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Pistons find backcourt help with Wells

Detroit takes a chance on Korleone Young

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Posted: Wednesday June 24, 1998 11:45 PM

  Wells set the MAC career scoring record with 2,485 points at Ball State (AP)

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (AP) -- They weren't expecting much help in the NBA draft. Maybe that's why the Detroit Pistons were so pleased after taking Ball State guard Bonzi Wells with the 11th pick Wednesday night.

Wells, the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year as a senior last season, led the nation in steals and set the MAC career scoring record with 2,485 points.

"Bonzi might have a chance to have an impact right away, if he continues to work hard," said Pistons coach Alvin Gentry, who took over after Doug Collins was fired midway through last season.

Gentry conceded the Pistons would have preferred Kansas guard Paul Pierce, who some NBA scouts considered the best player in the draft because to his versatile inside-outside game. But the Boston Celtics took Pierce with the 10th pick, just ahead of the Pistons.

"We are extremely happy with Bonzi," Gentry said. "He may see some [playing time at] two, some three, maybe even the one position in pinch situations. He's an outstanding defensive player."

Still, the Pistons weren't pinning many hopes on this year's draft of college players. There simply wasn't enough talent coming out to help a team like Detroit. The Pistons finished 37-45 last season -- a 17-game slide from 1997 -- and out of the playoffs again.

Their best bet for improvement is to surround Grant Hill with skilled veterans. That means spending some money on quality free agents, not college projects.

"Free agency is still the way we're going to get where we want to be," Gentry said.

Wells, whose given name is Gawen Deangelo Wells, was taken because he was the best player available, not because he fit a particular need, Gentry said. Still, it won't hurt that Wells can spend his rookie season under the wing of a veteran like Joe Dumars.

Rick Sund, the Pistons' vice president for player operations, said the team also hoped to re-sign free agent Jerry Stackhouse, another potential heir to Dumars at shooting guard.

"We have every intention of resigning Jerry," Sund said. "We are targeting big men through free agency, so drafting a shooting guard made sense."

Wells, during a conference call from Vancouver with reporters at the Pistons' practice facility, said he wasn't bothered by the prospect of battling Stackhouse for playing time.

"I realize I'm probably going to be behind Stackhouse, and maybe sit for a couple of years," Wells said. "But, I'll just make the best of the situation."

Wells was one of several players the Pistons invited in for private workouts before the draft. Gentry said Wells had a good workout, shooting a little better from the perimeter than he and Sund had expected.

"We want to eventually have a team like the Chicago Bulls, where we can switch a player from offense to defense almost at will," Gentry said. "Bonzi's defensive ability will allow us to play like the Chicago Bulls."

The Pistons also had the 40th overall pick in the draft.


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