Page 1


Doing it



the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


of contents 3 4 Moving forward

‘It’s been a long road’

SU tries to recover after losing its best three players from last year: Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf

Iowa State transfer Wes Johnson settles in Syracuse in search of a place to finally call home.



In an era when players staying in school four years is rare, Andy Rautins and Arinze Onauku prepare for their fifth.

Seton Hall gave head coach Bobby Gonzalez a long contract extension and wants to reap the benefits. And fast.

Taking the lead

10 Commentary

The payoff

12 Schedule

Sports editor and former beat writer Jared Diamond writes Scoop Jardine should be the Orange’s primary point guard.

A pull-out schedule with space to fill in the score of each game.



Beat writers Tyler Dunne, Matt Ehalt and Conor Orr gaze into their crystal balls to see Syracuse’s fate this year.

Siena may be a small program, but its high-octane offense has it on the national map.




Face of a program Nicole Michael has the opportunity to leave SU as the alltime program leader in points and rebounds.

mitchell franz | staff photographer cover photo by mitchell franz | staff photographer

Life in the fast lane

Believing the hype Quentin Hillsman stood by his words: Juanita Ward is the best player he has ever coached. Now, she has to prove it.



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the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


After losing top 3 scorers from last season, Syracuse hopes it’s retooling, not rebuilding By Matt Ehalt STAFF WRITER


coop Jardine pleaded his case to a trio of Syracuse teammates who had visions of professional basketball dancing in their heads. Jardine, a redshirt sophomore, tried to convince Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf to stay for one more season in the frozen tundra of Syracuse. After a Sweet 16 run last year, Jardine had grand plans. “I knew if one of them came back, we would have been pretty scary,” Jardine said. “But all three of them, oh man, national championship.” Unfortunately for Jardine, his negotiating skills apparently aren’t up to par with his talent on the basketball court. All three bolted school early, leaving a huge void in the Orange lineup. Despite the losses, Jardine and his teammates still see this year’s team budding with potential. After losing its top three offensive players from last season, Syracuse and many Big East coaches believes it can overcome that depletion this season with a wealth of experience. Syracuse will look to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time in back-to-back seasons since the Orange accomplished the feat in 2002-03 and 2003-04.


Record: 28-10 Big East: 11-7, 6th Big East tournament: Loss to Louisville in finals NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 loss to Oklahoma


Record: 21-14 Big East: 9-9, tied for 8th Big East tournament: First-round loss to Villanova NCAA Tournament: None, NIT


“I think you just have to move on with what you have and not think about last year’s team,” senior shooting guard Andy Rautins said. “You can’t do anything about it. You just have to move forward with the guys we have. We’re definitely well-equipped enough to compete at a high level and be at the top of the Big East.” Flynn, Harris and Devendorf were major reasons why Syracuse finished 28-10 and advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. The trio averaged 45.1 of the Orange’s 80.2 points per game (56.2 percent), while also chipping in 442 assists and 473 rebounds. They also provided the competitive fire and leadership that propelled sixth-seeded Syracuse on its unlikely run to the Big East tournament championship game. The charismatic Flynn, the catalyst of the group, flashed one smile after another while piloting Syracuse’s offensive attack at such a high level that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him sixth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. With a sweet drive and jump shot, Flynn was such a driving force that he was named the 2009 Big East tournament MVP in a losing effort. Players like that are

Record: 24-11 Big East: 10-6, tied for 5th Big East tournament: Quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame NCAA Tournament: None, NIT



Record: 23-12 Big East: 7-9, tied for 9th Big East tournament: Champions over Pittsburgh NCAA Tournament: First round loss to Texas A&M


Record: 27-7 Big East: 11-5, tied for 3rd Big East tournament: Champions over West Virginia NCAA Tournament: First round loss to Vermont


the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

‘It’s been a

long road’

Wes Johnson has been just about everywhere, but he has finally found a place to call home. By Conor Orr

Asst. Sports Editor

Wes Johnson stole away from the media day crowd, a group who’d already pegged him as the afternoon’s main attraction. Dressed inconspicuously in his gray hooded sweatshirt, the highly touted transfer snuck behind the masses and into the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center weight room to bang out some bicep curls before his inevitable date with the bevy of cameras and reporters waiting for him. This was his big debut — and he wanted everything to be perfect. “I figured, I would do some curls and stuff just to look good for those pictures,” Johnson said. “I’m having fun with it.” Perhaps it was because the moment was so long overdue. Already in his young career, he’d been overlooked, dismissed, scammed and lied to. He got recruited by just one major university out of high school, survived two horrific stints in preparatory school and bounced back from four sour semesters at Iowa State. Now, he’s at a place where he finally feels comfortable. A place where he feels he’s finally getting his due. After a trying journey that included stops at two prep schools and a Big 12 university, Johnson hopes to finally settle down with Syracuse this season. The 6-foot-7 forward will make his Orange debut after transferring to SU from Iowa State in May 2008, in an attempt to put his complicated past behind him. “It’s been a long road,” said Craig Carroll, Johnson’s brother. “But it was all for his making.” During his sophomore year of high school, Johnson was a 5-foot-9 point guard for his Corsicana (Texas) High School basketball team. He’d been playing basketball for about four years, after his brother had talked him off the gridiron in the seventh grade. “I got on the phone and I said to him, ‘Wesley, with your body frame, you’re going to get taller over the years. And you’re built and you’re made for basketball,’” Carroll said. Carroll’s premonition about Johnson’s size came eerily true just a few years later. It was the second week of June, and Johnson had just finished his second year of high school, when Carroll got a call from his mother. “You’re not going to believe this, your brother is 6-foot-2! It’s like he went to bed, came out the room and was suddenly 6-2!” Carroll, who lives in Detroit, made the trip down to Texas a month later to see it for himself. He estimates Johnson eventually entered his junior year at 6-foot-5. “When he came to me, he was like a 5-10 little bitty skinny rascal, and when he came back that summer, he was 6-6,” Corsicana High School head coach Andy Dotson said. “The rest of the team kind of played a trick on me and asked me to open up the gymnasium and in walks this 6-6 guy, and I’m like ‘Wait a minute, we might be able to do something now.’”

Even though Johnson had picked up the game just a few years earlier, basketball suddenly became a serious career plan. He’d gotten nearly a foot taller, but didn’t have the Bambi-on-ice awkwardness that often comes with a sudden growth spurt. Dotson insisted on keeping him on the perimeter and marketing him as the all-around player. His long-range game was undeniable, and now he could supplement it with a finessed inside presence that was becoming the gold standard for many collegiate head coaches. “Wesley shoots it well, he obviously gets up and down the court, he jumps, and he’s a good rebounder,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a 6-foot-8 guy that can run the court, shoot the basketball and rebound — all good qualities.” But nobody bit. Dotson said he had schools like Florida State, Oklahoma and Nebraska on the hook, but nothing would seem to reel them in. Johnson tried to showcase himself through the highly contested Dallas AAU circuit, but he was overshadowed by local prospects like future NBA All-Star Chris Bosh and first-round NBA Draft pick and former Kansas star Darrell Arthur. So, instead of waiting for the bigger programs, Johnson made a snap decision and signed with the only school that came knocking — Louisiana-Monroe. “It was a situation where he kind of jumped the gun,” Dotson said. After realizing he’d made a mistake, Johnson signed with Dotson’s father — the coach of a local junior college — to get out of the deal and then enrolled immediately in preparatory program at The Patterson (N.C.) School. Trouble and disappointment followed, though, as signs pointed to see JOHNSON page 23

Wesley shoots it well, he obviously gets up and down the court, he jumps, and he’s a good rebounder. He’s a 6-foot-8 guy that can run the court, shoot the basketball and rebound —

all good qualities.

