"A STRING OF PEARLS"
(COACH: JIM BOEHEIM)
Syracuse has been in the shadows lately—shadows cast by Patrick Ewing, Ed Pinckney and Chris Mullin—but so have a lot of other Big East teams. Syracuse has also been overshadowed by some of its own: Dwayne (Pearl) Washington and the full-house crowds in the 33,000-seat Carrier Dome draw a lot of attention that otherwise would be focused on the team. When coach Jim Boeheim goes on recruiting trips he isn't greeted with, "Oh, you're the coach of that team that's gone to the NCAAs seven of your nine years." Instead, it's, "Oh, you're the Pearl's coach." Or, "Oh, you're the coach of that team that plays in the dome."
This year the team with the dome for a home could be the toast of the East Coast. Seven of the eight players who saw a lot of action last season are back, and the one who's gone, Andre Hawkins, wasn't on the floor as much as sixth-man Wendell Alexis. Boeheim says the 6'9" Alexis is the team's most improved player, and with center Rony Seikaly and Rafael Addison alongside him, Syracuse should paint the Big East boards orange.
Seikaly is a 6'10" sophomore from Lebanon, by way of Greece. Although he was erratic throughout the season, Seikaly averaged 8.1 points per game and blocked 59 shots. "I'm sorry that Ewing and [Bill] Wennington are gone," says Seikaly. "I'd like them to see how much I've improved."
Addison has also improved, if that's possible. He has become known as the best unknown player in the country. The 6'7" All-America was the team's leading scorer (18.7 points per game) for the second year in a row and averaged almost 36 minutes per game. He's also the team leader. "It's definitely me. I enjoy doing it, it's part of communication," says Addison, a communications major. Backing up the front line is 6'9" freshman Rodney Walker and sophomore Derek Brower, also 6'9". Missing, however, is Herman Harried, out for the year after injuring his knee in a summer pickup game.
Boeheim crows that "this is the best offensive team I've ever had." And why is this a better offensive team than the ones that included Louis Orr, Erich Santifer or Leo Rautins? Well, first, there's Addison. And then there's...Pearl.
Washington is going to have himself an award-winning junior year, and with the NBA beckoning it could be his last. Some people didn't like the way Washington played last season. He made things tough on himself as a freshman by scoring 57 points in two Big East tournament games, thus making last season's average of 15.4 points per game look paltry. And then there was the matter of his many turnovers. "He's more determined than I've ever seen him," says Boeheim. "People expect miracles from Dwayne. He's a human being."
Pearl averaged 34.1 minutes per game last season, an exhausting regimen, especially so because he was usually handling the ball. This season freshman Sherman Douglas, a 6-foot guard who was The Washington Post area high school player of the year, will spell Pearl to keep him from tiring toward the ends of games. "I have no complaints with Dwayne," says Boeheim. "I can live with his turnovers."
Washington's partner in the backcourt is 6'4" Michael Brown, who last year made the Big East all-freshman team after shooting 52.4% from the field and 86.9% from the line. Brown, Washington and all the rest should satisfy the Dome's raucous crowds. Syracuse is out of the shadows and into the light. And that light has a bright orange hue.
JOHN MADDOCK ROBERTS
Whether visiting a radio station, or spinning at home in the Dome, Washington (left) and Addison are tops in pops.