One of the best pure defenders to wear the Blue and Gray, David Wingate was more than just a defensive specialist but a consistent scorer who was a vital part of two Final Four teams and the 1984 national championship.
A native of Baltimore, Wingate starred on the fabled Dunbar Poets of 1981-82, who, along with their 1983 team, was considered one of the greatest high school teams of all time. He starred alongside g names such as Reggie Williams, Tyrone Bogues, and Reggie Lewis, all of whom would join Wingate in the NBA upon their respective graduation years. That Wingate passed on Maryland to go to Georgetown was an surprise of sorts in area basketball circles, and helped to bring Reggie Williams to the Hilltop a year later.
Adept at either shooting guard or small forward, Wingate scored in double figures in 24 of 32 games in his freshman season, with a 44% shooting average and a defensive presence (on and off the ball) that simply shut down many of his more experienced opponents. His 24 points against American were a season high, and Wingate was named to the 1982-83 Big East all-rookie team at season's end. Though he was never the classic jump shooter that Williams became, Wingate's attitude and drive typified the spirit of the young Hoyas heading into its greatest season.
For 1983-84, Wingate saw more time at off guard, where his defensive intensity continued to earn the respect of his opponents. Adept at using his 6-5 frame to frustrate smaller guards, Wingate was among the best defenders in the league, and an offensive force that consistently contributed to the Hoyas' record 34 wins that season. He was named the MVP of the Las Vegas Classic with a combined 45 points in two games, compiling a 21-21 mark from the free throw line. Though rarely the lead scorer (Wingate led the team in only three games all year), he was a consistent 9-12 point scorer in nearly every game, leading the team in steals and second in assists. Never meant to be the dominant scorer, Wingate's aptitude in the Georgetown press was especially effective in converting turnovers into points, which served Georgetown well en route through the NCAA's.
In the 1984 NCAA semifinal, he had a strong 12 point game against Kentucky's Jim Master in the Hoyas 53-40 win, holding Master to 2-7 shooting in the first NCAA semifinal loss ever suffered by the vaunted Kentucky program. Wingate followed up with 16 points in the NCAA championship game against Houston, second only to Reggie Williams' 19.
With experience came an even more accurate jump shot, and by 1984-85 David Wingate had topped 50 percent shooting in Big East play. He passed the 1,000 point mark midway through his junior season, finishing second in scoring for a third consecutive season. Wingate was often paired defensively against the league's best, none more so than in the 1985 NCAA semifinal versus St. John's.
St. John's and Georgetown were meeting for the fourth time that season, each having been #1 or #2 most of the season. The Redmen were carried by Chris Mullin, who had averaged 25.8 points in his last eight games against the Hoyas, none for less than for 20 points. The Redmen were 4-4 in games over the last three years with Georgetown, a number no other school could match.
For the semifinal, St. John's needed a big game from Mullin to advance to the final. Instead, Wingate was on Mullin like a blanket, holding the All-American to just 4-8 shooting and eight points overall, the fewest points Mullin had posted on a Georgetown team since his freshman year. Wingate's defensive stops on Mullin ended St. John's title hopes in a 77-59 rout. Two nights later, Wingate led the Hoyas with 16 points in the season finale versus Villanova, but even he couldn't put a halt to Villanova's 90% second half shooting run.
For his senior season, Wingate and former Dunbar teammate Reggie Williams simply owned the Hoya scoring charts. Either or both men led the team in scoring for all but three games, with Wingate averaging 15.9 points, second to Williams and a runner up for his fourth straight year, A workhorse for that season, Wingate played nearly 1,000 minutes on the court without a foul-out, and proved to be a reliable scoring option on days whether Reggie was hot or cold. Wingate matched his career high 26 on his final home game of the season, a 93-62 win over Pittsburgh, while his defense bailed out the Hoyas five days later in a narrow one point win over the Panthers in the first round of the Big East tournament. Despite having never led his team in scoring, Wingate graduated in 1986 as the school's third all-time scorer, trailing only Eric Floyd and Patrick Ewing.
It is understandable, though, that Wingate never quite got the attention that befell Ewing or Williams. He was a second team all-conference selection twice, but never a first team pick, and was not selected to an All-America team once during his four years. He fell to a second round pick in the 1986 draft, picked behind such names as Dwayne Washington, Walter Berry, Harold Pressley, Rafael Addison, and even ex-Georgetown transfer Anthony Jones. Wingate stayed in the league longer than any of them.
Chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 44th selection, the versatile Wingate managed a 15 year NBA career among seven teams, including leading the Charlotte Hornets in shooting percentage in 1992-93 with a 53 percent mark. For his career, Wingate averaged 5.6 per game but 12.6 points per 40 minute interval, a recognition that he was a valuable player in short spurts.
Throughout his NBA career, knee problems literally wore away at Wingate's quickness to the basket and his ability to connect on medium range jump shots. Still, he remained a valuable defender to the end. As noted by Chris Sortwell in his recap of the Thompson era's finest, "his lack of range on his jump shot [kept] him from starting and his defense [kept] him from leaving."
Among Georgetown players of his era, David Wingate ranks among the very best. He started more games (137) than all but one player in school history, and still ranks among the top ten in field goals, free throws, assists and steals. Over his four years, Georgetown's teams were a combined 115-24 (.827), losing only four games at home over a three year span.
David Wingate's ability to combine hard-nosed defense with offensive versatility provided Georgetown an edge that drove it to unprecedented heights in the 1980's. For those who migth have forgotten his contributions to the Georgetown legacy, rest assured that players like Jim Master and Chris Mullin haven't.