Jim Boeheim, SU head coach

mitchell franz | staff photographer






2006-2007 12.3 7.9 1.1 2007-2008 12.4 4.0 1.4 2008-2009 Did not play (NCAA regulations) *Statistics compiled at Iowa State

mitchell franz | staff photographer

Guys who stay in school, they do four, but to have guys that have been here five years — especially good guys who lead by example and do everything right on and off the court — it’s just a blessing to our team. The guys are true leaders, our two captains, and we’ll go

as far as they take us. Rob Murphy, SU assistant coach


the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

Taking the


Rautins, Onuaku return for a 5th year and become the leaders of a program searching for an identity

By Andrew L. John Asst. Sports Editor

Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku decided to take the other path. While Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf spent the offseason showcasing their abilities for professional basketball executives, Rautins and Onuaku opted to return to Syracuse for a fifth year in the program — an oddity in major college basketball these days. Instead of following the trio that left the program before exhausting their eligibility, the two elected to return to provide some much-needed veteran leadership for the Orange this season. And after losing his three leading scorers from last season, the timing couldn’t be better for Syracuse head coach






05-06 07-08 08-09 Totals


05-06 06-07 08-09 Totals


29/0 35/35 38/37 102/72


20/0 35/20 37/10 92/30


challenge of being a leader out here mentally, and keeping these guys in it vocally, and just using my smarts out there. So I really feel like having been here for four or five years now, that it’s going to benefit me a great deal and the team as well.” Though both Rautins and Onuaku have seen their roles increase each year during their four years at Syracuse, this season will be the first time the pair will be considered the unquestioned leaders of the program. The duo will serve as cocaptains for the Orange this season. Syracuse legend Gerry McNamara, who returned to the program as a graduate manager this season, played with Rautins and Onuaku when he was a






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— — — —

2.8 8.1 7.3 6.3

0.4 1.3 1.4 1.1







8.0 21.2 28.6 21.3

Jim Boeheim. “Whenever you lose your three leading scorers, obviously you’re glad to have some veterans left over,” Boeheim said. “Without those two guys, it would be a lot more difficult. I think any successful team has veteran leadership, and to have two guys that are in their fifth year and have proven themselves in this league, I think that’s a strength of our team. “It’s good to have two guys like that back here.” Both Onauku and Rautins were granted a fifth year of eligibility due to knee injuries that resulted in medical redshirts earlier in their collegiate careers. As a result, the duo will not only provide a dynamic inside-outside, one-two punch offensively, but also equip the Orange with a valuable amount of experience and veteran leadership heading into the season. So after four years of patiently waiting in the wings, playing second-fiddle to household names at Syracuse, it’s finally their turn to lead the Orange. And for Rautins, he’s relishing the experience of finally being “one of the old guys.” “It feels good,” Rautins said. “I take on the

.377 .372 .380 .376

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0.9 2.0 3.3 2.3

0.7 1.5 3.0 1.9


0.2 1.0 0.5 0.6


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2.0 12.7 10.3 8.8


2.9 7.2 10.5 7.6

senior and they were freshmen. He has followed the program since his departure, and said that the two make up the prototypical pair of leaders desired in college basketball. “I was on a pretty inexperienced team and we did pretty well that year,” said McNamara, referring to SU’s 2003 national championship team that featured two freshmen in the starting lineup. “But when it comes down to it, you need guys like a Kueth Duany, who I played with, that are going to pave the way for the young guys. “A.O. and Andy are probably the best examples of guys that know how to work. They know how to bounce back from adversity, both having had knee surgeries, so they’re the ideal guys who you want to mold your program after. They’re the type of kids that you want to lead your program.” Though a cloud of optimism exists within the program because of Rautins and Onuaku’s experience, outsiders still question whether or not the two will be able to lead as well as their predecessors. Rautins, who will be expected to help replace Devendorf’s

perimeter scoring, is a career 37.6 percent shooter with a career scoring average of only 7.6 points per game. Onuaku, meanwhile, enters the season without playing the entire summer following surgery caused by chronic knee tendonitis. “I think Arinze’s had a slow recovery process,” Boeheim told a group of reporters at media day on Oct. 16. “We’ve taken it very easy with him. He has played some, but not a lot. …He didn’t play all summer, so he’s been off a long time. His wind and stamina is going to be down, but he looks good, he’s lost some weight and feels good. “He really has not been pain-free for the last three years. I think he’s still got some soreness, but I think he’s better physically than he’s been in terms of pain. I think it’s going to take a few weeks to get up to speed.” Despite playing a major role last season for the Orange, Onuaku and Rautins will look to prove the doubters wrong and return the Orange to the NCAA Tournament after losing arguably its three best players — and one who was an NBA lottery pick in June’s draft. Syracuse assistant coach Rob Murphy said he expects the pair to compensate for the off-season departures with leadership on and off the court. “It’s really a blessing to us,” Murphy said. “Guys who stay in school, they do four, but to have guys that have been here five years — especially good guys who lead by example and do everything right on and off the court — it’s just a blessing to our team. The guys are true leaders, our two captains, and we’ll go as far as they take us.” For all the flashy freshmen that have left their mark on the conference, it’s the veterans that keep the league continually strong year in and year out. Players like Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price at Connecticut, Terrence Williams at Louisville and Dante Cunningham at Villanova. It isn’t a coincidence that the teams that thrive in the Big East year in and year out, are the one’s that are led by guys who have been there, done that. It has been awhile since Syracuse has had the luxury of having a pair of seniors who not only have the familiarity with the program, but also have the ability to lead by example on the court. Boeheim sees the value of that experience and leadership, which is why he’s glad to see two familiar faces leading the Orange this season. “I think the experience that we do have is important,” Boeheim said. “I think we have more experience than a lot of teams, and I think that experience is still very important in college basketball.”


The payoff

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

By Tony Olivero

Asst. Copy Editor

In Bobby Gonzalez’s mind there is “bad pressure,” and then there is “good pressure” when it comes to coaching basketball. “Bad pressure” is when a coach is on the hot seat and in desperate need of a winning team. “Good pressure” accompanies a coach whose team is expected to perform well because of previous accomplishments. Heading into his fourth season as the head coach

Seton Hall gave Bobby Gonzalez a hefty contract extension. Now he has to prove he’s worth the price

courtesy of seton hall athletics bobby gonzalez received a contract extension from Seton Hall on Sept. 10, which will run through the 2014-15 season. Heading into his fourth year, Gonzalez has his deepest and most talented team yet.

at Seton Hall, Gonzalez realizes that there is, in fact, pressure on him. He did, after all, receive a contract extension before practice began on Sept. 10. He just wants to make it clear that the pressure he’s feeling is the “good pressure” he speaks of. He is not on the hot seat. “I’m not going to get fired, and if we don’t win 20 games this season, I still won’t be bought out or fired,” Gonzalez said at Big East media day at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 21. “I’m going to be back at Seton Hall next year.” Gonzalez has been faced with questions about his job security for much of his tenure with the Pirates, following his appointment on April 7, 2006. Even with the contract extension through the 2014-15 season, he still is battling the critics who still believe his role as the head of the Pirates bench is far from secure. But with one look at Gonzalez, it’s hard to tell that there is any pressure squarely on his shoulders to produce this season. With his sanguine strut and genial smile, Gonzalez appears assured he is with the Pirates for at least a handful of years to come. More importantly, though, Gonzalez also has come to realize that instead of this being a make-or-break year for his job security, it is a make-or-break year for the future of the program, as Seton Hall appears to be on the verge of breaking out in the Big East. “We are trying to turn the corner,” Gonzalez said. “I got my extension, so now we are trying to separate from the other teams, and in order to do that, we have to put our money where our mouth is. We have got to get into the NCAA (Tournament).” Gonzalez, who is 47-46 in his three years at Seton Hall, knows it. With a NCAA Tournament appearance this year, things will become much easier for him in the Big East –– especially in recruiting. Without it, he won’t get a pink slip, but it will be another delay in his ability to convince area recruits that SHU is climbing out of the doldrums of the conference. To Lou DeMello, former head coach at Rice (N.Y.) High School, recruiting is exactly the reason why Monsignor Robert Sheeran from Seton Hall gave Gonzalez the extension. DeMello, who undertook Gonzalez as an assistant in 1992, doesn’t think Sheeran made the decision because he was trying to extinguish the flame under Gonzalez’s supposed hot seat. No, DeMello feels it was purely business. And the most important aspect of the business that is Seton Hall basketball is recruiting New York talent. “At that level, it is strictly a business decision,” DeMello said. “No one wants to recruit with a coach

