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THE NBA DRAFT : Southland Players : UCLA's Richardson Goes to Head of Class

June 28, 1989|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

Of the six point guards selected among the first 28 players in the National Basketball Assn. draft Tuesday night, none were taken before UCLA's Pooh Richardson.

Not the more celebrated Mookie Blaylock of Oklahoma.

Not the more celebrated Tim Hardaway of Texas El Paso.

Not B.J. Armstrong of Iowa.

Not All-American Sherman Douglas of Syracuse, who lasted until the second round.

Not Charles Smith of Georgetown, quarterback of the U.S. Olympic team, who wasn't drafted.

None of them.

This turn of events didn't surprise Richardson, who was the first-ever draft choice of the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves, who made him the No. 10 pick overall.

"I always thought I was as good as those other guys, or even better," Richardson said. "They just played with better college teams than I did--teams that were more experienced and more talented. That's all."

Coach Bill Musselman of the Timberwolves agreed, calling the 6-foot-1 Richardson "the best pure point guard" in the draft.

Said Billy McKinney, the Timberwolves' director of player personnel: "Pooh distributes the ball as well on the fast break as any guard in the country. He has a very bright basketball mind."

Richardson's stock seemed to drop during his junior year at UCLA, when made only 47% of his shots and the Bruins endured a 16-14 season.

Last summer and fall, though, Richardson improved his shooting touch in workouts with Magic Johnson of the Lakers and former Laker and UCLA guard Brad Holland, a Bruin assistant coach. Then, last season, he led a young UCLA team to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament, averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 assists and making 55.5% of his shots, including 49.5% from three-point range.

Finally, in April, he made a strong showing at a rookie evaluation camp at Orlando, Fla.

"I played outstanding," Richardson said of his performance in Orlando. "I played better than all the guards that were there. It seemed like I still wasn't getting much recognition (leading up to the draft), but I knew somewhere down the line that I would be rewarded."

Said Richardson's agent, Arn Tellem: "Musselman loved him. I think that's what it was. I think Pooh really fit the description of the point guard that Musselman wanted--a hard-nosed guy who's a great communicator."

UCLA hasn't had a player taken so high in the draft since 1979, when David Greenwood was the No. 2 pick overall (behind Magic Johnson of Michigan State) and Roy Hamilton was the No. 10 pick.

Richardson, who was recruited out of Ben Franklin High in Philadelphia, will have to battle for a starting position with David Rivers, who was picked by the Timberwolves from the Lakers this month in the expansion draft.

"It's not his position," Richardson said of Rivers. "I think he's going to have to beat me out."

Three from Southern California high schools were drafted:

--Michael Smith of Brigham Young and Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights, who was taken by the Boston Celtics, who made him the No. 13 pick.

"He plays a lot like Larry (Bird)," Celtic President Red Auerbach said of the 6-10 forward. "I hope."

Comparing himself to Bird, Smith said: "The size is similar, the weight is similar, the speed and some of the physical tools are similar. I like to shoot outside, feel I can shoot from (three-point) range.

"I think a lot of things are similar--(including) the ability to shoot with either hand inside 15 feet. A lot of things are similar, but it's impossible for me to make those comparisons. To say we possess similar basketball skills, that's a compliment to me."

--Anthony Cook of Arizona and Van Nuys, a 6-9 forward who was taken by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 24 pick, then was traded to the Detroit Pistons for forward Kenny Battle of Illinois, the No. 27 pick, and Michael Williams, a reserve guard for the Pistons last season.

"I don't know how I feel about it now, but I'm kind of surprised," Cook told the Arizona Republic. "I didn't watch them much this year, and I don't know where they're going to put me. I don't know where I'm going to fit in.

"I just hope I can be the type of player they want me to be. They're a good team."

--Stanley Brundy of DePaul and Crenshaw, a 6-7 forward who was a second-round choice, No. 32 overall, of the New Jersey Nets.

Brundy, who is from New Orleans but played for two seasons at Crenshaw while living in Los Angeles with an aunt, thought he might be taken by the Clippers, who had the 31st and 33rd picks. Instead, the Clippers chose guards Jeff Martin of Murray State and Jay Edwards of Indiana.

"I'm just happy to be (drafted)," Brundy said from his grandmother's home in New Orleans. "This was my goal and, hey, I've done it."

Mitch McMullen, a 6-10 center from Hart High in Newhall, College of the Canyons and San Diego State, and Leonard Taylor, a 6-8 forward from St. Bernard High in Playa del Rey and California, were considered among the top 50 players, but neither was drafted.

After the draft, McMullen took a call from Ray Patterson, president and general manager of the Houston Rockets, who had no draft choices Tuesday.

"I watched the whole draft," McMullen said, "but I kind of prepared myself that if I wasn't taken by a certain point, it was better if I wasn't. That way, as a free agent, I can find my own team."

All players not chosen in the draft are free agents.

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