Manute Bol, the tallest player in college basketball, took the first step toward becoming the tallest player in the National Basketball Association yesterday when he declared himself eligible for the league's June draft.

Bol, a 7-foot-6 freshman at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) from the village of Grogal in Sudan, informed Coach Bruce Webster of his decision prior to the NCAA Division II school's spring recess and sent a letter requesting to be included in the early eligibility draft.

Bol said he needed to return to Sudan, whose government was overthrown last week, and assure the safety of his sister, whom he hasn't heard from since May 1984, according to Webster.

Bol led the 1984-85 Bridgeport squad to a 26-6 record. Bol, a mere 190 pounds, had 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and seven blocked shots a game.

Webster previously said it was his opinion Bol would need more college experience but would eventually be an outstanding professional player. The coach also said that because of Bol's lack of weight -- and strength -- he would probably even be "pushed around by Division I centers."

"We had been trying to convince him not to (go pro)," Webster said. " . . . he would be worth four or five times what he's worth now if he stayed and played another year for us" . . .

Karl (Mailman) Malone, Louisiana Tech's front-court star, has opted to forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft . . .

Ted Owens, who coached Kansas for 19 years until 1983, is the new basketball coach at Oral Roberts. Owens will be leaving an investment firm in Kansas City to go to the Tulsa school on a five-year contract.