The Washington Bullets yesterday signed forward Derek Strong of Xavier to a 10-day contract that will begin with tomorrow night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Capital Centre.
Drafted in the second round in 1990 by the Philadelphia 76ers, Strong opted to play for Huesca La Magia in the Spanish League.
He played last summer for the Miami Tropics in the U.S. Basketball League and then reported to 76ers training camp. In a rookie game against the New York Knicks, Strong sprained his right knee and was placed on medical suspension before the regular season began.
Strong, who averaged 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds for Xavier his senior season, remained inactive until he was released by the 76ers last week, making him available to the Bullets.
"He's a big body [6 feet 8], so he's worth a look," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld, desperate for rebounding help. "I recall being interested in him in 1990."
The Bullets frontcourt was depleted before the season began when forwards Bernard King and Mark Alarie both underwent arthroscopic surgery in September. Neither has played this season.
On Feb. 19, Washington traded reserve forward Tom Hammonds to Charlotte for shooting guard Rex Chapman. With Chapman sidelined by a heel injury, Unseld has operated with an 11-man roster, using converted guard Ledell Eackles at small forward.
With Chapman not likely to play before April, if then, the Bullets decided to give Strong a tryout.
The California native was listed at 6-10 during his collegiate career, but shrank 2 inches when measured at the NBA's college all-star game in Orlando, Fla., in 1990.
That may have led to Strong being bypassed in the first round of the draft, with pro scouts now viewing him as a small forward rather than a power forward.
Strong teamed with Tyrone Hill, a first-round pick of Golden State, to lead the Xavier Musketeers to the 1990 NCAA final 16.
He led a 74-71 upset of Georgetown and their stars Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning in the Midwest Regional. Strong scored 19 points and had 12 rebounds.
His best effort as a senior was a 24-point, 24-rebound performance against Loyola Marymount.
Strong, 24, will join the Bullets in practice at Bowie State today.