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2011-2012 BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW

BETTER THAN BEFORE

After an early exit from the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse returns nearly its entire roster and enters the 2011-12 season with championship aspirations


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Editor’s note:

T H E I N DE PE N DE N T S T U DE N T N E W SPA PE R OF S Y R ACUSE , N E W YOR K

Sports Editor Presentation Director Copy Chief Special Projects Editor Asst. Presentation Director Asst. Sports Editor Asst. Sports Editor Asst. Photo Editor Asst. Photo Editor Asst. Photo Editor Asst. Copy Editor Asst. Copy Editor

Michael Cohen Becca McGovern Laurence Leveille Katie McInerney Ankur Patankar Mark Cooper Ryne Gery Stacie Fanelli Lauren Murphy Kristen Parker Stephen Bailey Andrew Tredinnick

Dara McBride Amrita Mainthia EDITOR IN CHIEF

MANAGING EDITOR

General Manager IT Director IT Manager Circulation Manager Advertising Designer Advertising Designer Advertising Representative Advertising Representative Advertising Representative Advertising Representative Classifieds Manager Circulation Circulation Marketing Manager Student Business Manager Business Intern

Peter Waack Mike Escalante Derek Ostrander Harold Heron Cecilia Jayo Yoli Worth Bianca Rodriguez Kelsey Rowland Andrew Steinbach Yiwei Wu Michael Kang Joyce Placito Olivia St. Denis Assel Baitassova Brooke Williams Tim Bennett

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Table of contents 5 7

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WHEN HE WANTS

As others question Jim Boeheim’s future with Syracuse’s impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the legendary head coach stands strong at the helm of the Orange

ON THE RISE

After a sophomore season in which he showed flashes of breaking out, Brandon Triche hopes an offseason dedicated to building his confidence will lead to an exceptional year

EXPANDING HIS PRESENCE

C.J. Fair hopes to play an increased role on the Orange in 2011-12 after improving his jump shot to complement his superior athletic ability

TAKING THE TORCH

Rachel Coffey appears ready to take the reins of the Syracuse offense after spending her freshman season learning from senior guards Erica Morrow and Tasha Harris

A special thanks to Sue Edson, Pete Moore and SU athletic communications.

HEIGHT OF HER GAME

For Syracuse to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons, Kayla Alexander will need to be a force in the paint

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WHAT LIES AHEAD

A look at the road Syracuse will have to take through the regular season in preparation for its postseason goals

Dear readers, This 2011-12 Basketball Preview provides a comprehensive look at the upcoming season for both the men’s and women’s teams here at Syracuse. We hope you enjoy a piece on the legacy of Jim Boeheim, a story about the potential emergence of Brandon Triche and a profile of Rachel Coffey, who is poised to become the next point guard of the SU women’s team. You can also find intriguing stories about Connecticut and Butler the year after playing for the national championship. With those stories and more, we hope you find this to be the perfect guide of what to look for during the 2011-12 basketball season here at SU and beyond. Thank you for reading and enjoy. Sincerely, Michael Cohen Sports Editor

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MAJOR PLAYER

After shocking the world with back-toback appearances in the national championship game, Butler is faced with a huge challenge in what will likely be a rebuilding year

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YOUTH MOVEMENT

Despite the loss of Kemba Walker, defending national champion Connecticut has the potential to be even better this season

photo illustration by katie mcinerney | special projects editor; portraits by brandon weight | staff photographer

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From the beginning Jim Boeheim has been a part of countless key moments in Syracuse basketball history. In the midst of his 36th season, he is inching closer to 900 career wins. Here is a look at some of the biggest games he’s coached for the Orange, dating back to his very first season in 1976-77:

2011-12 basketba ll season preview

Nov. 26, 1976 | Harvard Syracuse wins the first game it ever plays with Boeheim as head coach. W, 75-48 March 13, 1977 | Tennessee Boeheim wins his first NCAA Tournament game in his first season. W, 93-88 (OT)

Jan. 5, 1979 | Seton Hall SU beats the Pirates in the school’s first conference game as a member of the Big East. The Orangemen won the first regular-season conference title that year, too. W, 99-76 March 1, 1980 | Villanova

Boeheim gets his 100th win in just his fourth year at the helm, making him the fourth-fastest coach to reach the century mark. W, 97-83

