More than once this fall, as he trotted over hills and through dales, Kyle Sawyer muttered to himself, "Oh, man. What am I

doin

' out here?!"

Answer: assuring a better basketball future.

Coach Cedric Powell makes his Franklin Learning Center hoopsters also compete in cross country for its improve-the-stamina benefits. This year, Sawyer, a 6-foot, 160-pound senior point guard, opted to go for full-scale gusto.

"I even did a lot of running over the summer," he said. "I wanted to be in the best possible shape. I always wound up being in our team's top three runners and in the championship meet, I had a top-20 finish and got a medal. That gave me a good feeling."

It wouldn't be the last.

Yesterday, as the visiting Bobcats cruised past Central, 75-61, in a Public A opener, Sawyer totaled 22 points (8-for-16 from floor), eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Told those numbers, he purred, "Sounds pretty good."

He added: "That's what I want to do. Play a strong overall game and do that without forcing things. By letting the game come to me. Before, I thought I had a pretty good handle and was effective at controlling the tempo. Now, I have a better handle and I do a better job with the tempo."

Pause. "I'm still working on my shooting."

Sawyer got his basketball start at St. Ignatius, 43rd and Wallace. It's only a block away from home, and point guard has always been near and dear to his heart. For one thing, he loves the challenge of that position.

"You have to remain calm," he said. "But not so much that you lose focus or become lackadaisical. The most important thing is making sure you take care of that ball and that your team plays smart."

Khalief Trawick (two treys) and Denzel Yard (three assists) halved 36 points for the Bobcats, while 6-8 Jake Wasco, a recent UMBC signee, claimed nine rebounds. FLC broke open a reasonably tight game with a 20-7 outburst in the first 3:32 of the third quarter.

For Central, Brandon Smith totaled 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Sawyer, who maintains a 3.0 grade-point average, just took the SAT. While he appreciated earlier interest from Division II and III schools, recent contact from Boston University added a certain twinge of excitement.

"They came to our gym and said they liked me," he reported. "They said they'd follow my progress."

Down the line, Sawyer envisions a career in business. And he wants to own something, anything, with the exact nature to be determined.

Meanwhile, here's a guess on which aspect of being a business bigwig wouldn't bother him: cross-country travel.

In another game:

* Roxborough 54, Gratz 53: Guard Clayton Brothers, who has committed to Hartford, scored 29 points, including the winning basket on a layup resulting from a late rush, to key the upset. Visiting Roxborough, which shot 12-for-19 at the line to Gratz' 4-for-5, had not topped the Pub's longtime power since 1982. Coach Terrell Burnett opted not to call timeout after Gratz' Travis White tied the game with a trey. "Why set something up, then have them go out and do the opposite?" he kidded. "We got the win. I'll take it." *