UNLV player gambles on the pros Hunt skips last year, tries out with Bullets PRO BASKETBALL

July 17, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

BOWIE -- Playing three seasons of basketball in a city where battling the odds is a way of life, Nevada-Las Vegas guard Anderson Hunt said he knew quitting college a year early to test himself in the professional ranks was a big-time gamble.

Some say Hunt already lost the roll of the dice after failing to be selected in the NBA draft last month. The other four UNLV starters -- Larry Johnson (No. 1), Stacy Augmon (9), Greg Anthony (12) and George Ackles (29), all seniors -- were chosen.

Hunt's college coach, Jerry Tarkanian, said he doubted the wisdom of Hunt's decision.

"I kind of think any time a kid comes out early, he should have some sort of guarantee," Tarkanian said. "It's not good to give up your senior year unless an NBA team gives you a no-cut contract."

Without any guarantee, Hunt finds himself in the Washington Bullets camp, with his odds of sticking maybe as good as filling an inside straight.

Two of other three guards in camp, A. J. English and Larry Robinson, played with the Bullets last season, and the other, LaBradford Smith of Louisville, is assured a position as the team's No. 1 draft pick. And then there are also veterans Michael Adams, Darrell Walker and Ledell Eackles on the roster.

But that is not Hunt's only handicap. At 6 feet 1 and 175 pounds, the shooting guard, who played a major role in UNLV's 1989-90 championship season, is being forced to adapt to playing point guard.

"Anderson is really too small to defend NBA shooting guards," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "He's got to be able to make the switch, and I'm not certain he can."

But Hunt, from a tough Detroit neighborhood known as The Hole, remains undaunted.

"I never saw a guy from Detroit who couldn't handle the ball," said Hunt, whose Southwestern High team won three city titles when he was running the offense.

At UNLV, after sitting out a season for academic reasons, he was moved to shooting guard, with Tarkanian making Greg Anthony his floor leader.

Hunt concentrated on getting free on the wing for his feathery jumper or breakaway layups on the end of Johnson's full-court passes. He averaged more than 16 points his past two seasons, but may be remembered mainly for two shots -- one good, one bad.

In the 1990 NCAA West Regional final, Hunt made a pressure three-pointer to beat Arizona, setting up the Runnin Rebels' rout of Duke in the final. He was named the MVP of the Final Four after scoring 29 against the Blue Devils.

A year later, he missed a three-point shot at the buzzer, allowing Duke to score an upset in the semifinals.

It wasn't the missed shot that gnaws at Hunt, he said, but rather the pressure of competing under the constant scrutiny of NCAA investigators. It was one of the reasons he elected to forfeit his senior year.

"Every time you turned around, there was someone investigating Coach Tarkanian or asking us questions about the program," he said.

"You always had to put up with distractions on campus and in the classroom. Actually, the basketball court was about the only place you could find some peace.

"It's funny, but we lost only one game my last two years, and that's all people seem to remember. It should have never happened. Some of our guys got too caught up in all the hype and thinking ahead to the NBA draft."

After UNLV ended up being banned from the NCAA tournament for 1991-92, Hunt decided he wasn't returning.

"What was the sense of staying if you couldn't showcase your talent on national television?" he said.

Jacuzzi Hunt's next step was to compete in the NBA tryout camp at Chicago last month. He played several days before pulling out with a thigh injury.

"The scouts made a big deal out of it, but I wasn't going to play hurt and really jeopardize my chances in the pros," said Hunt.

"Defense is one of my strengths, and before I got hurt, I was shutting down all the other guards, including [N.C. State's] Chris Corchiani, [Oregon's] Terrell Brandon and [St. Francis'] Mike Iuzzolino. I ran circles around these guys. That's why it was such a shock when they got drafted and I didn't."

In the first two days of the Bullets camp, Hunt has had a difficult time controlling English, an explosive scorer. He also has trouble matching up against the taller, stronger Smith.

"This is just my first stop," Hunt said. "I'm going to Boston next week. The Celtics want to look at me as a shooting guard. I'm keeping an open mind. If I have to start out in Europe, that's fine. I've never backed down from a challenge in my life."

NOTES: The Bullets, in conjunction with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson, will play host to a charity basketball game at the Capital Centre Aug. 23. Bernard King, Pervis Ellison and Michael Adams of the Bullets will perform. Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic's Dennis Scott also have accepted invitations. The game will benefit a scholarship program for underprivileged students in the Washington area, a charity instituted by Bullets owner Abe Pollin. . . . Ellison and Adams are competing in the D.C. Urban Summer League. . . . Coppin State guard Reggie Isaac, a college teammate of Bullets hopeful Larry Stewart, is getting a look from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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