Dwayne "Pearl" Washington is one of the most well-known names in Syracuse Orange men's basketball history.
One of the most well-known losses by the Orange, coming in the national championship game in 1987, was separated by a mere season from Washington.
With Syracuse facing Indiana for the first time in the postseason since then, Washington shared what this match-up means to him as well as what could have been.
"It means a lot to me for several reasons because I left my junior year to go play professional basketball and got drafted 13th pick," Washington remarked. "I coulda easily stayed in school. If Derrick Coleman woulda called me, said, 'Pearl, listen, I'm coming to Syracuse,' I woulda never left." "Now if I had got to the Final Four, the final game, and won, or lost, it'd have been a major difference in the draft for me," Washington continued. "I went 13th pick. I probably would've been top four, top five. Major, major difference." "This is almost like revenge from 1987 when Indiana beat us in the final game in the NCAA in New Orleans," said Washington.
Being a former floor general for the Orange, Washington discussed who he believes the backcourt should look for in this match with the Hoosiers. "When I played at Syracuse, I was the point guard and I was the one to make sure I distributed the ball to the guys who I know could score," Washington remembered. "When you talk about [James] Southerland, who's a great shooter, not only [does] he need to get the ball...but he needs to get the ball to other people, too. C.J. [Fair] is a great scorer inside, outside. Those are the guys that you gotta get the ball to."
Washington also knows the importance of free throws, an area where Syracuse has been known to struggle at times. Despite making 26 versus the California Golden Bears a game ago, they also missed 15.
"Every foul shot is important," Washington stated. "I don't care if it's the first half. I don't care if it's the second half. Every foul shot is important. It really is...foul shots are so important because it's easy baskets."
Turnovers are another area of focus for Syracuse, something Washington keyed in on. "You can't make silly mistakes by jumping up in the air and getting a charge or jumping up in the air and throwing the ball away," he shared.
Washington made it no secret that he wants a win for the Orange in this game, saying that if Syracuse lost, "I wouldn't be happy."
"But I'll say this," Washington added, "if they go into the game and they do everything they have to do to win that game, diving on the floor, whatever you have to do, I would be okay with it."
Switching his focus off of the players and onto Syracuse's head coach Jim Boeheim, Washington had nothing but positive words for the longtime coach. "Since Boeheim has been the coach at that school, to me he's like God because he's given everybody an opportunity who went to school to play," Washington offered. "There are some exceptions, but he gave me an opportunity and he gave Derrick [Coleman] an opportunity. He gave Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens, Lawrence Moten. He gave all these guys...an opportunity to come in and play. And do I appreciate it? I do appreciate it."
As far as the rumors surrounding his former coach, Washington shared that, "A lot of people say a lot of negative things...but I know my coach Boeheim for how he was all these years. I never seen him do anything that was illegal, at all. Things happened that he might not know about. I don't know if that's the case or not."
"I love what Boeheim is doing with this team," Washington expressed. "He's made us alumni people proud of him, too, also. He just does a great, great job with everything."