Searching for guards and small forwards, Gene Shue welcomed 18 rookies and free agents to the opening of the Washington Bullet 1980 training camp yesterday at Fort Meade. It was Shue's first appearance on the court as the team's new coach.
"I think it's obvious what we're looking for because most of the guys here are the same size," Shue said. "We have some real question marks on this team. Speaking as an observer, because I wasn't close to the situation, I thought a weakness of the team last year was a lack of stability in the back court."
Wes Matthews, the no. 1 draft pick out of Wisconsin who could go a long way toward solving that problem, has yet to sign a Bullet contract and was not present yesterday.
The returning gurards are incumbent starters Kevin Porter and Kevin Grevey and reserve John Williamson.
The other two guards on last year's team, Jim Cleamons and Larry Wright, are no longer Bullets. Cleamons went to Dallas in the dispersal draft and Wright is a free agent whom the Bullets apparently are not interested in signing again.
Matthews, fifth-round draft pick Daryl Strickland of Rutgers, seventh-round pick Karl Godine of Septhen F. Austin and free agents Kevin Wood, Stan Wright, Ernie Hill and Greg Sanders, formerly of St. Anthony's High School, are the new hopefuls at guard.
Ken Darcy, from Chicago State, Washington's sixth-round draft choice and one of the stars in the summer Urban Coalition League, is being tried at both guard and small forward.
Also failing to attend yesterday, in addition to Matthews, were free agents Andrew Parker and former Maryland star Steve Shepard.
The veterans are due to report to camp Friday. Shue said that only about half of the players present yesterday will be invited to stay when the veterans arrive.
yesterday's workouts got down to serious business almost immediately. The players went through a few drills before scrimmaging. Shue and Bernie Bickerstaff, assistant coach, did little talking or whistle-blowing in favor of a lot of watching and note-taking.
"I like players to just go out and play in rookie and free agent camps," Shue said. "I figure they're here to show their talent. I'm not going to tell them a whole lot of things. I'm not here to coach them right now. I'm looking for their abilities. I just told them to go out there and do what they do best, no matter what that is."
Of course, Shue would like to have Matthews in camp, but he said there isn't much he can do. The problem is strictly money. It is not known how close the Bullets and Matthews are to reaching an agreement.
Matthews is expected to push Porter for the starting playmaking guard spot, but each day he is absent hurts his chances of overtaking Porter.
Veterans Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Dave Corzine, Grevey, Porter, Williamson, Mitch Kupchak and Bob Dandridge will begin working out Friday. All but Dandridge appear to be fit. Dandridge underwent surgery last month to repair a compressed nerve in his leg and it isn't known how hard he will be able to go once camp starts.
"I expect all of the players to be here Friday," Shue said. "It'll be kind of fun."
The highlight of Shue's Friday fun is expected to be the mile run. Starting time is 10:45 a.m. at the Ft. Meade track. All players still on the roster at that time are expected to run the distance in six minutes or less. Shue wouldn't say how many he thought would make it or what those who failed might be called on to do.
"Just to see Wes (Unseld) run around a track four times will be fun, though," Shue said.