Scottie Pippen always wanted to play college basketball. Coming out of Hamburg (Ark.) High School, he had the potential to be a good player, but his 6-foot-1, 150-pound frame scared many college coaches away.

University of Central Arkansas Coach Don Dyer was apprehensive about recruiting Pippen, too. Though he could handle the ball well, he needed time to develop, so Dyer brought Pippen to the Conway, Ark., campus as the team's manager.

Pippen grew two inches during his first season and Dyer gave him a chance to play. By the start of his sophomore year, he was 6-6 and still growing. "We figured we'd bring him in as a manager and let him get his feet on the ground. He was like a young colt; he needed time to grow," Dyer said.

In the NBA draft June 22, the Seattle Supersonics shocked basketball fans everywhere by making Pippen their first-round pick, fifth overall. Seattle then traded the two-time, NAIA all-America to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice and other considerations.

In October, Pippen will vie for a starting position next to Michael Jordan. Not bad for a former student manager.

"It's just an amazing story. He started from zero. Nobody recruited him, nobody wanted him," Dyer said. "And now he's a first-round draft choice. You couldn't have written a better script."

Of the four non-Division 1 first-round draft picks since 1980, Pippen was the highest and most surprising. Charles Oakley from Virginia Union (Division II) and Terry Porter of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (NAIA) were picked in 1985's first round, but both were known nationally. Earl Jones, a 7-footer from the University of the District of Columbia, was the Lakers first choice in 1984.

"I knew at the beginning of the year I could be a first-round pick," said Pippen, who is now 6-8, weighs 210 and is still growing. "But I didn't think I would go that high until a few weeks before the draft."

Players selected in the top 10 of the first round usually come from conferences like the Big East, ACC and Big Ten. But the fact that Pippen played in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference against Henderson State, Arkansas State, and Harding College didn't bother Jerry Krause, the Bulls vice president for basketball operations.

"The competition wasn't very good during the season, but he was very impressive at the {postseason pro} camps," Krause said. "We felt he could really help us. He's going to get bigger and stronger and better. He has a lot of natural skills."

After learning the game and growing his first two years in college, Pippen became a dominant player his junior and senior seasons. Because of the lack of size on most NAIA teams, Dyer played Pippen inside, although his strongest positions are guard and small forward.

Pippen received some attention from scouts this season by leading the Bears to their second straight 23-6 record, averaging 23.6 points, 10 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Pippen shot 59.4 percent from the floor (56 percent for his career), including 23 of 40 from three-point range.

The Bears' fourth game of the year was at Southern Mississippi on Dec. 13. Despite a bad leg, Pippen scored 25 points against the eventual NIT champions, who won the game easily. "We were extraordinarily impressed with him, especially since he was from a small school. I told my players after the game, 'Boys, you just played against a first-round draft choice'," Southern Mississippi Coach M.K. Turk said.

Pippen's performances in the postseason camps caught many scouts' eyes. After being named an all-star and winning the dunk contest at the Aloha Classic in May, his stock improved and he was considered a definite first-round pick.

"That's the fastest advancement I've ever heard of," Dyer said.

Pippen's incredible story began in the summer of 1983. Hamburg Coach Don Wayne, who played for Dyer at Henderson State, called the Central Arkansas coach and told him of Pippen's potential. Pippen was interested in Southern Arkansas and Arkansas-Monticello, but neither school was interested in him.

"We figured we'd give him a chance, but he needed time," Dyer said. "As it turned out, we needed him {to play as a freshman} so he got some playing time."

Pippen played in 20 games as a freshman, averaging four points and three rebounds. With another three inches to utilize, Pippen scored 18.5 points a game his sophomore year and 19.8 the next season.

Despite being from an NAIA school, Pippen thinks he can make it in the NBA: "I saw what Dennis Rodman {an NAIA all-America two years ago, now with the Detroit Pistons} did when he came into the league and if I work hard enough I know I can make it."

Pippen will contend with Brad Sellers and Gene Banks for a starting position on the Bulls, Krause said.

"I'm really happy for him," Dyer said. "He has relatives in Chicago, he's going to get a big contract, and he'll have the opportunity to play with the most exciting player {Jordan} in the world. It's a dream come true for Scottie."