Manute Bol, the Washington Bullets' second-round selection in June's NBA draft, has gained 12 pounds and weighs 204.

He and Frank Costello, the University of Maryland's strength coordinator, have been working together three times a week since the team's rookie camp started last month and Bol's muscles are more defined, if not bigger.

But given his elongated 7-foot-7 frame, 12 pounds doesn't make that much difference. Perhaps that's why Costello couches his praise of Bol's progress in terms of potential and not actual numbers.

"He's not going to be the size of Wilt Chamberlain," Costello said, "but he has the potential to increase his size and strength. He can become an overall bigger, stronger athlete. We're testing him now, then we'll set up a strength and conditioning program."

The Bullets hired Costello for exactly that purpose. General Manager Bob Ferry said that, so far, the team is pleased, "because we can see how hard Manute's working."

Bol said he's pleased as well, but kidded yesterday that perhaps the work is a little too hard. "I wake up in the morning and it takes me two minutes to start walking," he said.

He said he isn't concerned about the progress of his contract negotiations with the team.

His agent, Frank Catapano, couldn't be reached for comment, but Ferry said he expected a deal to be signed by the start of training camp Sept. 27.