English is trying to prove versatile point to overguarded Bullets

July 18, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

BOWIE -- One of the Washington Bullets' is to see if A.J. English, their first second-round choice of last year, can learn to play the point as well as he shoots.

English was invited to the Bullets' rookie/free agent camp, which wrapped up here yesterday, to begin work on the transformation. So far, he seems to be pleased.

"I don't mind whatever position I have to play to get more time and to help the club," said English, 6 feet 3 and 180 pounds.

The Wilmington, Del., native had a spotty rookie season, averaging 8.8 points and shooting just 44 percent from the floor, one season after being named NCAA Division II Player of the Year at Virginia Union, where he averaged 33.4 points his senior year.

English seemed to have difficulty grasping the nuances of the pro game as well as the team's need for him to produce off the bench, rather than as a starter.

In fact, general manager John Nash publicly challenged English, along with veterans Ledell Eackles and Darrell Walker, to meet this year's first-round draft choice, Louisville's LaBradford Smith, training camp to decide who was better.

"It [the rookie season] was a learning experience," said English, one of eight Bullets guards at present. "When I got a chance to play, I did all right. It's a mental thing, more than physical. Not being a star and having to digest the new system was kind of tough, but I think I did OK. I can do better."

English did get some work at the point last season, by necessity, starting 17 games when Walker and Haywoode Workman were felled with injuries. His initial forays, in road games against San Antonio and Houston, were turnover-filled disasters.

But when the Bullets returned for a Baltimore Arena game against Cleveland that weekend, a new English emerged, as he scored 31 points and dished out 12 assists. "There was always a feeling when we drafted him that because of his quickness that he would be able to play the point," said Nash. "A.J.'s a good athlete and he learns well."

English's next big test comes starting today when a team of free agent and rookie campers meet similar squads from Detroit, New Jersey and Indiana in a tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.).

From there, English will join a team made up mostly of Bullets veterans and free agents in a Los Angeles summer league that will include other notables as Reggie Theus, Reggie Miller and the Bullets' own John Williams. There, his point guard skills will be available for serious scrutiny.

"It's one thing to play the point here," said Nash. "It would be interesting to see if he can play it on that level, which would be the next level."

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