EMMITSBURG -- Tom Hammonds reached one of his major goals this summer, when he earned a degree in business administration at Georgia Tech.
But Hammonds also pursued another important goal: provin NTC that he belongs in the National Basketball Association.
Last season, as the Washington Bullets' No. 1 draft pick and th ninth pick overall, the 6-foot-9 forward failed to fulfill expectations as a scorer or rebounder. Playing mostly in a reserve role, Hammonds averaged 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.
He got off on the wrong foot last fall, missing valuable time i training camp while battling repeated cramps. But this year he vowed to be ready.
Without any pressure from the coaching staff, Hammonds pai two basketball coaches for private tutoring this summer.
"The two areas [in which] I felt I needed the most help was i catching the ball on the perimeter and taking it to the hole," he said, after reporting a day early to Washington's training camp at Mount St. Mary's College.
"I hired Barry Hecker, who is an assistant coach with the Lo Angeles Clippers, to improve my game on the wing, and [former American Basketball Association guard] Bobby Lewis to improve ball-handling skills," Hammonds said. "I don't mind paying for something if it's going to benefit my career in the long run."
Bullets coach Wes Unseld has made it quite clear that h expects the former All-American, who signed a four-year deal worth $3.3 million, to improve measurably this season.
"I'm looking for him to improve in every area -- scoring rebounding and defense," Unseld said. "I'm going to try Tommy as a small forward. I don't think he has the size to be a power forward, even though he played a lot of center and low post in college. But he has to prove he can play facing the basket and hitting the outside shot."
Hammonds, a church deacon in his hometown of Crestview, Fla. is preaching a positive attitude this season.
"As a rookie last year, I just didn't know what to expect," he said "There were times I felt uncomfortable in the offense, and I became hesitant about shooting the ball or putting it on the floor. It threw off my whole game.
"But I'm all over that now. I think I can handle the job an pressure. Being confident in my ability is the biggest part of it. And this summer I worked on strengthening my legs. I'll be ready to go full tilt from the get-go."
With all-purpose forward John Williams still on the mend afte knee surgery last winter, Hammonds will have the opportunity to get considerable playing time early in the season.
NOTES: Bullets general manager John Nash said he has mad no progress in signing holdout guard Ledell Eackles. . . . Free-agent guard Tony Harris of the University of New Orleans left camp yesterday to return home to Indiana to be with his mother, who suffered a stroke. . . . Free-agent forward Ron Draper of American University is playing with goggles to protect a gash that required stitches over his eye. . . . Unseld will begin two-a-day workouts today, when practice, which usually is closed, will be open to the media. . . . Doctors' orders limit Bernard King and Darrell Walker to one practice per day.