When the San Antonio Spurs acquired center Dave Corzine from the Bullets before the start of the season. Coach Stan Albeck had to call Corzine's college coach, Ray Meyer of De Paul, to find out about Corzine.

"Nobody knew if I could play or not," Corzine said, "because I never got a chance."

That changed when Corzine got to San Antonio. In his first game, he scored 18 points and hit the game-winning shot -- a jumper from the free throw line -- with four seconds left.

Now, he's one of the most valuable players on perhaps the most surprising team in the league. The dream of becoming a big-time NBA center that died in Washington has been realized for Corzine in San Antonio. He makes his first Capital Centre appearance since leaving the Bullets tonight when the Spurs play the Bullets at 8:05.

The Spurs are 32-16 and have a comfortable lead in the Midwest Division. Corzine is their leading rebounder and second leading scorer. He doesn't start, but plays half the game anyway, behind shot-blocking George Johnson.

In his two years with the Bullets, Corzine played fewer than 10 minutes a game and averaged 2.9 points and 2.9 rebounds. Now he is playing almost 25 minutes a game and averaging 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. He is also shooting 51 percent from the field.

"When I first got drafted I thought I'd be the heir to Wes (Unseld)," Corzine said. "But after two years, it didn't look like that was what was happening. If they had decided I was going to eventually be the center, then they would have worked me in more than they did.

"I was always confident I could play, but it really doesn't matter how much confidence you have in yourself, if nobody else does."

When second-round draft choice Rick Mahorn played well in training camp, Corzine became expendable to the Bullets, who felt that Mahorn had more potential. They traded Corzine to San Antonio for two second-round draft choices.

"When (Bullet General Manager) Bob (Ferry) first called me about the trade. I was unhappy," Corzine said. "I liked the team, the players, the organization and everything about Washington. I thought that by being traded I'd lose all my friends.

"Then I talked to Coach (Stan) Albeck and he was extremely positive and told me I'd get a chance to play. After talking to him I was ready to leave. I was tired of sitting on the bench. Everybody likes the way Albeck coaches. He plays everybody every night and he doesn't get down on you if you make a mistake. He has confidence in everyone on the team and we feel it."