Interest in Walter Palmer -- his jump shot, strength and whereabouts -- remains high in Salt Lake City. Frustration is rising there as well, as Palmer has yet to reach a contract agreement with the Utah Jazz.

Palmer didn't show for rookie camp, and his holdout is approaching two months. Not what the Jazz expected when they made the former Washington-Lee High School star their only 1990 draftee, a 7-foot-1, 225-pound center from Dartmouth who has shown promise and little else to Jazz officials who hoped to see him training in Utah for much of the summer.

The sides reportedly were close to reaching an agreement last week, yet remain far enough apart to keep Palmer working out on his own in New Hampshire and Massachusetts while agent Eric Fleisher of International Marketing Group negotiates on his behalf.

"I know I'd like to play basketball in the best possible situation next year," Palmer said last week. "I need to go somewhere I can play. I'm hoping I can develop under {Utah's} tutelage."

Palmer isn't limiting his options. Because of an affinity for Europe and the ability to speak Spanish, he has been courted by a few Spanish teams that are more than casually interested in the hard-working Palmer.

In Europe, Palmer likely would be a starter and a scorer. Should he sign with the Jazz, though, the Arlington native can expect to be brought along decidedly slower.

"I feel Walter's game . . . a lot of it is ahead of him," Utah player personnel director Scott Layden said after the Jazz took Palmer in the second round of the NBA draft on June 27. "I think you can see tremendous potential there."

For lack of a better comparison, Palmer likely will be cast as a replacement for Eric Leckner, who averaged 4.3 points per game in each of his two seasons playing behind Mark Eaton. The only difference is that the bulky Leckner was primarily a post player, while Palmer, because of his slight frame, is more of a prospect at forward.

Essentially, it was a pick for the future. Yet while some might have been surprised to see Palmer taken sixth in the second round and 33rd overall, the selection was easier to understand than Utah's first-round playoff losses the past two seasons.

In acquiring Bullets guard Jeff Malone on June 25 and addressing its most glaring weakness -- the need for an all-star caliber perimeter shooter -- Utah sent Leckner, Bobby Hansen and two draft choices to the Sacramento Kings for Malone and a draft choice (who turned out to be Palmer). The trade originated when Sacramento sent Pervis Ellison to Washington for Malone and a No. 2 pick in 1991.

Malone's arrival, and more significantly Leckner's departure, created a new, lesser void for the Jazz. They filled it with Palmer, the first Dartmouth player selected since the Atlanta Hawks took Larry Lawrence in the second round of the 1980 draft.

"We didn't draft him as a big man," Utah General Manager Tim Howells said. "We saw a lot of raw talent. Walter is a project right now. We don't expect him to make an impact on the team right away."

Layden said: "When we made the trade and lost Leckner, we needed someone to fill the project slot. Around here, people probably were flipping through the paper and saying, 'What the hell are the Jazz doing.' Walter's well-known by coaches and scouts. The NBA people knew he was going to be taken in the second round."

Palmer was fairly sure as well, and said he started paying close attention to the draft on television once the second round started. His stock reportedly was boosted with strong performances in predraft camps in Portsmouth, Va., and Chicago, resulting in interviews with several teams -- including the Bullets, who selected Texas-El Paso center Greg Foster, also a holdout, two picks later.

Although Palmer didn't speak with Jazz officials until draft day, Utah was one of the first teams to scout him.

"I think I would have been a little surprised had I not been drafted, but this exceeds all my expectations," Palmer said the day after the draft. "I'm really excited. It's a great situation there."

When reached last week at his parent's home in Belmont, Mass., Palmer sounded as if the excitement hadn't worn off, despite the contract differences: "I didn't expect {to be drafted} when I went to Dartmouth. But I worked pretty hard. It's made it that much sweeter."

Palmer no doubt will have to do some bodybuilding work before he's ready for the pros. He battled with injuries throughout his career at Dartmouth, including a muscle strain in his back during the middle of last season that cut into his playing time. He still averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds as a senior, and ranked 10th in the nation with 85 blocked shots in 25 games.

He hasn't strayed too far from the weight room this summer -- although it wasn't Utah's weight room. At Washington-Lee, Palmer never weighed more than 185 pounds. In college, he was at his heaviest at 208. He is looking to add to his current weight if he can figure out how to keep it on.

The Jazz, however, would have preferred Palmer to bulk up with their strength coaches instead of training at home.

"It's extremely important for players to come in and get acclimated to the area and organization," Howells said. "We've had first-round picks come in early and it really paid off for them."

"I'm more frustrated for Walter. He doesn't have the strength yet to play down low."