In the days leading up to Thursday's NBA draft, 7-1 center B.J. Mullens has been launched around the country like the shots he was firing from long distance last weekend.

Saturday's visit with the Sixers at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine was his eighth workout in 9 days.

It just happened that Mullens' last workout might be his biggest head-scratcher in terms of a roster fit. The Sixers, who have been focused on a guard, don't have much need for a big man with Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith and Marreese Speights on the roster.

"We don't expect him, from a probability standpoint, to be there at No. 17," said Courtney Witte, the Sixers' director of player personnel. "But I think we need to be prepared. Our philosophy has always been to look at the best player available, and he is certainly a talent.

"I think any time you can get a talent like that, you have to take a look at him and you have to do your due diligence and then make a determination. He is potentially going to be a very good basketball player in the NBA."

A source has told the Daily News the visit was a "longstanding commitment" arranged some time ago. Mullens' agent, Andy Miller, also represents unrestricted free-agent guard Andre Miller. Teams cannot begin to negotiate with free agents until July 1.

Mullens, a better-than-average shooter for a big man, opted out of Ohio State after winning the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year award as a freshman. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 33 games.

"Even though they're looking at a guard, you never know," Mullens said with a shrug. "I'm just trying to get people talking about B.J. Mullens."

Multiple reports have stated that the Detroit Pistons - sitting two spots ahead of the Sixers at 15 - are firm on drafting Mullens; he is slated to go anywhere from eighth to 20th in mock drafts.

"It's all up in the air until draft night," Mullens said. "I had told a reporter that I was going to go back [to Detroit] for a workout. But I don't think I am."

Mullens said Chicago, the pick before the Sixers, has also expressed interest.

After averaging 20 minutes per game at Ohio State, Mullens might need more time to develop than the typical college player. His trainer, Joe Abunassar, who has worked with more than 30 current NBA players, would know better than anyone.

Abunassar is training a slew of this year's draft crop at his Impact Basketball center in Las Vegas.

"He is a very intriguing prospect," Abunassar said of Mullens. "In all of my years, I've rarely seen a guy that is 7-foot and has this kind of skill and athleticism. He is a back-to-the-basket-type guy. Like Marreese [Speights, also a client], he does a lot of different things well. I think he just needs to play more and needs a little time to adjust.

"He is absolutely worth looking into. You never know what other teams are thinking on draft night."

It seems that there is little interest in Mullens from teams selecting after the Sixers, limiting their options for a draft-and-trade scenario. Drafting him would still leave the Sixers with a gaping hole at guard.

"We think about that," Witte said of a possible trade situaton. "We're in the process of evaluating that. But I think any time you can get a quality player that has separation among other players, you've got to go with that talent."

Ayers future

Ryan Ayers, a Germantown Academy graduate and son of former 76ers coach Randy Ayers, was also at PCOM on Saturday for a workout.

The 6-7 guard, who averaged 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during his senior season at Notre Dame, is a reach for Thursday's second round but is hoping to earn a spot on one of the NBA summer-league rosters.

"I'm just trying to get my name out there," Ayers said. "I feel like I can add to a summer-league team's depth chart and build my resume. I would love to go overseas if I can do that [next year]. As long as I'm playing next year, I'll be fine."

"I think Ryan has a chance in a few years," Witte said. "He's got an NBA skill, it's that he can shoot the basketball. He's focused on doing that, whether it's in the D [Development]-League or in Europe."

Six shots

Ryan Ayers hinted that his father, Randy, might not be returning to the Washington Wizards next year. It has been rumored that the elder Ayers, a former Eddie Jordan assistant, might be returning to the Sixers' bench . . . Courtney Witte said at this point the Sixers do not have any other prospect workouts scheduled. Keep in mind, however, that Andre Iguodala was brought in for a second, unannounced workout just before the 2004 draft. *