With Mourning on the way, Hornets' future looks bright

May 20, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Georgetown coach John Thompson laughed.

Behind him, Jim Hadnot, a scout for the NBA's Sacramento Kings, was hastily scribbling notes as he watched Hoyas center Alonzo Mourning play.

"You're wasting your time," Thompson said. "Alonzo's passed all that stuff. You'd better just say your prayers that you get him."

The Kings won't. The Charlotte Hornets almost certainly will.

The Hornets lucked into the second selection in the NBA draft lottery Sunday and on June 24 are expected to pick Mourning, a 6-foot-10 consensus All-American, after the Orlando Magic takes Louisiana State's 7-1 Shaquille O'Neal.

Mourning is the center the Hornets crave. Marty Blake, who directs the NBA's scouting service, predicts he will be an all-star.

Known for his intimidating shot-blocking and defense, Mourning has shown Thompson a well-rounded game in private workouts against New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

"I don't care whether Charlotte picks him or not, Alonzo's going to be a great pro for somebody," said Thompson, who also tutored Ewing and Denver center Dikembe Mutombo. "He has tremendous strength and agility. He's got great instincts for blocking shots.

"He can go left and right, up and down. He's got very good shooting range facing the basket. He shoots hooks with both hands. And he's a coach's dream who wants to win."

All around the NBA Monday, there was talk that the Hornets, a 4-year-old expansion team, suddenly possess one of the league's brightest futures.

With Mourning set to join guard Kendall Gill and forward Larry Johnson as Charlotte's nucleus, Ewing and Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach said the Hornets will have "a hell of a team."

Hornets representatives hadn't yet spoken to Mourning late Monday afternoon, but both sides seemed upbeat.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Charlotte coach Allan Bristow. "It's going to make the summer go a lot faster. I can hardly wait to see how the team will look."

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