Specialized class flunks Unseld test

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

According to Wes Unseld, the trouble with colleges these days is they turn out less than well-rounded students.

Employers have been saying that for years, but for Unseld, who is the coach of the Washington Bullets, the problem is more acute. Unlike, say, IBM or General Motors, which grabs up thousands of college graduates, he will only get to choose one.

And going into tonight's NBA draft, to be held at Madison Square Garden (7:30, TNT), Unseld finds the general pickings to be less than savory.

"The good athlete that can do everything is not there," said Unseld. "The caliber of player that has been turned out has been somewhat specialized."

Ah, specialization. There's the culprit.

Unseld says colleges are producing players that can either shoot the outside jumper or handle the ball or rebound or play fierce defense, but very few who can do more than one.

As a result, the truly great players, a la Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, are scarce.

"That's what's being taught," said Unseld. "What we get are these guys that can do one thing. You could get a [Dennis] Rodman or a [Mark] Aguirre. Very few guys that we see are taught to play the game."

Bullets general manager John Nash can understand where Unseld is coming from.

"That is probably true, but then we don't play the way we used to anymore either," said Nash. "When Wes played, Kevin Loughery and Earl Monroe were guards and both guys could handle the ball and shoot. Gus Johnson and Jack Marin were forwards and could shoot and rebound.

"The classic example of that was Jerry West and Gail Goodrich [of the Los Angeles Lakers]. Either of those guys could switch roles in the backcourt with ease and you wouldn't notice a difference.

"But now, you get specialization and the defenses are unrecognizable to these kids, because they've seen a lot of zone in college. We get accused of not playing defense in the pros, but actually the defense here is very sophisticated and that's what causes the rookies to have slow adjustment periods."

But Pat Williams, the Orlando Magic's general manager, believes that the NBA market adjusts to what the colleges have to offer.

"If you have one particular skill that is up and above what other players can do, whether you're a great shooter or playmaker or rebounder, we'll find you and it will work," said Williams.

"It's probably no different than it ever was. Things are probably more scrutinized. I mean, so what if you only have one skill? A lot of guys in the league don't have that."

As for this year's draft, the consensus seems to be that the players with the most skills -- namely Nevada-Las Vegas forward Larry Johnson, Syracuse swingman Billy Owens, Georgia Tech point guard Kenny Anderson, Georgetown center Dikembe Mutombo, Missouri forward Doug Smith and Michigan State guard Steve Smith -- will be taken in the first six picks, held, in order, by Charlotte, New Jersey, Sacramento, Denver, Miami and Dallas.

Where those players go is still up for debate, though it appears that the Hornets, who received the top pick in the May lottery drawing among the 11 teams that finished out of the playoffs, will take Johnson.

New Jersey is said to be considering either Owens or Anderson, with Sacramento taking whomever is left, though coveting Anderson.

The Bullets, who dealt their pick -- the eighth selection in the first round of the two-round draft -- to Denver earlier this month, for Michael Adams and the Nuggets' second pick in the round, the 19th overall, will likely have to mull over some less than prime choices, with all indications that they will take a guard at that slot.

The likely list of availables at the 19th position should include Louisville's LaBradford Smith, Eric Murdock of Providence, La Salle's Doug Overton or North Carolina State's Chris Corchiani.

Rodney Monroe, Corchiani's Wolfpack teammate and native of Hagerstown, figures to be taken in the upper half of the first round, and North Carolina's Rick Fox and Clemson's Dale Davis may be taken late in the first round.

NBA draft's best of the best

* Here's a glance at the 10 players likely to be chosen early in tonight's NBA draft:

LARRY JOHNSON, 6-5 1/2 , F, NEVADA-LAS VEGAS

* Though he shrunk 1 1/2 inches between his last game at Nevada-Las Vegas and the pre-draft workouts, his work habits and strength are legendary. His outside shooting is suspect, but he'll be one of the top 10 rebounders in the NBA next season.

BILLY OWENS, 6-9, F, SYRACUSE

* The most versatile player in the draft, Owens can play all positions but center. He shoots well, passes well and has good hands, leading the Orangemen in scoring, rebounds and steals. If Charlotte doesn't grab Owens, New Jersey certainly will.

KENNY ANDERSON, 6-2, G, GEORGIA TECH

* The only question surrounding Anderson, the cream of the guard crop, is whether his fragile body can withstand the rigorous 82-game NBA schedule. Otherwise, he is the prototype point guard with lightning quick speed, good decision-making skills, and exceptional leadership abilities.

DIKEMBE MUTOMBO, 7-2, C, GEORGETOWN

* The native of Zaire won or shared two Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards in three seasons. Mutombo is the best center available this year, though his offensive skills are limited, at best. Still, his ability to rebound and block shots make him a very valuable commodity.

DOUG SMITH, 6-10, F, MISSOURI

* Smith, a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year, elected not to pass up his senior year, and the gamble paid off, as he will be one of the first six players chosen. He is one of three conference players (including Danny Manning and Wayman Tisdale) to score more than 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds.

STEVE SMITH, 6-7, G, MICHIGAN STATE

* Like Owens, Smith can play a number of positions, but is best in the backcourt, where his height and passing ability give him an advantage among other guards in the draft. Smith has a knack for coming up big in pressure situations, hitting last-second shots to beat Murray State and Wisconsin-Green Bay in consecutive NCAA tournaments.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, 6-11, F/C, ARIZONA

* Williams, who transferred from Maryland after his freshman year, never quite lived up to the promise forecast from his Rookie of the Year start in the ACC. Still, his lefthanded shot and quickness should make him one of the first 10 players chosen.

GREG ANTHONY, 6-2, G, NEVADA-LAS VEGAS

* For all the talk of Johnson's power and Stacey Augmon's defensive skills, it was Anthony's speed and guile that fueled the Runnin' Rebels title drives. Like Anderson, Anthony has blazing speed, great passing ability and a lefthanded shot, though, his scoring numbers don't compare to Anderson's.

STACEY AUGMON, 6-8, F, NEVADA-LAS VEGAS

* Augmon has been compared with Dennis Rodman of Detroit in terms of his defensive abilities and is probably the best man-to-man defender in the draft. But, unlike Rodman, Augmon can score, although his outside shooting can still use work.

LUC LONGLEY, 7-2, C, NEW MEXICO

* Longley, a native of Australia, is the Lobos' all-time leader in points and rebounds and is eighth on the all-time NCAA blocked shots list. But there are questions about his desire and intensity. Longley seemed to disappear in New Mexico's NCAA tournament game at Cole Field House against Oklahoma State.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
34°