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"By allowing teams to pick in more or less the reverse order of their finish in the regular season, the draft is designed to help equalize competition, but in the past the weaker clubs all too often defeated this worthy purpose by sacrificing their high choices in ill-considered trades that demonstrated how they got to be weak in the first place. This time around, Dallas, Detroit and New Jersey, which had the three worst records in 1980-81, held on to their top selections. Not only that, but the Mavericks and Pistons also contrived to have not one but two first-round choices each, while the Nets had three. And, most uncharacteristically of all, all three clubs used their picks wisely.
"The happy result is that the poor will, for a change, get richer. After leaning toward Indiana's Isiah Thomas for weeks, Dallas, which picked first, instead took Mark Aguirre of DePaul, who was, after all, the best player available. The Mavs' other first-round choice was Rolando Blackman of Kansas State, the most promising of 1981's big guards, and for good measure, they picked up hardworking Jay Vincent, a forward-center from Michigan State, in the second round. The Mavericks will be much improved. Detroit gladly grabbed the leftover Thomas, the best point guard to enter the NBA since Phil Ford, as well as Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka. The Pistons will also be improved, although it didn't seem to bode well for them when Thomas reacted to being drafted by Detroit by saying he'd now have to get used to losing, while Tripucka looked as though he'd just been sentenced to life imprisonment. The biggest winners may have been the Nets, who not only landed a terrific power forward, Buck Williams, but also Williams' University of Maryland roommate, Forward Albert King, and Indiana Forward Ray Tolbert, while making deals for Kansas City's All-Star Guard Otis Birdsong and Knick swingman Mike Woodson—all in the space of 24 breathless hours. By contrast, powerhouses like L.A., Philadelphia and Milwaukee didn't help themselves all that much, which is the way these things are supposed to work out but too seldom do."
As if their countries haven't already exported enough products to the U.S., please meet 7'8", 300-pound Yasutaka Okayama of Japan and 7'2", 250-pound Uwe Blab of West Germany. Okayama was selected in the eighth round of the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, and it wasn't a publicity stunt. Nicknamed Chibi, which means midget in Japanese, the 25-year-old Okayama is a former star for the Osaka University of Commerce and now plays for a team representing Sumitomo Metal Industries, where he's employed as a $680-a-month salesman. Okayama said that while he was honored to be drafted by the Warriors, he wasn't interested in trying to make the team—a decision applauded by his former coach at Osaka, Saburo Shimada, who considers him "far too slow by American professional standards." But the man who recommended Okayama, Warrior scout and consultant Pete Newell, called Okayama an "intelligent player" with undeveloped potential; Newell notes that Okayama appears to have finally stopped growing and, therefore, may now develop some needed coordination. Despite Okayama's avowed lack of interest, he'll be invited to Golden State's rookie camp.
Blab came to Effingham, Ill. in 1979 from his native Munich on a Rotary International exchange program and averaged 16.6 points a game as a junior and 26.4 as a senior for one of Illinois' strongest high school basketball teams. He decided to attend college in the U.S. and was recruited by 160 schools, including NCAA champion Indiana, whose coach, Bobby Knight, showed up to see Blab in Effingham after the deadline that the boy and his high school coach had set for such visits. Discussing his encounter with Knight with Bob Hammel of the Bloomington ( Ind.) Herald-Telephone, Blab said, "I asked him, 'Why do you come in so late?' He told me, 'We don't recruit like other schools do. We don't recruit players that hard. Every player we recruit we want.' And then he said, 'I don't recruit you—you recruit me.' " There was also this exchange:
Blab: "I had never even heard of you before last year."
Knight: "Well, just how the hell long do you think I've heard of you?"
Bobby strikes again. Explaining that he liked Indiana's campus and players and also that he'd developed grudging admiration for Knight's unorthodox recruiting style, Blab decided to enroll this fall at Indiana, where he'll become the tallest player in Hoosier history.