LAST SEASON: 26-6; lost to Navy in NCAA second round.
GOODBYE TO: Pearl Washington (17.3 ppg); Rafael Addison (15.0 ppg); Wendell Alexis (15.2 ppg).
SUPPORTING CAST: g Greg Monroe; g Sherman Douglas.
INTRODUCING: Freshmen 6'4" g/f Stevie Thompson and 6'9" Derrick Coleman.
SEE YOU IN THE SUPERDOME IF: Rony Seikaly's bum wheel heals and the freshmen turn into Pearls.
Syracuse center Rony Seikaly used to have two cars, a four-wheel drive Renegade and a BMW. (Note to NCAA gumshoes: Seikaly's father is a wealthy Lebanese-American shipping executive, and Seikaly is fully able to support booster-free vehicles.) He once joked that he sometimes played tough and strong like the Renegade and that other times he played too much like the sleek BMW. Of course, this was before Seikaly blew a tire; he sustained a stress fracture in his left foot this summer. "I think it's pretty healed," he said recently. "I hope it's pretty healed."
Before the injury the 6'10" junior had been keeping up with coach Jim Boeheim's schedule. It was no surprise that after only two seasons of organized basketball, Seikaly's defense developed faster than his offense. As a freshman Seikaly rejected three Patrick Ewing shots. But by last season the Orangemen could have used more than 10.1 points per game from him. He did develop a certain deftness in the low post, but at times he was astonishingly raw. In the opening round of the NCAAs, Navy's David Robinson made ground chuck out of Seikaly in Syracuse's own Carrier Dome. And in the summer, the two got to know each other better as teammates at the World Championships.
During tryouts for that team Seikaly injured his foot. He played on it despite the pain, but after he returned to the U.S. the foot was placed in plaster. There followed some question about the severity of the injury. Boeheim so much as said it was nothing serious; Syracuse team physician Dr. Bruce Baker suggested Seikaly might miss part of the season. The cast came off on Oct. 23, but Seikaly's mobility remains in question. Without him, the Orange is in trouble.
Seikaly may have been the one who suffered the fracture, but he and Boeheim are sharing the stress. "It's tough to take seriously a team that loses more than half its offense and then gets its center hurt," says the coach.