LANDOVER -- Finally, the Washington Bullets got their man.
Amid all the trade rumors and draft-day moves, the Bullets decided to play it safe and keep their No. 4 pick, selecting North Carolina's power forward/center Rasheed Wallace.
But before they could get the 6-foot-10, 225-pound sophomore, they had to wait and see if the first three teams -- the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers -- would draft the three other sensational sophomores, Maryland's Joe Smith, Alabama's Antonio McDyess and North Carolina's Jerry Stackhouse.
"Their was a school of thought that maybe Golden State was going to take Jerry Stackhouse and maybe the Clippers were going to take Rasheed Wallace," said general manager John Nash. "I would have taken Rasheed Wallace higher than the fourth pick had we had the opportunity to select higher. I feel very, very fortunate for our team. We got a guy who is going to fit very, very nicely.
"In terms of talent and the areas that we need to reinforce on our team, Wallace will certainly be available to play the forward position but more importantly in the immediate future, he is going to play some center minutes. Those center minutes may be expanded as he develops additional strength and bulk."
Wallace, an Associated Press Second Team All-American, is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leading field-goal percentage leader at .635. He averaged 16.6 points and set a Tar Heels record for blocks in a season with 93 blocks last season.
Bullets coach Jim Lynam now has a frontcourt that consists of 6-foot-10 Chris Webber, 6-foot-9 Juwan Howard and 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan and Wallace. Lynam says Wallace will see minutes at all three frontcourt positions.
The thin Wallace isn't so sure he is ready for the physical banging in the NBA.
"I don't think I'm ready to play that center spot," Wallace said. "I see myself projected to play the power forward. I can bring quickness to the ballclub, run it up and down the floor. I'm another shot-blocker. With big Gheorghe down there and Juwan and Chris and myself, you got some shot-blockers there.
"I can see all three of us [Wallace, Webber and Howard] playing forward at the same time and causing problems for other teams. You never know what coach Lynam has in mind for me."
What Lynam has in mind for Wallace is still up in the air.
3' "I'd put that under the category to
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be determined," Lynam said. "He is a little lean and needs to put on some weight. His skill level and athleticism . . . he was born with. He certainly will be an integral part of this and he'll get a lot of playing time. Whether that means Rasheed is one of the starters or not we'll see.
"I really very, very much like this front line. Granted it is young, with a tall player like Muresan and talents of Juwan and Chris, it presents a number of opportunities. Obviously, the challenge of us now is to acquire a point guard."
Maryland fans might best remember Wallace scorching Joe Smith for a career-best 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting.
Nash and Lynam, who both used to work for the 76ers, have had earlier exposure to Philadelphia native Wallace.
"John and I have a little extra on Rasheed in the fact he's from Philadelphia," Lynam said. "We know a lot of people who know Rasheed and he is very highly thought of in Philadelphia."
For now, Nash says that the Bullets will keep Wallace and not entertain thoughts of trading him.
"For us, the guy that we think is going to make a big impact on our team is Wallace," Nash said. "For that reason, deep-six all speculation with regards to potential trades. We had the phone lines open, we talked over and over with different teams trying to pry that pick from us.
"The bottom line is when all is said and done that Rasheed Wallace for the Washington Bullets is the most valuable asset that we could acquire today. We acquired him to keep him."
With their second-round choice, the Bullets addressed their point-guard needs, selecting 6-3 Terrence Rencher from Texas.
Nash made a pledge to a crowd of 5,803 on hand to watch the draft at USAir Arena that the next order of business would be to re-sign Webber, then sign Wallace and go out and acquire a free-agent point guard.
Among those available are Philadelphia's three-point shooter Dana Barros and Phoenix's Elliott Perry.
THE WALLACE FILE
School: North Carolina
Size: 6 feet 10, 225 pounds
1994-95 stats: 16.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
Data: Earned first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors last season as a sophomore and finished his career as the ACC's all-time leader in field-goal percentage (.635). Led the league in field-goal percentage (.654), ranked third in blocks (93), ninth in rebounding (8.2) and 10th in scoring (16.6). Scored a career-high 33 points against Maryland in the ACC tournament. Averaged 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as a freshman.
Scouting report: An athletic big man who runs the court like a guard and finishes the break like a small forward. . . . Because of his agility and accurate 10- to 15-footer, he could play mostly at big forward. . . . Long arms, quickness and leaping ability give him the potential to be a top shot-blocker. . . . Needs to improve free-throw shooting and ability to get to the line. . . . Needs to learn to kick the ball out from the post. . . . Has to keep his emotions under control.