Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo had no idea he was becoming college basketball's Statue of Liberty—send us your centers, your wingmen, your budding dunkers yearning to breathe free—after the Pirates lost to Michigan in the 1989 NCAA finals. However, because Carlesimo started two foreigners, Andrew Gaze of Australia and Ramon Ramos of Puerto Rico, the world got hooked on the Hall. This season the Pirate roster will include Marco Lokar, a 6'1" guard from Italy, Assaf Barnea, a 6'8" forward from Israel, and Arturas Karnishovas, a 6'8" forward from Lithuania.
Lokar, 21, from Trieste, joined the Pirates five weeks into last season. Twelve weeks later, he strafed the Pitt zone with 41 points, a Big East freshman record. Barnea, 23, played for a club team in Haifa last season. Meanwhile, his parents, who had moved to Fort Lee, N.J., were sending Carlesimo films of their talented son. Barnea talked often by phone to Nadav Henefeld, an Israeli who starred at Connecticut in 1989-90. "He said the best place I can go is with Coach P.J.," Barnea says.
The real prize may be the 19-year-old Karnishovas, who arrived at Seton Hall gift-wrapped from Golden State guard Sarunas Marciulionis, also from Lithuania. In June 1989, Marciulionis spotted Carlesimo in a Zagreb hotel lobby and told him about Karnishovas. Carlesimo corresponded with Karnishovas, and last November, after his team had toured New Jersey, Karnishovas remained behind in Monmouth County and lived with an èmigrè until he could enroll at the Hall. "I had planned it inside, very deep," Karnishovas says. "But it was difficult to imagine."
It was also difficult to communicate. He could barely speak English, and he needed to score well on his SATs. Enter Vanna White. "I wake up every morning and turn on CBS, 10 o'clock," says Karnishovas. "Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune." Thus schooled, one vowel at a time, Karnishovas soon passed muster on his boards.
Connecticut lost Henefeld, who returned home to play pro ball. But it still has lots of experience, including explosive guard John Gwynn.
With point guard Boo Harvey departed and no obvious successor handy, St. John's will rely heavily on its frontcourt of forwards Malik Sealy and Billy Singleton and 6'11" center Robert Werdann. Werdann must learn that he's useless when he's on the bench. Although the Big East is a six-fouls-and-out league, Werdann fouled out of five conference games in 1989-90.
Villanova held opponents to 40.6% field goal shooting last season. However, the Wildcats weren't much better, shooting but 43%. At Providence, coach Rick Barnes worked wonders in his second year, leading his team to the NCAAs. But with five top players from 1989-90 gone and two top recruits academically ineligible, don't look for the Friars to return to the NCAA tournament. Billy Curley, a 6'9" forward from Duxbury, Mass., is the bluest chip in a promising crop of recruits at Boston College. Curley and his classmates, though, won't be enough to lift the Eagles, 1-15 in league play last season, out of the cellar.