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When Barry hurt his back several weeks ago Wilkes was shifted to the small forward position and was told that he now was the man. He responded with 25 points against Seattle, then scored 31 against the Lakers. When Barry returned, Wilkes went back to power forward, again in Barry's shadow.
"Playing with Rick isn't all that bad," says Wilkes. "I get a lot of open shots because of him. He's so great one-on-one, they all sag on him, leaving me open. And you learn a lot from Barry just watching him."
Says Attles, "Talking about that Rookie of the Year award. I don't know of any first-year player—and darn few veterans—who are making more of a contribution to any team. And a winning team. And he's just scratching the surface. You tend to forget he's a first-year man.
"The best thing is that he's not trying to be someone else. He's just trying to be the best player Keith Wilkes can be, and that's all you can ask."
"The award would be nice," says Wilkes, "but I don't get all wound up thinking about it. It's like when I came into the league—I didn't want to pressure myself. I had no expectations. I thought I could play to my satisfaction but I didn't know how long the transition would take." As it has turned out, it didn't take very long at all.
At Atlanta the transition of John Drew from college to the professional ranks took only the first 48 minutes of the season. That's the amount of time the 6'6", 205-pound 20-year-old from little Gardner-Webb needed to score 32 points against Chicago in the NBA opener. "He's got my vote as Rookie of the Year right now," said the Bulls' Chet Walker. "He's the best rookie I've seen in four years."
"One day early in the season we were watching a tape of one of the games we played last season," says Cotton Fitzsimmons, Drew's coach. "We were watching Lou Hudson put on one of his good moves. I heard clapping in the back of the room. It was Drew. Now in a game, some guy on the other team puts on a good move and John still applauds. He's really something."
At college—or, as Drew says, at Sweet Gardner-Webb—the big kid from the little high school in Beatrice, Ala. used to save clippings on major college basketball stars. People like Bill Walton. They were his idols. He was scoring only 25.9 points a game last year, just so-so for a guy who once scored 77 and 74 points in back-to-back high school games.
"If you haven't seen J.D. shoot, you wouldn't believe him," says teammate Dean Meminger. "He's one of the best offensive machines I've seen in pro basketball. He's incredible now and he's going to be unbelievable."