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Feb. 9, 1981 | Georgetown Boeheim finally beats the Hoyas and John Thompson in his fourth try since taking over the Orangemen. W, 66-64 March 7, 1981 | Villanova Syracuse beats Villanova to capture its first Big East tournament title. W, 83-80 (3OT) March 18, 1983 | Morehead State Boeheim brings Syracuse back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years. The Orangemen didn’t miss the Big Dance again until 1993. W, 74-59 Feb. 14, 1985 | Seton Hall Boeheim gets his 200th win in blowout fashion. W, 94-62 March 15, 1987 | Western Kentucky In Boeheim’s ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse finally advances past the second round with a win over WKU. W, 104-86 March 21, 1987 | North Carolina The Orangemen take down the Tar Heels in the Meadowlands to advance to their first Final Four under Boeheim. W, 79-75 March 30, 1987 | Indiana After knocking off Providence in the national semifinal, Syracuse falls in the championship game when Keith Smart knocks down a last-second jumper. L, 74-73 March 13, 1988 | Villanova Boeheim leads Syracuse to its second Big East tournament championship. W, 85-68

daily orange file photos

Whenwants

he By Zach Brown

P

Staff Writer

eople close to Syracuse basketball have no trouble putting into words what Jim Boeheim means to the program. In fact, there was one all-encompassing word that did the job. Scoop Jardine, Bernie Fine, Dave Bing, Roosevelt Bouie, Leo Rautins and more all picked that single word to sum up Boeheim’s place in Orange basketball lore. When it comes to SU basketball, Boeheim is simply: “Everything,” Rautins said. “A lot of people don’t realize that Jim Boeheim bleeds orange. This isn’t just a job, this is a passion. It’s a lifelong experience. There are very, very few coaches in the history of the game that have

Amid SU’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, rumblings of retirement surround Jim Boeheim. But the legendary head coach remains steadfast in his position at the helm of the Orange

had the type of experience he’s had.” Since the Orange’s legendary head coach came to Syracuse as a freshman walk-on to the basketball team in 1962, he has only been away from the program for three seasons. After graduating, he played professionally for the Scranton Miners of the Eastern Professional Basketball League. Three years later, he came back to SU to coach while playing for the Miners on the weekends. Roy Danforth, the SU head coach from 1968 to 1976, appointed him a graduate assistant in 1969. And when Danforth left for Tulane seven years later, Boeheim took over the program. Thirty-five years down the road, the coach ranks fifth all-time in Division-I history with 856 career wins. He also leads Big East coach-

es with 338 regular-season conference wins and has taken SU to three Final Fours, including 2003, when Syracuse won its lone national championship. But questions now arise at the end of every season about how much longer Boeheim will coach. He turns 67 this month and has accumulated plenty of accolades throughout his career. Some speculate that his departure will come shortly after the Orange leaves the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Others believe that change could provide a new challenge that will ignite Boeheim’s competitive nature, and, ultimately, make him coach longer than he planned. Those close to him feel it will take a loss of his competitive edge or his passion for the see boeheim page 18

Dec. 30, 1988 | St. Francis (Pa.) Boeheim wins his 300th game as SU’s head coach. W, 105-63 Jan. 2, 1991 | St. John’s Boeheim becomes the winningest coach in Syracuse history with the overtime victory. W, 92-86 (OT) March 15, 1992 | Georgetown Syracuse captures its third Big East tournament championship. W, 56-54 Jan. 9, 1993 | Miami Boeheim wins his 400th game as head coach of the Orange, making him the ninth-fastest coach to reach that mark. W, 89-81 March 14, 1993 | Seton Hall Despite a 20-9 record, SU’s season ends with a loss in the Big East tournament championship game, as the program was on probation due to recruiting violations. L, 103-70 March 24, 1996 | Kansas Boeheim reaches his second Final Four with a tight win over the Jayhawks in Denver. W, 60-57 April 1, 1996 | Kentucky After beating Mississippi State in the national semifinals, Syracuse again falls short in the championship game with a loss to Kentucky. L, 76-67


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brandon weight | staff photographer

