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King Tyus Converting New Batch of Subjects : Pro basketball: They again thought he was too small, but Edney is making believers out of NBA.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another career move, another 10 million skeptics to show.

What chance does a 5-10, 152-pound choirboy like Tyus Edney have among the monsters of the NBA? Same chance as always: great.

Three weeks into his pro career, the Little Giant is wowing them, just the way he did as a miniature freshman at UCLA when he ran the senior starter, Darrick Martin, off his point guard job by the NCAA tournament.

Edney now shares the position for the Sacramento Kings, although he has played more minutes, scored more points, accumulated more assists and finished more fourth quarters than nominal starter Bobby Hurley. At his current pace, Edney won’t have to wait until the postseason to get this job.

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“At the worst,” says enchanted King personnel director Jerry Reynolds, who drafted Edney with the 47th pick, “assuming he stays healthy, he’s going to have a long, prosperous career. At the best, he’s going to be a star.

“Of course there’s a lot of in-between there but there’s no rush to find out. Somebody was looking after us there. Somebody said, we’ve kicked you guys around long enough.

“I think he’s proved to any logical person he can score and run a team. Of course, there’s a lot of illogical ones out there.”

Not as many as there used to be.

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This is not a new story in Westwood where they’ll have free parking on the street before they forget Edney’s exploits last spring: the dash up court in the last 4.8 seconds to beat Missouri; the two quick drives to get Mississippi State’s Erick Dampier in foul trouble; the half-court shot against UConn; the drives through Big Country Bryant Reeves in the semifinals. That was the player Jim Harrick had seen in practice for years and now, finally, the world was seeing it.

“We had taken Tyus to a couple doctors and got his tendinitis straightened out,” Harrick says. “I’d always told his dad, ‘He’s playing about 85%, in my opinion.’ Because I’d seen him in his sophomore year, he was magnificent. Mag-nificent!

“All through his junior year, he had nagging injuries, nothing serious but his tendinitis in his left knee--that makes you play 90% instead of 100%.

“We got him straightened out a little bit and about the last couple weeks of the season, he got to feeling really good and in the tournament, he played like Tyus Edney. That’s the way he plays.”

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UCLA will have free tuition before it forgets the Arkansas game, Edney leaving with a sprained wrist, Cameron Dollar replacing him, the Bruins winning anyway. If that was a dramatic end to Edney’s college career, it cast a shadow over a postseason that should have boosted him halfway up the NBA’s first round.

Edney had many little injuries in a 25-game college season. What would happen to him in the 82-game NBA? Not only was he small, two inches shorter than the 6-0 at which he was listed by the Bruins, he was slight. Most of the other smurfs in the NBA looked like little weightlifters; Tyus looked like a waif.

The worst was yet to come. At the Chicago pre-draft camp, he broke his left thumb. He was beginning to look like he had the durability of a hummingbird.

“I was upset,” says Edney, a matter-of-fact young man who is hard to upset. “It was frustrating. It was back-to-back kinds of things.

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“Right when my wrist was better, I hurt my thumb so it was kind of frustrating.”

The draft was a “a real long day, put it that way.” Ed O’Bannon went No. 9 to the Nets. George Zidek, for gosh sakes, went No. 22 to the Hornets. Edney sat at home and waited.

He thought he’d go late in the first round or early on the second but the teams who had invited him in--Indiana, Utah, Vancouver--passed on him once and passed on him again. The Pacers did take a little point guard but it was Georgia Tech’s Travis Best. The Spurs took Corey Alexander. The Lakers took Frankie King.

Finally at No. 47, 11 picks before the end of the draft, the Kings called Edney’s name.

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Edney was out of the big money but in a good place. The Kings traded prickly Spud Webb, deciding to try it with Hurley and Edney. There were eye rolls all over the league.

Then camp started. Ever since, everything’s been fine.

“It’s been kind of what I thought,” says Edney, unfazed as usual. “In terms of playing against the great athletes, all that kind of stuff, I expected it to be very competitive and difficult at times but it’s kind of what I thought it would be.

“I didn’t think size would be a problem. I played against pros, like, in the summertime and things like that. In college, I played against a lot of big guys. . . .”

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The thing about Tyus Edney, he thinks he really is 6-0. Or 7-0. They knew it in Westwood. Now they’re finding it out everywhere.


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