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Dwayne Washington (1964 - 2016)

AP Photo / Ron Frehm

Dwayne Washington (1964 - 2016)

Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, a retired professional basketball player who acquired the nickname from his skills on Brooklyn, New York, playgrounds, died April 19. He was 52.

Washington, who was a star player for Syracuse University under its coach, Jim Boeheim, died of cancer, according to a news release from the university.

Washington was first diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 1995. He had surgery last summer for a recurring tumor. He needed constant medical care and used a wheelchair.

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Born Jan. 6, 1964, he honed his basketball skills on neighborhood playgrounds and while playing for the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. He became the top-ranked high school player before deciding to play for Syracuse.

He was drafted by the New Jersey Nets as the 13th pick in the first round of the 1986 NBA draft. In 1988, the Miami Heat selected him in their expansion draft. Washington retired, however, after playing just three years in the NBA.

During Washington’s illness, current and former players joined others in raising money to help pay his medical bills. A GoFundMe page was created as well.

On Twitter, the hashtag #PrayersforPearl was used frequently in reference to the Syracuse Orangemen basketball program.

In January, Boeheim praised his former player, who helped make the Big East what it is today.

“There is no better guy,” Boeheim said, “and there’s nobody who has meant more to our basketball program” than Washington.

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