Two hundred forty-five people turned out at the Hornet practice
facility in September to audition for the job of singing The
Star-Spangled Banner at selected home games. Among the
applicants were a corrections officer, a homemaker and an
11-year-old boy dressed in blue jeans, red scarf and cowboy
boots who went by the name of Little Elvis.

Unfortunately for the members of the basketball team, there was
nobody dressed in hospital scrubs. After all, one of the most
frequently asked questions around the Hornet locker room the
last several years has been "Is there a doctor in the house?"

Few teams in the league have been as badly stung by injuries as
Charlotte. Dubbed a rising power in the East in '93, the Hornets
have looked more like a MASH unit the last two seasons, with
Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Dell Curry and Scott Burrell all
spending significant time on the shelf. In those two years
Charlotte players missed a total of 505 games due to injury,
including 323 last season, the second-highest total in the
league. Little wonder the team hasn't advanced past the first
round of the playoffs since '93.

Once again the Hornets are facing questions about their health
as they enter the season. Burrell, who suffered a partial tear
in his right Achilles tendon in March and missed the last 17
games of the regular season and all of the playoffs, will not
return until December at the earliest. Meanwhile, Muggsy Bogues
(knee) and Curry (ankle) each had off-season surgery.

"All we can do is be optimistic," coach Allan Bristow says. "We
feel once we get everybody back, we'll be a pretty good team."

If they do get the entire crew healthy, the Hornets might be
better than good. Charlotte went 50-32 last year (and narrowly
missed winning its first division title in the franchise's
seven-year history) before being eliminated by Michael Jordan
and the Bulls in the playoffs. The only significant change this
year for the Hornets is the addition of Kendall Gill, a talented
but troubled guard whom Charlotte acquired in an off-season
trade with Seattle for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate.

This will be the second go-around for Gill, who starred in
Charlotte from 1990 to '93. He was the Hornets' top draft pick
in 1990 and, with the addition of Johnson in '91 and Mourning in
'92, figured to be a big part of the club's future. Gill,
however, became disenchanted when Mourning and Johnson became
the focal points of the offense, and he was eventually traded.

Now Bristow hopes Gill can make amends in the locker room and
slide back into a productive role with the Hornets. It will be
hardest to patch things up with Johnson, who went nose to nose
with Gill during a game in '93-94 and who was an outspoken
critic of Charlotte's reacquiring him. But if Gill can fit in,
the Hornets should be much improved. The 6'5" Gill is more
versatile than Hawkins, and he possesses a sweet outside jumper
plus enough quickness and power to slash to the basket and
compete on the boards. He also gives the Hornets a big defender
at guard.

Look for Gill to also see plenty of time at the point backing up
the 30-year-old Bogues. The ever-popular Muggsy had another
terrific season in '94-95, running the Hornet offense smoothly
and leading the league with a 5.1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
But his age, sore knees and inconsistent shooting had the
Hornets looking for help at the point in the off-season.

One area Bristow won't have to worry about is the frontcourt,
where Mourning, Johnson and the rapidly improving Burrell give
Charlotte one of the league's best trios. Mourning, who was set
to sign a reported 10-year, $90 million deal with Charlotte
before the lockout but has since decided against signing an
extension, will probably test the free-agent waters after this
season. Look for him to have another monster year before he puts
his services on the market. Johnson, after a serious back
injury, lacks the explosiveness he once had, but he can still be
a force inside, and he has become a better perimeter player,
hitting 38.6% (81 of 210) from three-point range last year.
Burrell, along with Curry, helped Charlotte lead the league in
three-point shooting percentage. The Hornets will miss him early
in the season; newly signed veteran Rafael Addison and
second-year forward Darrin Hancock will fill in until Burrell
returns.

This year the Hornets are hoping to stay healthy enough to make
a run at the title. But if Gill and his teammates don't mesh,
the Hornets may be asking, Is there a chemist in the house?

--M.B.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Mourning, who'll be a free agent after this year, figures to put up big numbers. [Alonzo Mourning shooting basketball over Vlade Divac]

BY THE NUMBERS

1994-95 TEAM STATISTICS

PPG (Rank) FG% (Rank)

OFFENSE 100.6 (15) .474 (10)
DEFENSE 97.3 (6) .454 (6)

BLANKED ON BLOCKS

At 5'3", Muggsy Bogues will never be considered a shot blocker.
But despite giving away eight or more inches to his opponents,
Bogues was able to block at least two shots in each of his first
seven seasons. Last year, however, he did not register a single
block in his 2,629 minutes of work, an NBA record. (The
blocked-shot stat has been compiled since the 1973-74 season.)

Most Minutes in a Season with No Blocks

Height Mins.

1994-95 Muggsy Bogues; Hornets 5'3" 2,629
1987-88 Larry Drew; Clippers 6'1" 2,024
1986-87 Jon Sundvold; Spurs 6'2" 1,765
1985-86 Jerry Sichting; Celtics 6'1" 1,596
1990-91 Andre Turner; 76ers 5'11" 1,407
1982-83 Randy Smith; Clippers, Hawks 6'3" 1,406
1984-85 Rod Foster; Suns 6'1" 1,318
1988-89 Norm Nixon; Clippers 6'2" 1,318

[BOX]

PLAYER TO WATCH

Hornet forward Darrin Hancock helped lead Kansas to the Final
Four in 1992-93, and that season Jayhawk coach Roy Williams
called him the best athlete ever to play for Kansas.
Unfortunately, Hancock had academic difficulties and an illness
in the family soon thereafter and left school to play
professionally in France. He returned to the U.S. when Charlotte
selected him in the second round of the 1994 draft, and the
Hornets haven't been sorry. He averaged just 3.3 points and 1.2
rebounds as a rookie last season, but he came on strong late and
showed big-play ability at small forward as a replacement for
the injured Scott Burrell. Hancock's quickness, explosiveness
and leaping ability--as well as Burrell's injury--will get him
more opportunities to play this season. Who knows? He may even
become the best athlete ever to play for the Hornets.

PROJECTED LINEUP

STARTERS 1994-95 Key Statistics

SF Scott Burrell* 11.5 ppg 5.7 rpg 40.9 3FG%
PF Larry Johnson 18.8 ppg 7.2 rpg 4.6 apg
C Alonzo Mourning 21.3 ppg 9.9 rpg 2.92 bpg
PG Muggsy Bogues 11.1 ppg 8.7 apg 1.32 spg
SG Kendall Gill 13.7 ppg 4.0 rpg 36.8 3FG%

TOP RESERVES

G Dell Curry 13.6 ppg 44.1 FG% 42.7 3FG%
C Robert Parish 4.8 ppg 4.3 rpg 42.7 FG%
F Rafael Addison 8.3 ppg 3.1 rpg 1.4 apg

*Will begin season on injured list

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)