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Basketball; Interest grows in NBA draft

Once, it seemed, nobody gave a hoot about pro basketball's college draft. Perhaps the occasion's importance was undermined by the slap-dash nature of the proceedings: teams quickly making selections via an often-comical conference telephone call. The National Basketball Association hasn't embellished the draft with any De Mille-ian trappings, but people are taking more notice now, for whatever reasons.

Several factors primed NBA watchers for Tuesday's draft, which saw DEPaul's Mark Aguirre taken first by the Dallas Mavericks.

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Among these was the quality of talent available. Eight collegians up for grabs had been on the 1980 Olympic team, which outplayed selected NBA stars in a six-game series last summer. Among them were the first five draftees: Aguirre; Indiana's Isiah Thomas (taken by Detroit); Maryland's Buck Williams (New Jersey); North Carolina's Al Woods (Atlanta); and Utah's Danny Vranes (Seattle). The first three, incidentally, decided not to complete collegiate careers.

Another catalyst to pre-draft interest was considerable speculation about who would be the No. 1 pick. Despite possessing exceptional abilities, Aguirre's attitude and maturity were questioned by some observers, who felt DePaul's failures in tournament play cast doubts over the 6 ft. 7 in. forward.

At first, Aguirre's impact may be felt more at the box office than on the court. But let him and fellow first-rounder Rolando Blackman put some experience under their elasticized waistbands and the 15-67 Mavericks should shake the expansion blues.

New Jersey, which earlier traded Cliff Robinson to Kansas City for all-star guard Otis Birdsong, probably had the best draft, selecting Albert King and Ray Tolbert besides William s on the first round.

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