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Bullets wait for McRae to prove himself


BOWIE -- After concluding summer minicamp at Bowie State, the Washington Bullets are convinced lottery choice Calbert Cheaney of Indiana will be an instant contributor, but questions remain about center/forward Conrad McRae, the second-round pick from Syracuse trying to make the roster.

Cheaney, auditioning at shooting guard and small forward, impressed coach Wes Unseld with his ability to get his own shot, move without the ball and fight through picks defensively.

"He showed us he could do a lot of things we didn't know he could do,"

said Unseld.

But Unseld is still waiting for McRae to assert himself and display one outstanding skill that would convince management to eat one of 12 guaranteed contracts or create a trade to free a roster spot.

McRae, a well-structured 6 feet 10, 237 pounds, was drafted primarily for his shot-blocking and rebounding. He displayed flashes of these skills at the four-day camp, but Unseld said he was hoping McRae would show more forcefulness under the boards and some creativeness on offense.

"If I'm going to make this team, it's going to be by proving myself on the defensive end," said McRae, ex

plaining why he attempted few shots.

"The coaches have thrown a lot at us in a short time. I'm a quick learner, but it takes awhile to slow things down in your mind. Just by taking a half step, you can get your body in better position defensively, things I never learned in college."

McRae will get a more serious test starting today when he joins four Bullets veterans -- Larry Stewart, Don MacLean, Doug Overton and

Brent Price, plus Cheaney and seven free agents -- in a six-team Eastern Conference tournament conducted by the New York Knicks in Purchase, N.Y.

Of the free-agent hopefuls, Mitchell Butler of UCLA proved the most impressive. Assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik, who ran the minicamp, said he liked Butler's quickness and aggressiveness in attacking the hoop. Butler will get a look at shooting guard and small forward.

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