A pleasant surpirse was in store for roommates Roger Phegley and Dave Corzine when they began their new jobs last week.
The two top draft choices of the Washington Bullets were astonished by the welcome they received from the team's veterans early in preseason training camp at Fort Meade.
"I thought it would be dog-eat-dog out here with everybody fighting for a job," said Phegley, the team's top pick. "I really didn't expect the veterans to offer the rookies any help at all.
"But was I surprised at the way all the players have helped me. Everyone has acted like a true professional, putting the welfare of the team ahead of their own."
Corzine, 6-foot-11 center out of De Paul who was the team's second pick in the first round, added, "When one of the veterans sees me do something wrong, he stops right there and tells me what I should have done in the situation. This is too good to be true. I certainly didn't think it would be like this."
Although Phegley and Corzine are expected to make the final roster, filling the team's need for a third-string center to replace Joe Pace and a big guard, the duo concurred that the more experienced players have helped the other rookies too.
Some of that aid has been to assist the rookies off the floor, since the muscular triumvirate of Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld and Mitch Kupchak has in practice played the same take-no-prisoners style under the boards that helped propel the team to the 1978 National Basketball Association title.
Corzine, a 245-punder who has been holding his own in the inside battles, thinks the physical contact is good preparation for the regular season.
"This is a good team to break into the pros with," he said. "Once you have spent a month with the most physical team in the league, you're ready for anybody during the season."
Corzine admits to not being a good jumper. He spends about 15 minutes after practice performing jumping drills. Realizing he would have to rely more on strength and positioning for rebounds, Corzine lifted weights over the summer.
"The Bullets high-post offense will hurt me since I won't be able to use my inside moves much," he said. "I have confidence in my jumper out to 20 feet, though, and I'm not afraid to put it up."
Corzine also prides himself on his passing ability, a facet of his game that also excites Bullet Coach Dick Motta.
But the big center realizes the difficulty he will face getting playing time behind Unseld and Kupchak.
"I can see them do things I haven't learned yet in almost every situation. It I don't get much time this year then I'll get it next year," he said.
By contrast, Phegley knows he has a chance to play a lot at the big guard position, especially with the uncertain status of Phil Chenier, who recently underwent back surgery.
The 6-6, 205-pounder has scored with his jump shot, as expected, but, to the surprise of many, he also has been hitting the offensive boards. It is not unusual during scrimmages to see Phegley follow up one of his few missed jumpers for an easy layup.
"Since I'm the biggest guard in camp, I feel I should play some underneath to utilize my size advantage," said Phegley.
Failing to find much competition on the courts of Peoria, Ill., this summer, Phegley instead ran about five miles a day, some uphill. That has seemed to pay off since Phegley does not appear to get winded during tough workouts.
Phegley said the Bullet offense is similar to that at Bradley University, his alma mater, because of the number of picks for the guards.
"The main thing I've got to do is concentrate at every moment," he said.