in limbo.” Over the past three years, Gonzalez attempted to reach the NCAA Tournament with what DeMello refers to as “B and C-level recruits.” A far cry from the “A-level recruits” Gonzalez hopes to bring in. “When you invest money, you are going to invest it in IBM, not the bodega down the block,” Gonzalez said. “But every once in a while you can get a kid to take a chance.” For the last few seasons, Seton Hall’s squad was made of mostly “C-level recruits.” But things are starting to change. Four starters return this year, headlined by perhaps the Big East’s most surprising player from last year in Jeremy Hazell, who finished second in the Big East at 22.7 points-per-game. The Pirates also boast a solid crop of newcomers. Depth is the word everyone is throwing around for Seton Hall this year, as many coaches expect the Pirates to improve vastly from 2008. “I think they are definitely an NCAA Tournament team,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “They are one of those teams who have earned their right to be a good team. They have taken those lumps.” There is no denying, though, that this team’s fate, the program’s fate, and Gonzalez’s ultimate fate (be it is this year or another year), depends on whether or not the team will be able to mesh. Hazell thinks it will. “We got great cohesiveness and chemistry right now,” Hazell said. “We are just on each other right now. A lot of people don’t know how good we can be.” Luckily for Seton Hall, getting a team to gel despite high expectations is something Gonzalez has dealt with before. Gonzalez latched on with Pete Gillen at Xavier in 1993. The following year Gonzalez followed Gillen to Providence, where in 1997 they brought the small private school to the Elite 8. Then too, Gonzalez almost single-handedly rounded up a group of lesser known players from the inner boroughs of New York as a lead recruiter. Five years prior to 1997, he did the same as a little-known junior varsity coach at St. Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx. Back in 1992, DeMello contacted the 29-year-old Gonzalez and asked him to assist him at Rice following Tolentine’s closing. The passionate JV coach gladly accepted and proceeded to help infuse the transfers of a handful of players from the defunct former powerhouse that was the Tolentine program. Two years later, thanks in large part to Gonzalez’s transfers, DeMello led the Harlem high school program to a national championship. It’s an experience in his coaching career Gonzalez would like to parallel. “I have to get to the NCAA Tournament,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not going to sandbag and play make believe.” With the season days away, Gonzalez is starting to feel that “good pressure” more and more. He maintains that no matter what, this will not be his final year. Gonzalez was reminded of that in early October, when he met up with the only coach who has ever brought Seton Hall to a national championship game: P.J. Carlesimo. In the 80’s, Carlesimo was in a similar situation as Gonzalez –– feeling the strain of “good pressure.” It ultimately worked out for Carlesimo and the Pirates. It’s now up to Gonzalez to duplicate it. “He told me, ‘Bobby, I almost got fired,’” Gonzalez said. “‘It was my fifth year before I had a winning record.’”


the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

Big East Breakdown

A look at all 16 teams

—Compiled by Tony Olivero, asst. copy editor










10. ST. JOHN’S




14. USF



Record last year: 30-8, 13-5 (Final Four) Key Players: Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher Key Addition: Dominic Cheek Key Loss: Dante Cunningham Synopsis: The Wildcats set a school record for wins during last year’s Final Four run, but don’t be shocked if Villanova eclipses that mark this year. Point guard Scottie Reynolds returns for his senior season and will undoubtedly be looking to push the Wildcats past the Final Four to a national championship.

Record last year: 16-15, 7-11 (NIT first round) Key Players: Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman Key Addition: Hollis Thompson Key Loss: DaJuan Summers Synopsis: The Hoyas were perhaps the biggest disappointment last year in the Big East, losing more than half of their conference games. Don’t expect a repeat of last season’s disappearance again this year from John Thompson III’s squad.

Record last year: 28-10, 11-7 (Sweet 16) Key Players: Wesley Johnson, Arinze Onuaku Key Addition: Wesley Johnson Key Loss: Jonny Flynn Synopsis: The Orange lost so much from last year, including Jonny Flynn, perhaps the most valuable player to any single team in the country. With only three players returning from last year’s squad who regularly contributed, it will be a struggle for the Orange to return to the NCAA Tournament, but it is attainable.

Record last year: 11-21, 2-16 Key Players: Mike Rosario, Gregory Echenique Key Addition: Austin Johnson Key Loss: Corey Chandler Synopsis: Former McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario will again be leaned on heavily to carry the Scarlet Knights in his sophomore season. Expect the duo of Rosario and another North Jersey product, Gregory Echenique, to lead the squad. There will be progress, but not enough to make the postseason.

Record last year: 23-12, 10-8 (NCAA first round) Key Players: Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks Key Addition: Danny Jennings Key Loss: Alex Ruoff Synopsis: West Virginia returns its top scorer in forward Da’Sean Butler (17.1 points-pergame), along with likely a future NBA lottery pick in Devin Ebanks. With the two forwards leading the Mountaineers, this season may be Bob Huggins’ best chance to reach a Final Four since returning to his alma mater.

Record last year: 18-14, 8-10 Key Players: Deonta Vaughn, Lance Stephenson Key Addition: Lance Stephenson Key Loss: Mike Williams Synopsis: This might finally be the year for the Bearcats in the Big East. All-Conference first team selection Deonta Vaughn and four other players who logged significant minutes last year will lead Cincinnati. The only question now is whether the supremely skilled yet volatile Lance Stephenson will mesh with the team.

Record last year: 16-18, 6-12 (CBI first round) Key Players: Paris Horne, Anthony Mason Jr. Key Addition: Omari Lawrence Key Loss: TyShwan Edmondson Synopsis: This will be Norm Roberts’ best team since he took the head coaching job at St. John’s. With all fi ve starters and arguably the team’s best player returning from a medical redshirt in Anthony Mason Jr., the Red Storm will push for the postseason. But in the always-tough Big East, it probably still won’t be enough.

Record last year: 9-22, 4-14 Key Players: Dominique Jones, Augustus Gilchrist, Key Addition: Jarrid Famous Key Loss: Jesus Verdejo Synopsis: The Bulls mixed and matched starters last year and as a result return fi ve players who started at least eight games. If head coach Stan Heath can get another player other than Dominique Jones to contribute more than 15 points-per-game, the Bulls could stick with most Big East teams.

Record last year: 31-6, 16-2 (Elite 8) Key Players: Samardo Samuels, Jerry Smith Key Addition: Peyton Siva Key Loss: Terrence Williams Synopsis: Rick Pitino lost a lot of talent from last year’s No. 1-seeded squad with the departures of Earl Clark and Terrence Williams. The Cardinals will make a run at the conference title despite these losses thanks to the return of three starters. A batch of newcomers headlined by Seattle product Peyton Siva will help as well.

Record last year: 21-15, 8-10 (NIT semifinals) Key Players: Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson Key Addition: Ben Hansbrough Key Loss: Kyle McAlarney Synopsis: If Georgetown wasn’t the most disappointing team in the conference last season, perhaps it was Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish will be right back in the NCAA hunt this year, though, thanks to the return of preseason Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody and one of the conference’s most underrated guards in Tory Jackson.

Record last year: 31-5, 15-3 (Elite 8) Key Players: Jermaine Dixon, Brad Wanamaker Key Addition: Dante Taylor Key Loss: DeJuan Blair Synopsis: Don’t expect another No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year from Jamie Dixon and the Panthers. An offseason full of wholesale change will likely drop Pittsburgh much further in the Big East than most Panthers’ fans anticipate. Only one starter, Jermaine Dixon, returns.

Record last year: 19-14, 10-8 Key Players: Sharaud Curry Key Addition: Johnnie Lacy Key Loss: Weyinmi Efejuku Synopsis: Keno Davis will have to face reality this season. The Friars return very little from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Sharaud Curry, Providence’s lone returning starter, will be joined by seven freshmen in his senior season. The contributions from the freshmen will greatly affect Providence’s chances in the Big East.

Record last year: 31-5, 15-3 (Final Four) Key Players: Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson Key Addition: Alex Oriakhi Key Loss: Hasheem Thabeet Synopsis: Much like Louisville, no one is denying the fact that UConn is going to dearly miss the four departed starters from last year’s Final Four squad. But Jim Calhoun has the horses to yet again to go deep into the NCAA Tournament, including perhaps the most exciting guard-forward combo in the league in Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson.

