Cheaney wastes little time quieting Hoosier hex fears PRO BASKETBALL

July 20, 1993|By New York Daily News

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The list includes Scott May, Steve Alford, Mike Woodson and Randy Wittman. You know them as high-scoring Indiana All-Americans. The NBA knows them as underachievers, disappointments and flat-out busts.

The Washington Bullets pray Calbert Cheaney doesn't add his name to the list. Washington shocked more than a few people by investing $18 million over six years in Cheaney, its No. 1 pick. The Bullets' commitment was obvious when they sent Harvey Grant to Portland before the draft to make room for Cheaney.

Washington GM John Nash is the guy with his hands folded, looking to the heavens that he made the right pick and didn't overpay Cheaney, as some teams suspect.

"We looked at it both ways -- the Indiana kids haven't had great success, but on the other hand, Calbert really didn't have the freedom to do what other players with his talent were free to do," said Nash after watching Cheaney score 20 points in the Bullets' 112-109 loss to the New Jersey Nets last night in the Doral Arrowwood Summer League at the Westchester County Center.

"We realize he's capable of more than what we had seen at Indiana. Plus, Calbert isn't responsible for the lack of success of the other Indiana guys. It's like when a kid comes from Syracuse. Automatically, he's not supposed to shoot free throws well. I don't necessarily buy into that."

What Nash and the Bullets bought lock, stock and basketball was the theory that Cheaney was restricted by Bobby Knight's individual-be-damned system.

Knight's coaching genius is that he gets more out of average to above-average players than most coaches. As a result, his players often look better than they have a right to. They just don't translate well to the NBA.

"In Calbert's case, he might be more like some of the kids coming out of North Carolina," Nash said. "The system might have limited him a little bit."

If it limited Cheaney the way Dean Smith limited a guy named Michael Jordan. . . Nash obviously won't go that far, but in the week he has seen Cheaney play, he's happier than he was when he made the pick. And at that time, he was ecstatic.

"He's an exceptional passer," Nash bubbled. "He sees the whole floor like Tom Gugliotta. And he's an excellent defender. He's going to be a good one. How good, we'll see in three to four years."

By that time, you won't hear Cheaney linked with Alford. The only Indiana alum Cheaney plans on being compared with is Isiah Thomas, one of Knight's few players to hit it big in the pros.

"Isiah is athletic and real quick and that's why he made it in the NBA," Cheaney said. "But then you see a guy like Steve Alford -- who has a great knowledge of the game but is kind of slow. Steve's got a good jump shot, but he really can't create off the dribble."

Which is why Alford is back home in Indiana, coaching on the Division III level (Manchester College).

"Some of those other Indiana players are not as athletic as me," Cheaney said. "You need a lot of athleticism to play in the NBA, to get to the basket and shoot over people. That's one of the advantages I have."

One that figures to keep him off that Indiana failure list.

The Los Angeles Clippers reportedly have contacted former Atlanta Hawks coach Bob Weiss again about their vacant coaching job because Hubie Brown dropped out of contention.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that Brown will remain a (( television commentator.

The Clippers earlier were poised to hire Lenny Wilkens, but Wilkens instead took the Hawks' job that Weiss held for three years before being fired.

Weiss currently has a job lined up as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons. He was an assistant for the Clippers when the franchise was located in San Diego.

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