Steve Francis's MVP: Grandma

Amid the hoopla surrounding former University of Maryland basketball star Steve Francis, a Vancouver Grizzly as of last night's NBA draft at MCI Center, we almost overlooked his grandmother, Mable Wilson. But she wouldn't let us.

"When he was a baby, he was always playing with a ball between his little feet," the 65-year-old retired nursing home worker confided at a party for Francis at Sequoia restaurant. "I thought he was going to be a soccer player, then I thought he was going to be a football player, but he ended up a basketball player."

Other fun facts about her 22-year-old grandson: He's a huge fan of video games, he's always on the phone, and he loves Grandma's tuna casserole. "He likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too," Wilson told us. "He won't ever outgrow that." Meanwhile, the extraordinarily eligible Francis--who'll make about $3 million in his rookie season--says he's "just friends" with Washington Mystics player Chamique Holdsclaw, and Grandma says: "He brought her over to the house. I really liked her."

The Silver Spring resident has stuck by her famous grandson--one of 28 grandkids and six great-grandkids--every step of the way, helping raise him in Takoma Park and giving him emotional support after her daughter--Steve's mom, Brenda Wilson--died of cancer when he was 18. Grandma says she loves cooking, doing housework and crossword puzzles--and just in case Steve is reading this: "I wouldn't mind going on a cruise."

Another Mystery Of Scientology

Hollywood is buzzing about a Daily Variety column by editor Peter Bart, boasting about a story he never ran. Seems that Dan Cox, one of Bart's reporters, was looking into the relationship between the Church of Scientology and such stars as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, as well as a church-owned movie studio. But recently Cox left the newspaper without the 6,000-word story being published. Bart wrote about pressure from the Scientologists, including unannounced visits from emissaries and letters from law firms. Cox, now a literary agent, told us he still hopes to publish his article somewhere, adding that Bart said privately it was too tough on the church.

But if Bart killed the piece, why write the column? "Their posture toward the media is worth paying attention to," he told The Post's Howard Kurtz. "Their paranoia became so extreme that doors began to close." Bart added that "to a degree, they did block the story. It's one of those unfortunate conundrums."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Cause and effect? On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore vowed not to hike the state gasoline tax to pay for road building. Yesterday he got stuck in a traffic jam and was late for a live appearance at WTOP radio's Washington studio, the Associated Press reports.

* Maybe federal antitrust lawsuit defendant Bill Gates isn't spending enough on his image. Washington audiences for the animated satire "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" have been cheering wildly during a scene in which the Microsoft mega- billionaire is shot in the head by an irate Windows 98 user.

* Saxophonist Kenneth Gorelick, famous as Kenny G, joins retired Gen. Colin L. Powell this morning at D.C.'s MacFarland Middle School to help raise $1 million for in-school music and arts programs.

Spelling Out Her Case

* It's been a year since Aaron Spelling reportedly gave her almost $1 million to settle a groundbreaking lawsuit, but Hunter Tylo is still steamed at the television mogul who fired her from the now-defunct "Melrose Place" because she was pregnant.

"I think Aaron should feel a lot of regret for what he did to me," Tylo told us while in Washington to tout lab-created moissanite gemstones. "It was a very foolish decision he made to victimize family values."

The 36-year-old mother of four, who won a $4.9 million judgment against Spelling in the 1997 jury trial, got angry when the National Enquirer reported that Spelling was among the first to call her when her baby, Katya, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. "I never heard a word from him," she said, adding that 18-month-old Katya is okay. "At the settlement table, his lawyers didn't even acknowledge that my daughter was sick." Tylo, who plays a shrink on "The Bold and the Beautiful," said she's using the cash to launch Chosen Child, a charity to aid pregnant women whose jobs are in jeopardy. "Maybe I'll hit Aaron up for a contribution." Spelling didn't return our phone call.

CAPTION: Tylo, still steamed at Spelling, left, for evicting her from "Melrose."

CAPTION: Always by his side: Mable Wilson, right, with grandson Steve Francis after he announced his NBA intentions, and University of Maryland coach Gary Williams.

CAPTION: Jazz man Kenny G.