Record last year: 17-15, 7-11 Key Players: Jeremy Hazell, Robert Mitchell Key Addition: Herb Pope Key Loss: Paul Gause Synopsis: In Bobby Gonzalez’s fourth year, the Pirates appear primed to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Dark horse Player of the Year candidate Jeremy Hazell will carry the scoring burden, and three other returning starters will contribute as well.

Record last year: 25-10, 12-6 (NCAA second round) Key Players: Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler Key Addition: Dwight Buycks Key Loss: Jerel McNeal Synopsis: After finishing fifth last season, Buzz Williams’ team will regress to the back of the Big East. Only one starter returns, Lazar Hayward. He averaged 16.3 pointsper-game. One bright spot is that the Golden Eagles brought in a deep six-man recruiting class.

Record last year: 9-24, 0-18 Key Players: Will Walker, Mac Koshwal Key Addition: Tony Freeland Key Loss: Dar Tucker Synopsis: The 2009-10 season will be another one spent at the bottom of the pile for head coach Jerry Wainwright and the Blue Demons. But the team from Chicago should be able to win at least a couple of games last year. If hometown hero Jeremiah Kelly continues to progress in his second season, the Blue Demons may be able to escape last place in the conference.

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


Triche has bright upside, but Jardine deserves chance to show his worth


he moment Jonny Flynn announced his decision to leave Syracuse and enter the NBA Draft, Scoop Jardine fi nally saw the opportunity he feared would never arrive. He felt helpless for much of last year, barely a part of the Orange’s Sweet 16 squad, doubting the fate of his career. At the time, his SU future looked bleak. Watching from the sidelines, injured and overweight, Jardine wondered if the program still considered him part of the plan. The guard positions seemed clogged with veteran talent Jardine could never surpass. Meanwhile, Syracuse spent its time and resources wooing Brandon Triche, a hotshot local prospect primed to take over for Flynn. Flynn and Triche, two dynamite point guards holding the adulation of a city. Jardine became an afterthought — a blip on the SU radar whose presence on the roster was a bonus, not a necessity. But then Flynn left, leaving the position up-for-grabs. This was the break Jardine had been waiting for. This was the chance he desperately needed. “After sitting out a year, he saw an opportunity with Jonny gone,� center Arinze Onuaku said at Big East media day. “To see Jonny Flynn leave, you see there’s a spot there for you to take. Ever since, then he’s been working harder than I have ever seen to take the spot and slide in there. He has earned that spot.� Jardine deserves a shot to become the Orange’s primary point guard this season.

Though he may not be the trendy pick, Jardine is the man SU needs, at least for right now. His experience starting Big East games is valuable and vital, especially since Syracuse does not have the star power of Flynn or Eric Devendorf. Triche can benefit from a year in a more limited role, growing acclimated with the college game from a gritty player who has learned things the hard way. During his redshirt year, Jardine temporarily lost his dedication and commitment, as he questioned his role and standing in the program. His weight ballooned to an unmanageable 200 pounds — a side effect from not being able to practice regularly. Head coach Jim Boeheim gave him an ultimatum: Slim down, or don’t ever expect to play much. The message held water, but Flynn’s departure sparked the fi nal motivation he needed. Jardine withdrew and became introspective, trying to understand what he truly wanted and cared about. That’s when the light bulb popped. Jardine overhauled his diet, counting calories and avoiding the late-night Kimmel runs that plagued him last season. He realized the difference between starting crucial games and sitting at the end of bench with the walk-ons could be a few pounds. A different Jardine sauntered into the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center last month for Syracuse media day. He lost about 15 pounds from last season, yet somehow looked stronger and more muscular. His attitude was


girls’ best friend different than in years past. He sounded like a leader, ready to guide an offense and help develop Triche into the star he has the potential to become. Even Boeheim, who inspired Jardine’s newfound dedication, complimented his improved maturity and work ethic. “It changed the way I look at life,� Jardine said of the time off. “I’ve changed my diet. I’ve changed everything about what I want to do and where I want to be. The fi rst thing I had to do is change my life before I can change basketball.� What sets Jardine apart is his experience. As a true freshman two years ago, he played in 33-of-35 games, and started 10. He played key minutes against the Big East elite and held his own, scoring double-digit points six times that year. It’s easy to forget that Jardine is not new to this. And Jardine is a better player now. He spent the summer retooling and tweaking the form of his shot. Gone is the clunky, forced jumper from two years ago. His shot resembles that of sharpshooter Andy Rautins — the type of shooter Jardine said he expects to become

this season. Watching him shoot around with Wes Johnson and Kris Joseph at media day, there was no denying his shot appeared smoother and more fluid than the last time he played for the Orange. In SU’s fi rst scrimmage game, Jardine recorded a double-double, compiling 10 points and 11 assists. Boeheim said this team is relying on its experienced veterans for success. Jardine belongs in that group. “At the end of the day, Scoop has the most experience,� Onuaku said. “I know Brandon’s here, but Scoop’s been here three years. He has the experience from playing and sitting out a year.� Both point guards will play substantial minutes this season. Boeheim has made that point clear on numerous occasions. In fact, Triche may wind up starting opening day. But Jardine’s newfound commitment deserves respect and applause. This is a different Jardine. A better, smarter, more mature Jardine. Triche will have his moment. This season is Jardine’s big chance to fi nally show what he can do. “I took the whole year to see what I really wanted from myself,� Jardine said. “That’s the most important thing. And now I see what I really want, and I’m going to go get it. Jared Diamond is the sports editor for The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at

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the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


ROSTERS 2009-2010

00 1 2 3 4 11 21 24 25 32 33 34 43

men’s women’s No.





1 Chanieka Williams G 5-9 So. 2 Elashier Hall G 5-11 Fr. 4 Vionca Murray F 6-1 Sr. 5 Lynnae Lampkins G 5-7 So. 10 Carniece Greene G 5-4 Jr. 11 Tasha Harris G 5-9 Jr. 14 Troya Berry F 6-2 So. 15 Juanita Ward F 6-2 Sr. 20 Lynnise Nixon F 6-1 Jr. 21 Erica Morrow G 5-8 Jr. 23 Tyler Ash G 6-2 So. 32 Nicole Michael F 6-2 Sr. 34 Shakeya Leary F 6-3 Fr. 40 Kayla Alexander C 6-4 Fr. 43 Iasia Hemingway G 5-11 Jr. 44 Carmen Tyson-Thomas G 5-9 Fr.



Rick Jackson Andy Rautins Nick Resavy Mookie Jones Wesley Johnson Scoop Jardine Arinze Onuaku Brandon Reese Brandon Triche Kris Joseph DaShonte Riley Matt Tomaszewski James Southerland




6-9 6-4 6-2 6-6 6-7 6-2 6-9 5-11 6-4 6-7 7-0 6-8 6-8

Seattle/Garfield HS Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt HS Rosedale, N.Y./Francis Lewis HS/Virginia Tech Upper Marlboro, Md./Gwynn Park HS Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School Bronx, N.Y./St. Michael Academy Flint, Mich./Flint Hamady HS Jackson, Miss./Callaway HS/Gulf Coast College/Odessa College Philadelphia/Frankford HS/Monroe College Brooklyn, N.Y./Murry Bergtraum HS Liverpool, N.Y./Liverpool HS Queens, N.Y./August Martin/Patterson/ Notre Dame Prep New York/Murry Bergtraum HS Milton, Ontario/Milton District HS Newark, N.J./Malcolm X Shabazz HS Philadelphia/Conwell-Egan Catholic HS


240 195 199 220 205 190 261 160 198 207 233 232 205


Jr. Sr. So. Fr. Jr. So. Sr. So. Fr. So. Fr. Jr. Fr.


