Bullets look at UNLV's Rider as possible go-to guy in draft PRO BASKETBALL


LANDOVER -- Picture J. R. Rider in a Washington Bullets uniform. It looks like a perfect fit.

If everything falls into place, and no trades are executed before the June 30 NBA draft, there is a strong likelihood that the Bullets will use their No. 6 pick to select UNLV's high-scoring small forward, who is projected as a shooting guard in the pros.

Rider, who averaged 29.1 points for the Runnin' Rebels his senior season, is envisioned filling the role of go-to guy for the Bullets, who had no one to turn to in the final minutes of close games.

A legitimate center or power forward remains the Bullets' prime need, but Michigan forward Chris Webber and 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley will certainly be gone before it's their turn. It is also a safe bet that Anfernee Hardaway, a multifaceted 6-foot-7 point guard, and versatile forward Jamal Mashburn will be chosen by lottery teams with higher picks.

That would leave the Bullets with a chance to choose among Rider, Wake Forest forward Rodney Rogers and Tennessee shooting guard Allan Houston. Rogers, considered an in-between size at 6-foot-7, and Houston, who had a disappointing senior year, carry question marks.

But the Bullets are unanimous in their praise of Rider's offensive potential, although coach Wes Unseld questions his commitment to play defense.

"He's a Ledell Eackles with purpose," said general manager John Nash, referring to the former high-scoring guard who had exceptional offensive skills but an appetite to match.

"To me, Rider has a lot of [Seattle star] Ricky Pierce in him," said assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik. "He can score inside and outside, and he's explosive off the dribble. He's going to be a big-time scorer in the NBA. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the 1994 Rookie of the Year."

"He's more explosive than Harold Miner," added assistant general manager Chuck Douglas, comparing Rider to the former USC All-America, now playing for the Miami Heat.

Nash spent a week in Las Vegas last February getting acquainted with Rider as a person and player.

"I got to know him and like him," said Nash, who watched Rider score a career-high 44 points against Utah State. "As a player, he can beat his man one-on-one or use his size [6-5, 215] to post him up."

Questions about Rider's character have been raised, but Nash spent considerable time with UNLV coach Rollie Massimino, a close friend from Philadelphia, and came away convinced that Rider was no troublemaker.

"I know Rollie sat him down once or twice, but I understand that was just before being late for practices," Nash said.

It is not only the pro scouts who have been impressed by Rider. After the California native burned his defensive-minded Hoyas for 40 points last season, Georgetown coach John Thomson said, "Rider is as good an offensive player we've played against in my college coaching career.

"You can't stop him. Put a big guy on him, and he stays outside and hits three-pointers. Put a small guy on him, and he takes him inside and jumps over him."

Because Massimino lacked a big man, Rider was forced to play small forward and led the Rebels by averaging 8.9 rebounds.

Rider was being wooed last spring declare early for the NBA draft but decided he needed another college season to hone his game.

"That was a smart decision," said NBA scouting guru Marty Blake. "He really improved his overall game."

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