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NBA DRAFT : Williams Could Be Key for Clippers : Team Also Drafts North Carolina's Wolf, Illinois' Norman

June 23, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

Reggie Williams helped lead Georgetown to two trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s Final Four. Now, the Clippers are hoping that Williams can help lead them to respectability.

Williams, a 6-foot 7-inch All-American guard-forward, was the Clippers' first pick--the fourth player chosen overall--in the National Basketball Assn. draft Monday.

"I think (Williams) is going to set this city on fire," Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling said. "I think he's a Michael Jordan-type player."

The Clippers, who had three first-round picks, also took Joe Wolf, a 6-11 power forward-center from North Carolina, with the 13th pick, and Ken Norman, a 6-8 guard-forward from Illinois, with the 19th.

"We feel we had an incredible draft," said Gene Shue, the Clippers' new coach. "We knew it would be good, but this was a fantastic draft for the Clippers.

"Reggie Williams is the guy we wanted all along. We didn't think Joe Wolf would be available. We were surprised that we were able to get him. And in our wildest dreams, we didn't think that Kenny Norman would still be available at 19."

Williams, however, was apparently disappointed at the prospect of joining the Clippers.

"I would like to have stayed East so I could be near my family," he told the Washington Post. "But (the Clippers are) trying to revive a team and they need help. They seemed like nice people when I went there last week. I know they need a little bit of everything."

New Jersey Net fans who attended the draft at New York's Madison Square Garden had hoped that the Nets would select Williams with the third pick. But they booed when the Nets passed over Williams to select Ohio State guard Dennis Hopson. When Williams was taken by the Clippers, the fans chanted, "Say no, don't go."

Williams said: "I was shocked the Nets fans wanted me like that. But I'll do anything, anywhere to win. I think I'm a winner and I'll do anything Coach Gene Shue asks me to do."

There had been speculation that the Clippers would select Alabama forward Derrick McKey, but General Manager Elgin Baylor said that Williams was their top choice.

"We are pleased to get the player we wanted all along," Baylor said in announcing the selection of Williams to a crowd of 1,500 at the Sports Arena.

The Clippers tried to trade one of their lower first-round picks for a veteran player but a deal with the Golden State Warriors fell through Monday morning.

Golden State had offered forward Purvis Short for Los Angeles' 19th pick and guard Larry Drew.

The Clippers turned the deal down.

"We gave it strong consideration," Clipper President Alan Rothenberg said. "The Golden State deal was tempting. But we didn't think it was too good to be true."

The Clippers, who finished with a 12-70 record last season, second-worst in NBA history, apparently believe that the players they picked in the first round can make an impact on the team next season.

"I'll commit suicide if we only win 12 games next season," said Clipper guard Norm Nixon, who sat out the 1986-87 season with a knee injury. "This team has been like an eyesore. The only place this team can go is up.

"I'm not surprised that they picked Reggie Williams," Nixon continued. "I think Reggie is a great player who is capable of doing what it takes to win. He has a lot of heart and that's important in this league. I'm looking forward to playing with him."

Williams averaged 23.6 points last season for Georgetown and set a school single-season scoring record with 802 points in 34 games. He was voted the Big East player of the year.

The Clippers plan to use Williams at big guard and small forward.

"We feel like we're getting two players in Reggie because he can play big guard and small forward," Baylor said. "He's a competitor. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm and he's tough."

Wolf averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. A three-year starter, he was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season.

The Clippers will use Wolf as a back-up to power forward Michael Cage and center Benoit Benjamin. Wolf played mostly forward in college.

"We feel he was the best player available in the draft to fill the void that we have for a back-up power forward and center," Shue said. "Maybe he'll motivate Benoit (Benjamin) and make him work harder."

Wolf may have been the Clippers' choice, but he apparently wasn't the people's choice. The crowd booed when the Clippers passed over center Christian Welp of Washington to take Wolf.

Recently, Wolf and teammate Kenny Smith came to Los Angeles for interviews, but the Clippers failed to pick them up at the airport, apparently because of a mix-up. Wolf and Smith flew back to North Carolina without meeting Clipper officials.

"They were in a different part of the airport," Wolf told the Charlotte Observer. "We went home without seeing them."

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