Philadelphia/Neumann-Goretti Jamesville, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt West Milford, N.J./West Milford Peekskill, N.Y./Peekskill Corsicana, Texas/Corsicana/Patterson School (N.C.)/Eldon Acad./Iowa State Philadelphia/Neumann-Goretti Lanham, Md./Episcopal Davie, Fla./Pine Crest School Jamesville, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt Montreal, Quebec/Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) Detroit/Detroit County Day Seabrook, N.H./Holderness Bayside, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)

Albany Robert Morris vs. California* vs. North Carolina/Ohio State* Cornell Columbia Colgate Maine vs. Florida^ St. Francis (N.Y.) St. Bonaventure Oakland @Seton Hall Pittsburgh Memphis South Florida @Rutgers @West Virginia @Notre Dame Marquette Georgetown @DePaul Providence @Cincinnati Connecticut Louisville @Georgetown @Providence Villanova St. John’s @Louisville

Monday, Nov. 9 Wednesday, Nov. 11 Thursday, Nov. 19 Friday, Nov. 20 Tuesday, Nov. 24 Friday, Nov. 27 Monday, Nov. 30 Saturday, Dec. 5 Thursday, Dec. 10 Sunday, Dec. 13 Saturday, Dec. 19 Tuesday, Dec. 22 Tuesday, Dec. 29 Saturday, Jan. 2 Wednesday, Jan. 6 Sunday, Jan. 10 Wednesday, Jan. 13 Saturday, Jan. 16 Monday, Jan. 18 Saturday, Jan. 23 Monday, Jan. 25 Saturday, Jan. 30 Tuesday, Feb. 2 Sunday, Feb. 7 Wednesday, Feb. 10 Sunday, Feb. 14 Thursday, Feb. 18 Tuesday, Feb. 23 Saturday, Feb. 27 Tuesday, March 2 Saturday, March 6

^SEC/Big East Invitational at St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

*2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden in New York



2 p.m.

7 p.m.

9 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

1 p.m.

7 p.m.

2 p.m.

7 p.m.

2 p.m.

7 p.m.

2 p.m.

7 p.m.


7:30 p.m.

2 p.m.

7 p.m.


9 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

1 p.m.

9 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

5/7 p.m.

7 p.m.

7 p.m.

9 p.m.



—Compiled by Conor Orr, asst. sports editor

mitchell franz | staff photographer

Coming off knee surgery, Arinze Onuaku is one of the team’s biggest question marks for the upcoming season. He came into preseason camp thinner and quicker than in years past, but could suffer from a loss of muscle in the trenches. The team will rise and fall this year with Onuaku, who needs to produce just as much from the glass as he does from the free-throw line, which has been the 6-foot-9, 261-pound center’s Achilles’ heel. The green-horn, 7-foot freshman DaShonte Riley, could potentially give Onuaku some minutes in relief off the bench, but looks more like a longterm project at this point.


Rick Jackson will anchor the power forward spot for the Orange this year. After a strong 2008-09 campaign, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior will be the perfect complement to Arinze Onuaku on the inside, while looking to improve on his 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game from last season. SU head coach Jim Boeheim has charged both Jackson and Onuaku with needing to pick up some extra slack this year in the absence of the team’s top three scorers from a year ago. A more power-focused offense highlights one of the squad’s biggest differences from a year ago.


Two words here — Wesley Johnson. After all the hype and preseason hoopla, it’s time to see how Johnson’s game will translate from the Big 12 after transferring from Iowa State. In the early going, we’ve seen Johnson’s ability to make some pretty outstanding defensive plays, while providing an offensive spark when given the opportunity to roam with the ball. Backing him up will be a solid tandem of Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones, both who are capable of providing some quality minutes off the bench.


It’s Andy Rautins’ year to establish himself as the triggerhappy shooting guard everyone was hoping he’d be. Though he has never established himself as an everyday starter, Rautins has his chance this year to put up some serious numbers for the Orange. Without Eric Devendorf in the mix, the offense will rely more on Rautins to knock down the 3-ball that has come to be his trademark over the years. If he can do so, it will give Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson more of an opportunity to score inside.


It’s early yet, but there’s already speculation of a point guard controversy in Syracuse. After the departure of Jonny Flynn, the Orange had to replace one of its best point-men in recent memory and is looking to sophomore Scoop Jardine and freshman Brandon Triche to do so. Jardine, who started a few games during his freshman year before being sidelined with a foot injury, looks to be the odds-on favorite. Triche, though, had a strong showing in the team’s first exhibition and should at least be able to provide a solid backup.



the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


Beat writer predictions

Conor Orr

Projected record: 19-12 Big East finish: 7th NCAA finish: First round Biggest surprise: Brandon Triche Synopsis: This sportswriter is taking the easy way out. Honestly, this team could be a 23- or 24-win team, or it could be a 13- or 14-win team depending on how the new talent meshes with Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins and Rick Jackson. I’ll say 19 wins to be safe, but I honestly believe this team has a chance to do big things. If Wesley Johnson can be the go-to guy SU expects him to be, and Triche/Scoop Jardine can effectively manage the point, this may turn out to be an interesting season.

Tyler Dunne

Projected record: 18-13 Big East finish: 7th NCAA finish: First round Biggest surprise: Scoop Jardine Synopsis: The losses in the backcourt will sting. Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf created a ton of offense for Syracuse. If Scoop Jardine and/or Brandon Triche have a fraction of Flynn’s playmaking ability, the offense should be in decent shape. Keep an eye on Jardine. His shot is better, and he has great peripheral vision in the lane. Still, the identity of this year’s team will be the defense. Jim Boeheim has a roster full of rangy, active players to run his 2-3 defense. If new faces pick up the slack on offense, SU could do some damage.

Matt Ehalt

Projected record: 18-13 Big East finish: 8th NCAA finish: First round Biggest surprise: Kris Joseph Synopsis: To paraphrase Dennis Green, this team will be who we think they are. I see this team beating the teams we expect them to beat, and losing to those they should lose to. There won’t be that chance for upset that we saw last year. I don’t believe there is enough star talent to take the Orange to the top of the Big East. The frontcourt will be one of the best in the conference, but the backcourt could be a little shaky at times. Love him or hate him, Eric Devendorf will be a big loss. If this team gels, things could get very interesting come March. A favorable bracket could possibly yield a repeat Sweet 16 run.

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


Life in the

FAST LANE With a speed-oriented offense, Siena transcends common traits of a mid-major By Tyler Dunne Staff Writer

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Don’t call them underdogs. By now, Siena is sick of that stereotype. “Underdog” means they haven’t arrived yet. “Underdog” means they’re still a cute subplot, a gimmick. Standing at midcourt of Siena’s practice facility, seniors Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles cringe at that word. They shuffle their feet, exchange a brief glance at each other and shake their heads. As if to say, “Don’t go there.” “I don’t ever think we’re the underdogs,” Franklin said. “It’s people on the outside that say we’re underdogs. We think we can play with the best. We can compete with anybody.” With a banner highlighting back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament perched behind them, it’s hard to disagree. The latest mid-major heartthrob has grown into a legitimate contender. After upsets over Vanderbilt and Ohio State in the last two tournaments, Siena, playing at NASCAR speeds, believes it can take the next step. “Our goal is to always win the championship at the end of the year,” Franklin said. Not exactly something you’ll hear at any old Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) school. But here, such hopes are realistic. Five years ago, Siena was a 6-24 bottom-feeder. Fran McCaffery took over as head coach, dipped into his rich Philadelphia roots and, most of all, instilled a dizzying end-to-end style that gives Siena a chance to knock off Goliath any night. As soon as a shot is missed or made, the ball must instantly reverse direction. The slightest pause is scolded. Every player must be moving every play in Siena’s center-less offense. The Saints have half court plays, sure. But those are only used if needed. Siena would much rather rev the game into a blur of wind sprints. At one point during a 5-on-5 segment at practice, the offense deflated into a half-court set. For a microsecond, players were frozen like mannequins. Nothing too stale to the naked eye. A nearby assistant coach yelled. “Keep moving!” he screamed. Next to him, fellow assistant Mitch Buonaguro waved a player away for emphasis. “Move! Move!” The ball swung, eventually returned to point guard Ronald Moore and with his cock-eyed shooting form, Moore drilled the three-pointer. The beckoning continues. “Break!” Buonaguro screamed to the defense.

