It comes as no surprise to Roy Simmons that the Gait twins are standing astride indoor lacrosse just as they did the outdoor game at Syracuse.
From afar, the Syracuse coach has watched the Gaits pick up a last-place team in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and carry it to first. He has watched Paul Gait set a MILL single-season goals record in just over half a season, and he sees now that the twins are one-two in the league scoring race.
"They dominate, set the tempo, score at will," said Simmons, who had the benefit of the Gaits' services during Syracuse's three straight NCAA championship seasons. "Indoor lacrosse is their game. That's what they were in Canada before coming to FTC Syracuse. The indoor game is twice as physical, but they smile at the hits. They're tough kids.
"It's like having Magic Johnson, only there's two of them."
Gary and Paul Gait of the Detroit Turbos are now the problem of the Thunder, for one last time this season. The Thunder, winner of the American Division with a 6-4 record, will play the Turbos, the National winner at 8-2, in the MILL championship game Saturday (8 p.m.) at the Baltimore Arena.
Almost alone, the Gaits have brought the Turbos to life. The main straggler a year ago, Detroit now has the best record in the MILL. Paul has a league-record 47 goals, Gary is second with 32. Gary leads the league in assists with 36; he and Paul are one-two in points (68 and 66), with the Thunder's Rick Sowell a distant third with 46.
At Syracuse it was Gary who scored most of the goals, setting a school record of 192, to Paul's 127.
"When we were growing up, one of us would lead in goals, the other in assists," Gary said by phone from Syracuse, where he and his brother are finishing up course work for their degrees. "This is just one of those years."
As MILL rookies, the Gaits are earning only $125 each a game, but they are cashing in on their lacrosse celebrity in other ways. Last June they signed an endorsement contract with STX Inc., a Maryland-based lacrosse equipment manufacturer, to promote an instructional video, "The Secret of Our Success," and other products.
"We're negotiating a new contract now to start June 1," Gary said.
The Gaits' weeks are filled. They attend classes at Syracuse weekdays and do promotional work for STX and play for the Turbos on weekends. They will be on Simmons' staff for his summer camp for 11- to 18-year-olds and they hope to form a team composed mostly of Syracuse alumni that will tour Cape Cod, New York and Vail, Colo., this summer.
The Gaits wound up on the same team only because MILL officials persuaded general managers to allow the last-place Turbos to draft the brothers as a tandem on the first round. It was strictly a marketing device.
"We add to each other's game," Gary said. "I'm a better player if Paul helps me."
Said Simmons, "They've played together for so long they always know exactly what the other one is going to do. That's why I liked to play them together. You can't double-team both of them when they're out there at the same time."
The Thunder has had little success against Detroit, dropping 20-16 and 22-14 decisions. The Gaits have combined for 19 goals in those two games. Again on Saturday they will face the goalie they played against as teen-agers, Jeff Gombar, also a Canadian.
"We played against him for years," Gary said. "He baits you, leaving an open spot and then you shoot and he takes it away. He's smart, and knows players' tendencies. Jeff does his homework."
Which leaves Gombar with a huge assignment this week.