Bullets look at UNLV's Rider as possible go-to guy in draft

May 27, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Picture J. R. Rider in a Washington Bullets uniform. It looks like a perfect fit.

If everything falls into place, and no trades are executed before the June 30 NBA draft, there is a strong likelihood that the Bullets will use their No. 6 pick to select UNLV's high-scoring small forward, who is projected as a shooting guard in the pros.

Rider, who averaged 29.1 points for the Runnin' Rebels his senior season, is envisioned filling the role of go-to guy for the Bullets, who had no one to turn to in the final minutes of close games.

A legitimate center or power forward remains the Bullets' prime need, but Michigan forward Chris Webber and 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley will certainly be gone before it's their turn. It is also a safe bet that Anfernee Hardaway, a multifaceted 6-foot-7 point guard, and versatile forward Jamal Mashburn will be chosen by lottery teams with higher picks.

That would leave the Bullets with a chance to choose among Rider, Wake Forest forward Rodney Rogers and Tennessee shooting guard Allan Houston. Rogers, considered an in-between size at 6-foot-7, and Houston, who had a disappointing senior year, carry question marks.

But the Bullets are unanimous in their praise of Rider's offensive potential, although coach Wes Unseld questions his commitment to play defense.

"He's a Ledell Eackles with purpose," said general manager John Nash, referring to the former high-scoring guard who had exceptional offensive skills but an appetite to match.

"To me, Rider has a lot of [Seattle star] Ricky Pierce in him," said assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik. "He can score inside and outside, and he's explosive off the dribble. He's going to be a big-time scorer in the NBA."

Nash spent a week in Las Vegas last February getting acquainted with Rider as a person and player.

"I got to know him and like him," said Nash, who watched Rider score a career-high 44 points against Utah State. "As a player, he can beat his man one-on-one or use his size [6-5, 215] to post him up."

Questions about Rider's character have been raised, but Nash spent considerable time with UNLV coach Rollie Massimino, a close friend from Philadelphia, and came away convinced that Rider was no troublemaker.

Rider was being wooed last spring to declare early for the NBA draft but decided he needed another college season to hone his game.

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