courtesy of siena athletic communications edwin ubiles and Siena have reached the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons thanks to their high-speed attack. The Saints lost in the second round both years. “Go! Push it!” This is Siena’s secret. This is what could make the tiny 3,217-strong school nationally relevant for an extended period of time. The Saints make opponents chase them. “Fran has built the program on running and guys like playing that way,” said Buonaguro, who was filling in for the ill McCaffery. “It’s good for recruiting. Word gets out that we run, and recruits like that.” Word spreads most rampant in Philadelphia. Instead of settling on local heroes like many midmajors, Siena has a clear pipeline to run-and-gun athletes in Pennsylvania. McCaffery is from Philadelphia, and Buonaguro was an assistant coach at Villanova for eight years. Their relationships in the area run deep. Siena has six players from Pennsylva-

nia on the team and many more on the way. Sweat pouring from his brow, the 6-foot-5 Franklin hinted that Siena won’t be a one-class wonder. He sees sustainability. “Back home, nobody doesn’t know where Siena is at,” Franklin said. “It’s good that we finally got our name on the map.” Still, Siena’s rise is a double-edged sword. After last year, scheduling games has become a journey to the center of the earth. It took assistant coach Adam Chaskin more than 300 phone calls to complete a nonconference schedule this season. Home games against schools from power conferences are a near impossibility after last season. Siena pushed Pittsburgh, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Tennessee to the limit amid the program’s toughest see siena page 20

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


Beat writer predictions Brett LoGiurato

Overall record: 20-9 Big East finish: 6th NCAA finish: First round Biggest surprise: Carmen TysonThomas Synopsis: Depth, depth, depth. That’s the key difference between this year’s and last year’s teams. With experience up top at the starting positions and a legitimate six-deep bench, this is quite possibly the best and most well-rounded team Quentin Hillsman has fielded in his fourth season at the helm. Look for the Orange to make it back to the promised land and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Andrew John

Overall Record: 21-8 Big East Finish: 5th NCAA finish: Second round Biggest surprise: Tyler Ash Synopsis: With four starters returning and the addition of a solid recruiting class, Quentin Hillsman should have more than enough talent to complete at a high level in the Big East and get back into the NCAA Tournament. Nicole Michael is arguably one of the top players in the league, the backcourt is rock solid, and Juanita Ward should take the next step toward being the player many anticipated she would be when she arrived. But perhaps the biggest factor in SU’s success will be how quickly the newcomers can adjust before Big East play begins. If they live up to the hype, Syracuse will be legit.

Tony Olivero

Overall Record: 21-8 Big East Finish: 5th NCAA finish: Second round Biggest Surprise: Carmen TysonThomas Synopsis: There is no denying that this team is talented. The question now is, will SU be able to mesh in order to traverse the always-tough Big East? Will four returning starters be able to get the newcomers accustomed enough in time for the conference games that will determine Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament fate? Expect a stellar non-conference record and a team much more ready for conference play by the time it starts than last year’s group. From there on out, SU should post a record above .500.

2009-2010 Women’s basketball schedule Friday, Nov. 13

Farleigh Dickinson 7 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 28

7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 30

Notre Dame

1 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 16


7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 30 New Hampshire

7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 2


7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 19

Alabama State

7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 2


5 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 6


1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 22



Tuesday, Jan. 5

@Seton Hall

7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 9


7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 26

vs. Old Dominion* 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 10


7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 13


2 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 27

vs. Butler*

8:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 13 Rutgers

7 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 21


1 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 2 Wagner

7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 16

@South Florida

4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 24 Connecticut

7 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 6


2 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 19


7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 27


8 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 13


6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 23


2 p.m.

Monday, March 1

West Virginia

7 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 22

Delaware State

2 p.m.


Wednesday, Jan. 27 St. John’s

7 p.m.

*Cancun Thanksgiving Classic in Cancun, Mexico

Nicole Michael

luke mccomb | photo editor



In her three seasons at Syracuse, Nicole Michael has become arguably the best player in program history. With one year left, Michael has a shot at breaking the school records in points and rebounds. YEAR

2008-09 2007-08 2006-07


14.7 11.6 17.3


8.5 7.4 8.6


0.93 0.94 1.59


0.86 0.97 0.62

mitchell franz | staff photographer

Face of a By Brett LoGiurato STAFF WRITER


ver the past three years, almost everything about Nicole Michael’s career has been a blur to Quentin Hillsman. She was his fi rst major recruit after he was named to head coach in 2006, and since then, has helped him take his fi rst steps toward building a program at Syracuse. “You don’t realize somebody is a senior until you sit down and you start looking at your recruiting classes for the next couple of years,” Hillsman said. “So we were looking at next year, and fi nally someone says, ‘What about (replacing) Slinky?’” “And I said, ‘What?’” In her fi nal season at Syracuse, Michael has become arguably her team’s most important player as one of four starting holdovers from last year’s Women’s National Invitational Tournament squad. And she already has the accolades piling up to prove it. Michael was named one of 31 candidates for the women’s Wooden Award, which has been given annually since 2004 to the nation’s top player. In 2008, the award was given to a fellow Big East star, Maya Moore of Connecticut. It has been the smooth transition from heralded recruit to bona fide star over Michael’s three years at Syracuse that has blurred the passing of time for Hillsman. Hillsman reminisced of Michael’s decision to commit to Syracuse when he found out about the Wooden Award nomination, reflecting on how far his fi rst prized recruit has come during her stay. “When it fi rst came out, you kind of just sit there and you go, ‘Wow,’” Hillsman said. “This is a kid who took a chance when Top 20, top 15

Michael enters senior year with a chance to become SU’s all-time greatest player.

program programs were recruiting her. She’s just reaping the rewards of her sacrifices.” In addition to the Wooden Award nomination, Michael is chasing multiple school records. At 1,286 career points, Michael is only 319 shy of the Syracuse mark, and she needs 204 rebounds to topple that school record as well. “They mean a lot to me,” Michael said of the records. “But I really don’t think about it. I just want to play my game, play hard and let that come to me.” Coming off what Hillsman called her fi nest stretch as a player in the Orange’s fi nal 10 games last season, Michael will be relied upon to fi ll the void left by departed guard Chandrea Jones (Jones led SU last year with 16.9 points-per-game). Though Michael will miss Jones tearing apart opposing defenses, she relishes her new challenge as a senior leader. “I love being the leader,” Michael said. “I think I’ve always been a leader since I got here.” Junior teammate Erica Morrow, who traced her fi rst meeting with Michael back to the sixth grade, noticed a boost in Michael’s performance during the team’s narrow 88-79 home loss to South Florida last season. SEE MICHAEL PAGE 22


mitchell franz | staff photographer


the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

Believing the Quentin Hillsman calls Juanita Ward the best he’s ever coached. This is her last chance to prove it. By Didier Morais Staff Writer

Quentin Hillsman invested four years of his coaching career into recruiting Juanita Ward. From the moment he saw her play at Callaway (Miss.) High School in 2004, Hillsman, then Alabama’s assistant coach, fervently sought the 6-foot-2 forward’s services. And at last year’s media day, Syracuse head women’s basketball coach sauntered into Manley Field House and finally celebrated the culmination of his efforts, offering his blue-chip, JUCO prospect the greatest compliment a coach could give a player. “When you look at Juanita Ward, I’m not afraid to say this,” Hillsman said then. “She is the best player I’ve ever coached, the most talented player I’ve ever coached.” But one year, a one-game suspension and a disappointing first-round exit from the Big East tournament later, the former McDonald’s All-American hasn’t exactly validated her coach’s comment. During her first season with the Orange, Ward couldn’t crack Hillsman’s starting rotation, averaging 8.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 20.4 minutes in 31 games off the bench. In addition to the lackluster numbers, Ward also endured some off-the-court issues, prompting Hillsman to suspend his premier recruit one game for violating the team’s code of conduct. Embracing her coach’s optimistic outlook, however, Ward insists the criticism has been premature and unwarranted. “A lot of people got caught up in the hype,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t say that I didn’t have the best year. I would just say that everything happened for a reason. I think that our team did well last year, and coach prepared us in the best way that he could.” So that begs the question: Does Hillsman still believe Ward’s the most talented player he has ever coached? “I still stand by that statement,” Hillsman said. “She can score from any spot on the floor, she can put the ball on the floor, she can drain a 3, and she can post up. So as far as me, in my coaching career, she’s been the most talented player that I’ve ever coached.” But you wouldn’t have noticed that admiration at this year’s media day. During his eight-minute press conference, Hillsman seemingly treated Ward like an afterthought, devoting a mere 11 seconds of discussion to his senior forward. This time around, sophomore Tyler Ash — another member of Ward’s recruiting class — inherited Hillsman’s praises. In the process, Hillsman also insinuated that Ash could likely join Nicole Michael, Vionca Murray, Erica Morrow and Tasha Harris in the team’s starting lineup. Ward’s reaction? “I just have to stay focused this year and maintain everything we have to do on and off the


court,” Ward said. “I just want to continue playing basketball the best way that I know how.” But she didn’t anticipate that role when she submitted her letter of intent. Transferring from Odessa (Texas) College to Syracuse, she sacrificed the opportunity to play for powerhouse programs such as Connecticut, Tennessee,

