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Making Believers Is What Tyrone Bogues Does Best

August 02, 1987|GARY POMERANTZ | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The world has a hangup, the way Tyrone Bogues sees it, and the hangup is that he stands only 5 feet 3. But that is the world's problem, Bogues figures, and not his.

"Everything people say, it all goes in one ear," Bogues says, "and out of the other." So what if Bogues becomes perhaps the only player in the National Basketball Assn. who can't slam-dunk? "I don't even try to slam. Two is two for me," he says.

Naturally, this is vintage Bowery Boys bravado tinged with impeccable logic. But what would you expect from someone who is known affectionately to his mother as "Mugs"?

And so this short story continues: Approximately 15 years after Tyrone Bogues first knotted together two socks and bent a wire coat-hanger into a loop to use as a basket in the upstairs hallway of his family's Baltimore home, he was chosen by the Washington Bullets in the first round of the NBA draft (12th pick overall).

Ever since Bogues' selection, the world has sprouted Johnny Carsons. Bogues is the all-Nerf team guard from Lilliputian State, who is 1 inch shorter than that tower of power, Michael J. Fox. And these are the new Bullets--Manute and minute--a duet at 7-6 and 5-3.

Even Georgetown Coach John Thompson focuses on the size issue--it's difficult not to. Thompson is the 6-foot-10 former Boston Celtics center who now refers to Bogues as "My Mistake."

That's because more than four years ago Thompson opted not to recruit Baltimore Dunbar's play-maker guard--just his teammate, forward Reggie Williams.

"Tyrone Bogues has just assured himself a spot in the hall of fame," Thompson reasoned. "Being 5 feet 3 and being considered talented enough to be drafted in the first round, that's just phenomenal."

NBA records indicate that Atlanta's Spud Webb, at 5-7, is the shortest player in league history. But a 5-3, 140-pound whippersnapper in the NBA during an era of 6-9 guards? Hogwash, you say? Maybe not.

Here, Thompson smiled. "This is a big man's game and we all have physical limitations. It's like I can't ride Northern Dancer," he said. He added, "But Tyrone reminds me of Adrian Dantley in that people used to say that when Adrian moved up to the next level, he wouldn't be able to score from inside. But he kept doing it. In his own way, Tyrone's been the same way."

Of course, none of this worries Tyrone Bogues, 22. He's heard it all before and most of it more than twice. Another day, another obstacle. Yeah, sure, just like they said he couldn't do it at Dunbar, and just like they said he couldn't do it at Wake Forest. and just like he couldn't do it at the world championships last summer in Spain, when he kept picking clean the great Yugoslavian guard Drazen Petrovic.

They don't call him Muggsy for nothing.

People close to Bogues say he has a heart the size of a blimp, determination the size of infinity. In the NBA, they call these intangibles.

"He's just a free-flowing guy," said former Duke guard Tommy Amaker, who roomed with Bogues during the world championships.

Bogues believes in himself. Outwardly, he oozes confidence. If he possesses a Napoleonic complex, it comes not in the form of insecurity about his stature, but in the secure knowledge that with just the right chip-on-the-shoulder approach, any pocket-sized man can dominate the Western world. Or at least the NBA's full-court press.

"I've been hearing all of this since basically when I first started playing, when I was 8 or 9 years old," Bogues said. "A lot of people say, 'He's too short. He's too small.' It all makes me a little more hungry. Ability allows you to play, not size.

"The fact is, I'm gonna remain 5 feet 3, and the question will keep coming up of how or why am I competing with the taller guys. I guess I'll just have to accept that and move on. I guess it's more interesting to the fans and to the media. I guess they are not used to it. The players will adjust faster than the fans, because they recognize talent. Competing is what it's all about."

Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry has made it clear he is not finished tinkering with the Bullets' roster. Trades are possible. Bogues said the Bullets have told him he won't be traded before the season.

Ferry said a trade of Bogues is "not beyond the realm of possibility, but it isn't like we are trying to move him."

Ferry noted that "two or three teams" contacted the Bullets soon after they selected Bogues, expressing interest in the guard, and another team had expressed interest in Bogues for some time before the draft (presumably Denver, with whom a potential trade for guard Fat Lever has yet to materialize).

"(Bogues) is interesting to a lot of people. Whenever you have a player of value, it's that way," Ferry said. Yet Ferry talks as though Bogues is staying in Washington. "We expect him to create offense for us by penetration with the basketball. We've been near the bottom of the league in assists, and we need help there."

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