Hat-trick odds slim for Sonics' Wingate After Dunbar, Hoyas, third title unlikely

June 12, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- At Baltimore's Dunbar High School, David Wingate played alongside the likes of Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams and the late Reggie Lewis and won a mythical national )) championship. In college, Wingate played on the 1984 Georgetown team that won an NCAA championship. In the NBA, Wingate's Seattle SuperSonics' made it to the NBA Finals, putting him in a position to complete a rare trifecta.

But it appears that, at least for now, Wingate will have to settle for two out of three. The Sonics face elimination in tonight's Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls.

Seattle's chances were virtually ended by Sunday's 108-86 loss at Key Arena, where the Sonics had lost just five games all season. Their poor play at home came as a shock to their players.

"I'm not saying that we were tight or tentative," Wingate said of Sunday's game. "The pressure is over. We made it to the finals."

And that could be the big difference between the teams. The Sonics, after two straight first-round playoff eliminations, are playing like a team that is just happy to have gotten to the finals. Before Game 1, Wingate was beaming when asked what it was like to reach this level.

"I've had some success before, winning at Dunbar and later at Georgetown," Wingate said. "But I can say that this is one of the top moments of my career. To get this far, to be in the spotlight, is unbelievable."

The role of Wingate, a 6-foot-5 guard, is a bit different than in his prior basketball success. At Dunbar, Wingate was in a starring role on perhaps the greatest-ever high school basketball team. At Georgetown, he was a starter on the Hoyas' NCAA title team.

Wingate, who, along with Hersey Hawkins, came to the Sonics before the season in a deal that sent Kendall Gill to Charlotte, averaged 11.6 minutes in a reserve role in 60 games with the Sonics. After totaling just seven minutes in the first two games of the finals, Wingate played a series-high 19 minutes in Sunday's loss, when he scored seven points.

Wingate, a second-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1986, is completing his 10th NBA season. Seattle is his fifth stop. He also has played with Charlotte (three years), the Washington Bullets (one season) and the San Antonio Spurs (two seasons).

He had trouble off the court in the early 1990s. He faced sexual-assault charges in 1990 and 1991, and in 1992, a former girlfriend in Columbia filed battery charges against him twice. All charges were eventually dropped.

"I've been through quite a few ups and downs," Wingate said. "I've had to be a strong person to overcome them, and I'm grateful that I've been able to play this long."

Wingate's best scoring season was his second with the Sixers, when he averaged 8.9 points. What has kept him in the league is his aggressive defense, with an ability to guard small forwards and big guards. This series, it has been his duty to try to slow Michael Jordan.

"I've played him quite a few times in my career," Wingate said. "When he gets his jump shot going, he's a hard player to cover."

Yet Wingate has shown he will not back down to Jordan, playing him aggressively in the few moments they have been matched against each other. In Game 2 in Chicago, they traded elbows and were called for double fouls. That may have earned Wingate more minutes in Game 3, when Jordan scored 36 points.

"Hey, playing in the playgrounds in East Baltimore, guys wanted to fight you just for walking on the court," Wingate said, laughing. "That helps you develop a toughness. I'm not going to back down from anybody."

NBA Finals

Chicago vs. Seattle

(Chicago leads series 3-0)

Tonight: At Seattle (+5 1/2 ), 9 p.m., chs. 11, 4

NBA Poets

, Dunbar graduates in the NBA:

Name .... .... .. College .... Pro

Muggsy Bogues ... W. For. .... Char.

Sam Cassell ..... Fla. ....... State Hou.

Reggie Williams .. G'town ..... Den.

David Wingate .... G'town ..... Sea.

NBA Finals

Chicago vs. Seattle

(Chicago leads series, 3-0)

Day .... .... Site/result (Line) .... .... Time

Game 1 ...... Chicago, 107-90 ....... .....

Game 2 ...... Chicago, 92-88 ....... ......

Game 3 ...... Chicago, 108-86 ...... .....

Today ....... at Seattle (+5 1/2 ) ...... .... 9

Friday* ..... at Seattle ............ .... 9

Sunday* ..... at Chicago ............ .... 7: 30

June 19* .... at Chicago ............ .... 9 TV: All games on chs. 11, 4 ......... .....

*-If necessary

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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