No sweat? Cheaney finds otherwise in Bullet debut PRO BASKETBALL


BOWIE -- Calbert Cheaney, the Washington Bullets' lottery pick, knew exactly what he was going to tell his mother back in Indiana yesterday after surviving the opening day of the team's minicamp at Bowie State.

"I'll say, 'Ma, they worked me all afternoon in a little gym where it's about 150 degrees in the shade and we've only got a couple of little electric fans to cool things off. Ma, it's tough. Real tough. I'll be in bed by 8 tonight.' "

It was a typical day in Bullets coach Wes Unseld's annual summer sweat shop for rookies, free agents and veteran volunteers. But Unseld allowed assistant Jeff Bzdelik to play the heavy in putting 14 players, including holdovers Larry Stewart, Brent Price and Doug Overton, through three hours of plays and drills, capped by a short scrimmage.

The lucky ones were second-year forward Don MacLean, who sat out yesterday's practice with a slight hamstring pull, and free-agent center Matt Fish of North Carolina-Wilmington, who is auditioning for the Charlotte Hornets before joining the Bullets.

Cheaney, the College Player of the Year from Indiana, was the first 1993 lottery selection to sign, agreeing Monday to a six-year deal worth a reported $18 million. Asked to compare his initial Bullets workout with four years under Indiana taskmaster Bob Knight, the 6-foot-7 forward said: "Any practice is going to be hard. I really wasn't expecting anything different."

Unseld first will test Cheaney at shooting guard to determine whether he has the ball-handling and shooting skills to challenge Rex Chapman and LaBradford Smith. In the brief scrimmage, he exhibited a quick first step and soft shooting touch.

"Obviously, Calbert is more important to our plans than any of our other new faces in camp," said Unseld. "Coming to minicamp gives us a chance to see what he's all about and what we're all about, and to see what adjustments both of us need to make before regular camp in October."

Added Bzdelik: "This is tough for a player like Cheaney. He just finished four years of playing in a structured system where he was the best player. Now he's learning something totally different. But once he settles into a comfort area, he'll feel better about executing the offense and just doing his thing."

Bzdelik introduced the new players to the Bullets' motion offense and a number of less-complicated plays.

"We threw a lot at them in one day," he said, "but it's like a weeding-out process. You want to see which players can absorb it quickly and which ones have trouble. It's a lot different than college where you have from October until Thanksgiving to prepare a team for the season. We're usually playing preseason games after 10 days of camp."

Besides Cheaney, the other new Bullet drawing the most attention was power forward/center Conrad McRae, a second-round pick from Syracuse.

McRae exhibited strong rebounding and defensive skills, but he may also need to show some offense to force the Bullets to cut or trade one of the 12 players with guaranteed contracts.

* Gheorghe Muresan, the 7-7 center from Romania who was the Bullets' first second-round choice, underwent surgery in Bordeaux, France, last week for an overactive pituitary gland to correct a possible vision problem.

"He's made amazing progress," said his agent, Bill Sweek of ProServ. "Gheorghe is already walking around the beach in southern France. The surgeon will check him out, and we'll go from there. We're hoping to bring him to Washington in late July or early August to meet the team and get to know the city."

The Bullets must tender a contract to Muresan to protect their rights, but general manager John Nash expects the Romanian giant will play at least another season in Europe.

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