 30 points all season.

"That was rough,'' he said. "You always want to be out there, not only proving yourself but also helping the team.

"I understood what coach [Cedric] Powell was doing because there were guys in front of me. I just looked forward to getting my chance this season. The plan was to keep working hard and make the best of it.''

The summer, of course, came first.

Wasco fared well for FLC's own team and for a pair of AAU squads. By August, the word was starting to spread. UMBC and La Salle were among the first to express interest. Other D-I's followed.

"Little surprising,'' he acknowledged, "but I knew I could play.''

So did Powell.

"Jake has worked hard to make this happen," Powell said. "I'm very proud of him."

Wasco's official visit to UMBC, which has Philly flavor in the persons of coach Randy Monroe (Roman Catholic '81) and sophomore guard Matt Spadafora (Archbishop Wood), occurred in early November.

"I liked the coach and the campus and the people. Everybody was really nice to me,'' said Wasco, who lives near Thompson and Clearfield, in Port Richmond. "I saw it as a good fit.

"I saw them scrimmage Mount St. Mary's when I was there. I liked that they used an up-and-down tempo, but still involved the big men a lot. There wasn't really a need to think about other schools.'' *