On the By Mark Cooper

B

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR

randon Triche sat on the sidelines and watched Syracuse’s 2010-11 season reach its distasteful conclusion. He had been in command earlier, scoring eight points in the first five minutes of the game. But a fall and a bruised tailbone forced him into spectator mode for the final 15-plus minutes as the Orange fell to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament’s third round. Triche’s leading ability was there if only in a five-minute glimpse. But there was much left to be desired. For both Triche, whose forceful offensive nature was limited after that early burst, and for SU, which suffered an early departure from the tournament. Entering his junior year, Triche wants to alter both. This can be his time. “I think you’ve seen flashes of it last year, just me trying to break out, break out,” Triche said. “And I hope, I pray to God that my season is this season. But ultimately I want to win.” Triche has started more games for Syracuse than any other player on the Orange roster. The

rise

junior guard has started all 70 games SU has played in the last two seasons. And through those games, the ups and downs, the adaptation to Division-I basketball and recuperation from a high school knee injury, there has been improvement. Triche moved from a raw point guard on a veteran team to a sometimes-dominant, sometimes-passive shooting guard his sophomore season. He scored 15-plus points nine times last year, but was held to single digits 15 times. After an offseason in which Triche might have risen to the best shape of his life, many believe it’s his turn to take the leading role. “We’re all expecting Brandon to have a breakout year,” Orange graduate assistant Gerry McNamara said. “We think he’s extremely talented, to come in and make a big-time impact offensively.” Triche spent part of this summer playing for JD’s Finest in the King of Kings Summer League in Utica. His team was comprised of current and former Jamesville-DeWitt High School players. Playing in a cooler element with familiar faces from his dominant past, Triche

Brandon Triche displayed glimpses of a star for Syracuse in the 2nd half of his sophomore season. It set the stage for a year in which he could break out and lead the SU offense flourished. He also flexed the athleticism high school teammates said Triche possesses but hasn’t released at SU yet. In one game, according to Triche’s former high school teammate Alshwan Hymes, Triche took a pass on the wing on the game’s first play, pump faked, drove to the hoop and put home a one-handed slam. The flashes are becoming more frequent. “I think we’ve been talking about it,” said Hymes, who played on JD’s Finest. “If anything, this year’s his year to put the team on his back and lead them to success.” The ability to transcend into Syracuse’s go-to guy starts and ends with health for Triche. Bob McKenney said he’s seen Triche do things Syracuse fans have yet to witness. Although Triche was only a threestar recruit out of high school, McKenney, his high school coach at Jamesville-DeWitt, thinks the hoopla surrounding Triche could have been much greater had he stayed healthy through four years. But in a Christmas tournament his sophomore year, Triche awkwardly landed on his left

leg as he drove through the middle of the lane. It was an injury that one of his teammates, Greg Stern, said looked pretty gross when the team later saw it on tape. Triche played the rest of the game, leading Jamesville-DeWitt to a 71-60 win over St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. The next day he found out he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury, which kept him out for the rest of his sophomore year, altered the way Triche attacked the game. “He was just so above the rim and hitting NBA 3s and quick and fast, it was something to watch,” McKenney said. “Not that he was, he was still the best guard in the state (after the injury), but within the next two years … he had to learn to play a little differently.” Triche wore a bulky knee brace for most of his junior year. It inhibited his ability to play above the rim and made him feel uncomfortable at times. But it gave him a chance to develop the rest of his game. Stern said Triche spent more time SEE TRICHE PAGE 8


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2011-12 basketba ll season preview

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Expanding his

presence C.J. Fair plans to build on a successful freshman season by broadening his role in 2011-12 By Michael Cohen

T

brandon weight | staff photographer

Carbon copy

At 6 feet 8 inches and 203 pounds, C.J. Fair fits the prototypical mold of a successful swing man in the Syracuse program. The lanky body spring-loaded with athleticism is a common denominator among some of SU’s most successful forwards in recent years. Here’s a look at how Fair compares to the notable SU swingmen of the past decade: Player