“I thought she responded really well for us,” Altenhofen said. “You could see the urgency. For somebody, who’s been so highly rated coming out of high school and on good teams, she respected the players getting those minutes. It’s one of those things where she wanted to match their work ethic.”

A lot of people got caught up in the hype. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t have the best year. I would just say that everything happened for a reason. I think that our team did well last year, and coach prepared us in the

best way that he could. Juanita Ward, SU forward

North Carolina and Duke. Still, despite snagging her from the likes of UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, Hillsman essentially designated Ward as a role player. But the decision hasn’t been without reason. “It’s a maturation process,” Hillsman said. “She really had to turn the corner and figure out what it was like playing at this level because playing in the Big East is like no other level. It’s all about her becoming a piece of the puzzle, rather than the entire puzzle.” Fortunately for Ward, she has been in this position before. During her first season at Odessa, head coach Nate Altenhofen elected to play Ward primarily as a reserve. Despite the move, he constantly challenged her to sway his decision with improved defense. “Our thing was the better defense you play, the more minutes you get,” Altenhofen said. “We don’t stress (starting) very much. We stressed minutes because it either means you have a very talented scorer coming off the bench, or it can be a motivating factor, especially if a coach is trying to get a little bit more out of somebody.” For Ward, it was the latter. Facing her first challenge in her basketball career, she arduously worked to crack Altenhofen’s starting rotation. One year later, she accomplished just that, averaging 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds as a starter to lead the Lady Wranglers to a 32-2 record and a JUCO national championship.

Morrow, SU’s starting shooting guard, believes lightning could strike twice for Ward. The junior has already witnessed a change in her teammate’s demeanor this preseason, noticing a newfound hunger and dedication during the team’s practices. But the growth hasn’t been limited to the basketball court. Morrow said Ward has made a concerted effort to add muscle in the workout room, hoping to effectively pilot the Orange’s post in the Big East. “She’s trying to carry everyone on her back more this year,” Morrow said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Juanita will come out just as strong as anyone. To see her push herself and see her passionate about getting stronger and faster, I think that right there is the first sign that shows she’s going to be great this year.” For the time being, though, Hillsman doesn’t foresee any projected changes to his starting rotation. But like Altenhofen, the Syracuse coach expects Ward to respond to his challenge and receive a return on his recruiting investment. “I don’t think her role is necessarily going to change for now,” Hillsman said. “She still needs to score the basketball for us and rebound the ball. But I think she’ll be ready to make a bigger contribution to our team this year because she understands in what context she has to do it in. One thing you can’t teach is talent and she has it.”

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010




schedule ever. As a result, the Saints were not star-struck by top-seeded Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Powered by its coast-to-coast offense, ninth-seeded Siena nearly pulled the upset, losing by just seven. This year, Siena could only schedule one team from a major conference — Georgia

Tech. And even that may have more to do with Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt doing Siena a favor. He coached the Saints from 1997-2000. Everybody else refuses to play with fi re. “We have a 21-game home winning streak, so no one wants to play us in Albany now,â€? Buonaguro said. “All we could do is go on the road, and Fran doesn’t want to do that. He thinks the program has reached a certain level where we should get home-and-homes. They’re hard to come by. People won’t play us.â€? It’s hard to blame them. Outside of the graduated Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena’s roster remains intact. They all can run, and they’re all on the same page. That’s what scares away Syracuse and other “glamourâ€? teams, they say. Continuity. The one-and-done culture of college basketball feeds the mid-major monster. “The one advantage we have is that our guys stay for four years,â€? Buonaguro said. “Some of those bigger teams don’t have those guys. ‌I know Syracuse has a great team. They are ranked very high. But they had a lot of turnover. They lost (Eric) Devendorf. They lost (Paul) Harris. So they have to fi ll some holes. It takes time to develop chemistry.â€? Memories of the Saints’ instant classic against Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio in the first round of the Tournament are still fresh. The atmosphere, particularly. For Ohio State, the first round bout was one hour from home. For the green and yellow Saints, it was an 11-hour jaunt. While reminiscing, Franklin peers around the practice facility for effect and points to one of several banners hanging. “Imagine this whole building red and that little banner over there green,â€? he said. “It was nuts.â€? Feeding off the negative energy, Siena climbed out of an 11-point deficit in the second


half to force overtime. Moore was the hero. The pint-sized point guard nailed one 3-pointer to tie the game with 3.5 seconds left in the fi rst overtime, and then coolly drained another to win with 3.9 seconds left in the second overtime. Didn’t matter that Moore was 0-fer before the first dagger. In Siena, quick triggers are not reprimanded. They’re demanded. The Saints were sinners against Ohio State, committing 21 turnovers and making just 6-of-24 threepointers. But here, players are not yanked for aggressive mistakes. “We have the guys to run the floor,� Moore said. “We condition for it. Our best offense is getting the ball up and down the floor real quick.� So the pieces are in place for a deeper run into March. With his quirky shot that so many coaches tried to change, Moore turns the ignition. The ultra-athletic Ubiles usually provides the knockout punch, hovering above the rim. After participating in the LeBron James U.S. Skills Academy this past summer, his confidence is at a new high. And while Siena’s offense requires players to constantly clear out of the paint, Franklin and junior Ryan Rossiter provide ample grit. On this practice, with a yellow bandage around his knee, Rossiter gets into a scuffle with Seton Hall-transfer Brandon Walters. Siena’s pyrotechnic style isn’t buffered by a soft undertone. For three straight hours at practice, the intensity doesn’t taper. After all, this is how Siena got noticed in the first place. No use getting lax now that everybody knows who they are. Players know this winter is their best shot yet. “We like the expectations and being ranked in the preseason,� Moore said. “We worked hard for it. We’re definitely not sneaking up on anybody anymore.�

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


from page 3

not easy to replace. “Replacing Jonny Flynn is the biggest question,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said at Big East media day in New York. “He was arguably the best guard in college basketball last year. He would have got my vote as far as having a winning impact on his team and being the most valuable player in the country. I don’t know who won the Wooden Award and stuff, but nobody played 40 minutes a game like him.” Having to overcome the loss of a lottery pick


his freshman season as Gerry McNamara’s sidekick, Devendorf could change a game — with either great plays or bone-headed decisions — and perhaps was the most hated player in college basketball. Rautins admitted the squad would miss his “hyping up the crowd.” Devendorf was last reported mulling options with teams overseas and considering playing in the NBA Developmental League. Without its three stars, the Orange’s identity will be altered. But the bottom line for any Syracuse team — a berth in the NCAA Tournament — seems as attainable as ever. “I think in college basketball you always

You just have to move forward with the guys we have. We’re definitely well-equipped enough to compete at a high level and be

at the top of the Big East.

Andy Rautins, SU shooting guard

is challenging enough, but having to fill the void left by Harris and Devendorf makes the task even more arduous. Rautins described Harris as a monster on the glass and “almost a guarantee for eight or 10 rebounds” per game over his three-year career at Syracuse. Harris was not drafted by an NBA team, and was recently cut by the Utah Jazz. Devendorf made driving to the basket look effortless and always found a way to elevate his game when the spotlight shined brightest. Since

have to be prepared to lose key guys,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “You’re going to lose guys, whether they’re good or if they’re seniors. So we’ve usually had to lose a key guy or two. The nice thing is that we have a lot of guys coming back that are experienced guys, and we expect them to go forward.” For most teams, this would be written off as a rebuilding year. Syracuse is different. The Orange has already been tabbed as the No. 31 team in the country in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the coaches’ poll.

