Hamstrung Cheaney eager to get going Leg injuries slow Bullet's baptism

October 09, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- As his teammates jogged around the football field in the 1 1/2 -mile run that signals the real start of training camp, Washington Bullets first-round pick Calbert Cheaney was leaning over a nearby fence. As painful as the run under the warm sun appeared to be for some of the players, Cheaney wished he was out there with them.

"It's very frustrating," Cheaney said of being reduced to a spectator. "I was supposed to come here to try to contribute as much as I possibly can to this organization."

Cheaney's contribution yesterday was limited because of a strained left hamstring, which forced him to miss part of the morning practice and all of the evening session. On Thursday he practiced with a sore right hamstring. The day before that it was a sore lower back that kept him on the sidelines.

The injuries have kept coach Wes Unseld from getting a good look at the former Indiana standout who is expected to play a big role in improving a team that won just 22 games last season.

"This is a typical rookie reaction [to camp]," Unseld said. "It was the same for Don MacLean and Brent Price last year. In college, camp is for six weeks, here it's [a few] days."

When Cheaney does get into playing shape, the expectations for him will be high. General manager John Nash said, based on off-season observations, Cheaney appeared "a little more talented than we realized."

The talent is obvious, based on Cheaney's performance during his impressive four-year college career. Although he was the sixth pick of the NBA draft, Cheaney was college basketball's consensus Player of the Year. He averaged 22.4 points as a senior and came through big during the NCAA tournament, averaging 26.5 points in four games.

"NBA practice is so much harder than college," said Cheaney, in a surprise statement when you consider he played under Bob Knight. "It's more running, and you stick with the drills more. It's a lot of work."

Unlike the Bullets' 1992 first-round draft pick, Tom Gugliotta, who reported late and missed camp because of a contract dispute, Cheaney got his six-year, $18 million deal not long after the NBA draft.

"I wanted to sign, I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible," said Cheaney. "I just wanted to get into camp early."

That contract now pales compared to the 13-year, $65 million deal signed this week by Orlando's Anfernee Hardaway, the No. 3 pick in the draft. But Cheaney has no reservations about getting his deal done just weeks after the draft.

"It doesn't make me wonder at all," Cheaney said. "That's his salary, that's not mine. I don't worry about stuff like that."

All he's worried about now is getting on the court and proving his worth. He knows that to play effectively at this level, where he's expected to be a shooting guard or small forward, he needs improvement in his overall game.

"In the NBA, you have to have many strengths, not just one strength," Cheaney said. "Whether it's at [guard or forward], I feel confident. I just want to play."

But the step he has to make to become a team contributor must wait until Cheaney can shake the nagging injuries.

"I only missed one practice in college, and that was because of the flu," Cheaney said. "This is frustrating. But we have a long season . . . so I'm going to have to be patient."

NOTES: Doug Overton, Brent Price and free agent Lance Blanks were the top finishers in the 1 1/2 -mile run. Kenny Walker, hurt in the morning practice, finished last behind Kevin Duckworth. Gheorghe Muresan did not participate in the run, but looked impressive battling Duckworth in the evening practice.

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