John Naber, the U. of Southern California swimmer who stands 6-feet-6, stands taller today after winning the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete.

Naber, runner-up to Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner in the voting last year, polled 2,500 points in media balloting conducted by the Amateur Athletic Union on a list of 10 nominees, including recently retired gymnast Stephanie Willim, 13 of Bethesda. Hurdler Edwin Moses was second with 1,343 and diver Cynthia McIngvale third, 625.

Naber, now 22, won four Olympic gold medals and one silver in 1976, then fended off flat offers to trade in his simon-pure status. He came back to become, for USC, the high-point man in the NCAA championships for a fourth straight year.

The record backstroker, a marketing representative at Disneyland says he wants to continue promoting the amateur ideal - and that the United States should fare well against nations that proselytize their athletes

"Sanderson is here at his won expense, absolutely at no cost to us," said Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wing general manager. "His 10-day tryout means looking at him to see what kind of shape he is in. If he is not in shape or can't get in shape, there won't be any tryout." So did the Wings welcome Derek Sanderson back - almost, anyway - to the National Hockey League where once upon a time he was an all-star, the toast of Boston before jumping to the World Hockey Association's Philadelphia Blazers for a bundle. In recent years he bounced around the NHL fringes, and the minors, having fallen victim to habits including booze and barbiturates, which led to colitis, psoriasis and miscellaneous misadventures. He is only several days removed from a 26-day stay in a Fort Erie, Ontario, hospital for severe burns to his left arm and right leg, sustained in a kitchen mishap.