The key is the experience the Orange still possesses. Syracuse is one of the few teams in the country to bring back two fifth-year seniors in Arinze Onuaku and Rautins. Rick Jackson returns at power forward, and Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson will step right into Harris’s spot. Even point guard, which is expected to be the weakest link on the team, will feature a former starter in Jardine. That experience brings leadership. Rautins and Onuaku have been with Syracuse through all the highs and the lows of the past four years. They were there for Syracuse’s upset of Connecticut in last season’s classic six-overtime game and experienced the sting of missing two consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Rautins is already acting the part, talking of being a more vocal leader after leaving that duty to the now departed players the past few years. Onuaku sees himself as someone who can ignite a fire under the team, even if it doesn’t include screaming. The seniors are ready to step in where Flynn, Harris and Devendorf left off. “We’ve got guys coming off a Sweet 16 team last year,” Rautins said. “I think that we’re able to take the younger guys under our wings a little bit and take more of a leadership role on the court, and I think we’ll be fine.” As much as the current players will have to fill the void, it will also lean heavily on Boeheim. And the rest of the Big East doesn’t see the architect of this program missing a beat. Boeheim has been here and done that. His consecutive streak of 20-win seasons attests to that. In 2007, he lost a quality trio of Demetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts to graduation, and still had his team battling for an NCAA Tournament berth. As St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts said, Syracuse just reloads. Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon said at Big East media day that when he began coaching for

the Panthers, he was always amazed at how Syracuse would lose a few players, and all the pundits thought it was going to be a down year. Instead, Boeheim uncovered a role player and elevated him into one of the league’s better players. Even with a new nucleus, the Big East coaches know Syracuse will be back in the hunt because of Boeheim. “A coach’s responsibility is to take the players you have and take the circumstances that hit you through a season and make the best team out of it and have the best season you can,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “There is no one in college basketball, no one, that has done that better than him. Thirty 20-win seasons. Not Dean Smith, not Bobby Knight have done that, so you’ve got the best guy ever in the history of college basketball. Who’s better at putting a team together and wining 20 games than Jim Boeheim? There is nobody better than him, so I just expect him to find a way to put that team together.” So even though there might not be the iron man attitude of Flynn, or Harris’ grinding play under the rim, or the jump-on-table leadership tactics employed by Devendorf at Syracuse’s disposal, a stable core is still in place. Yes, there was a very good chance that Syracuse could have won a national title with those three players returning for one shot at glory. Still, that doesn’t mean Onuaku can’t see this team cutting down the nets in Indianapolis at season’s end. “I’m just looking at what we have now, and I feel we have the type of talent that can end up No. 1,” Onuaku said. “The what ifs are what’s going on now, because they haven’t seen these new faces, but once we come out on day one and they see the talent level, then we are going to catch a couple eyes.”

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010


Michael f r o m pa g e 17

Just two games earlier, Michael suffered through one of the worst games of her career, logging only six points on 1-of-8 shooting with four rebounds in an ugly 18-point home loss to Villanova. Michael responded against USF, leading her team with 27 points and 13 rebounds. “I think she just realized that it was time for her to turn the corner and try to do things a little differently,” Morrow said. “She really took it upon herself to become a better basketball player those last few games.” Michael continued her scorching play thereafter, posting double-digit points and at least seven rebounds in each of Syracuse’s remaining six regular season games. She scored at least 20 points in five of those games. Michael also netted 22 points and 13 rebounds in the Orange’s final game of the season last year, a second-round NIT loss to Bowling Green. All that momentum carries her into this year, when Michael deals with the expectations of an increased role and the pressure of continuing her torrid stretch to end last season. But if she’s feeling any of the strain of her new role, no one’s seeing it. “Naturally, I think there will be (pressure),” Morrow said. “Being a team leader and in your senior year is pressure enough for anyone. “But if she’s under any pressure, I just don’t see it. It’s incredible.” Hillsman insists Michael isn’t feeling any more stress than usual. He has seen her handle pressure with a veteran savvy all the way back

to her freshman season. Hillsman knew he had a special player when he asked her to step in as a freshman and play arguably the biggest role on the team, as she became the first Syracuse player to score 500 points in a single season. “To be a great basketball player, you have to welcome the pressure and welcome the challenge,” Hillsman said. About halfway through Michael’s freshman season, Hillsman saw opposing defenses start to change their scheme. Aware of Michael’s early success, SU’s opponents started to build their defensive game plans around her. That’s when Hillsman realized he would find out if his star freshman could handle the pressure. “When you see a player come out on the floor, and they point at you and say there she is,” Hillsman said, “that’s when you know you have a player. From then on, she started demanding double-teams, and people gameplanned for her.” Michael’s game has come full circle, as she attempts to lead the Orange back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. She hopes to leave with individual and team goals fully accomplished — records and another spot in the NCAA Tournament intact. And when it’s all said and done, Michael may go down as the best player in the history of the Syracuse women’s basketball program and Hillsman’s first stamp on a program he intends to build. “I came here because I just wanted to go somewhere where I’d be comfortable and happy,” Michael said. “I may be No.1 on the list leaving here, and that’s a great honor.”

the daily orange basketball preview 2009-2010

johnson from page 4

something suspicious going on within his new school. Carroll said he and Johnson both had inclinations that the school wasn’t giving Johnson all of his recruiting letters — a complete disservice to a player waiting for that one big chance. The next foyer into prep school fared no better for Johnson — this time at Eldon (Mich.) Academy — which closed down just a month after his arrival, leaving him in basketball limbo. “It was tough,” Carroll said. “However, the main thing it did was build character. It showed how hard work can pay off. He had no choice but to move from one prep school to the next.” Dotson describes what happened next as something right out of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” With Johnson’s family maintaining a good relationship with a new assistant coach at Iowa State, the Cyclones reached out and contacted Johnson. He was finally in the big show. “Next thing you know — Jed’s a millionaire,” Dotson said. “He was just sitting there ready to go.” Now a sturdy 6-foot-7, Johnson took the Big 12 by storm his freshman year. He started all but one of his team’s games and averaged 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game — good enough to earn him a spot on the conference All-Rookie Team. He scored a season-high 22 points against a Nebraska team that had passed him off as an afterthought just a few years earlier. “Doc Sadler down at Nebraska, he’s a good friend of mine, it was really funny,” Dotson said. “After Wes played his first year at Iowa

State, he told me he was going to kill me. And I told him, I told y’all about this kid when he was a junior in high school.” His next year with the Cyclones saw him playing less due to an ankle injury that sidelined him for five games. He still managed 12.4 points and four boards a game, but a tumultuous relationship with ISU head coach Greg McDermott began to fester, Carroll said. Reports say Johnson packed up his belongings and f lew back to Corsicana. McDermott, who declined to comment for this article, called the news “shocking” in a press release issued by the school. He said he f lew down to talk to him, but that his mind was already made up — he was headed to Syracuse. After sitting out a year per NCAA transfer regulations, Johnson emerged at SU media day this October a different person. He was relaxed and comfortable, but the chip on his shoulder still existed. Those around him said he wouldn’t be the same person he is today without the tough road he forged for himself, but that wasn’t enough — and he was determined to show everyone what they missed out on. During the team’s first exhibition on Oct. 25, Johnson sprung free off a turnover and received a pass from point guard Scoop Jardine with no one in front of him. As the student section rose in anticipation, Johnson soared above the rim and threw down a raucous jam. Then he just stood, hands on his hips, facing the cheering crowd. This was his big debut, and he wanted everything to be perfect. “I was looking into the student section,” Johnson said. “To let them know, yeah, this is going to be an exciting season.”




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The Daily Orange 2009-2010 Basketball Preview  

The Daily Orange sports staffs previews the Syracuse men's and women's 2009-2010 basketball season.

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