C.J. Fair

Year

Ht

Wt

Rpg

Ppg

2010-11 6-8 203 3.8 6.4

Kris Joseph

2010-11 6-7 210 5.2 14.3

Wes Johnson

2009-10 6-7 205 8.5 16.5

Demetris Nichols

2006-07 6-8 212

5.4

18.9

Josh Pace

2004-05 6-6 203 5.0

10.8

Carmelo Anthony

2002-03 6-8 220 10.0 22.2

Sports Editor

he 3-pointer from the corner against Cal State-Los Angeles provided a peek at the past and future for C.J. Fair. Last year, it would have been completely unorthodox for the 6-foot-8 Fair to confidently bury a shot from long range. He attempted just three 3s as a freshman, making only one. “I hit my first three and missed my next two,” Fair said. “And I had to stick with what I knew I could do. My time was limited, so I didn’t want to keep trying.” But flash back a few more seasons — to his time playing AAU basketball for the Baltimore Stars — and the story of Fair’s jump shot is quite different. “His jump shot? C.J.’s always had a jump shot,” said Antonio Barton, a current Memphis guard and Fair’s former AAU teammate. “I’d like to see him shoot more now that he’s in college. When he was little, C.J. was one of the best shooters on our team.” The rare triple from Fair in SU’s first exhibition game Nov. 1 — which brought his mother to her feet in the stands — showcased the beginning of the jump shot’s rebirth. Following a freshman season in which Fair played 18.6 minutes per game and earned his time through strong rebounding and defense, he enters the 2011-12 season with the goal of expanding and unleashing more of his offensive game for the No. 5 Orange. The egoless Fair did only what the coaching staff asked of him as a freshman, and, as a result, his minutes increased throughout the season. That fostered a sense of belief in the then-19-year-old forward. And it’s something that pushed him toward a productive offseason. “I earned my way into it,” Fair said. “Going into this year, that gave me confidence in myself. I feel more comfortable out there. And this year I can start out with a bang.” Rediscovering that 3-point stroke is a big part of Fair’s plan. During his first three years of high school, which were played at Baltimore City College (Md.) High School, Fair said he was known as a jump shooter. But a torn anterior cruciate ligament during 11th grade forced him to lose a full year of basketball. Lost, too, was the shooter’s mentality. When

he returned for his senior year — after transferring to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire — Fair subconsciously transformed into more of a slasher. “I came back and I don’t know what got into me, but I started being a driver,” Fair said. “So I had to try and get the shooting back.” It was the focus of his work during the summer, both in Syracuse and at home in Baltimore, with the goal of extending his shooting range by the time he arrived back on campus. At home he trained with a family friend as well

“I saw flashes of it in the nonconference. But definitely, definitely after that Pitt game he knew that he belonged. He stepped up, and since then, I saw him go up. I never saw him step back after that game.”

Kris Joseph

SU forward

as the Barton brothers — the aforementioned Antonio and his brother, Will, who also plays at Memphis. All shooting, all the time. “Repetition, repetition, repetition,” Fair said. “Until I couldn’t even lift my arms.” The results are “unbelievable,” SU assistant coach Adrian Autry said. Head coach Jim Boeheim went so far as to label it a “two-fold” improvement. The better jump shot brings Fair closer, yet also distances him further from teammate James Southerland. Both are 6-foot-8 forwards who straddle the line of small forward and power forward. Both competed for playing time off the bench last season. Southerland’s strength has always been on the offensive end — a silky shooter with touch from beyond the 3-point arc. Defense and rebounding are his downfall. For that reason, Fair’s and Southerland’s see fair page 9


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torch

brandon weight | staff photographer

Taking the With the graduation of senior guards Erica Morrow and Tasha Harris, a void was left in the SU backcourt. Sophomore Rachel Coffey seems to be the heir apparent to run the Syracuse offense

By Ryne Gery

E

Asst. Sports Editor

rica Morrow knew exactly how Rachel Coffey felt last year. Three years earlier, Morrow was a highly touted freshman struggling to adjust on the court at Syracuse. After dominating in high school, Morrow received a rude awakening at practices in which mistakes piled up, the coaches criticized every little thing and the physical play wore her down. Morrow’s confidence was broken, and it took time to build back up. Three years later, the senior guard watched Coffey wrestle with the same challenges in her freshman season. “The point guard position is probably the toughest position to play on the collegiate level, especially transitioning from high school to college,” said Morrow, now an SU graduate assistant. “So she had the typical bumps in the road that any freshman has — having to play intense at every moment, having to play at a faster, more physical speed.” Coffey arrived at Syracuse as a top recruit — ranked No. 19 overall in her class by Blue Star Basketball — known for her uncanny ball handling and passing ability in high school. But she only saw limited action last season as she settled into her role waiting behind four-year starters Morrow and Tasha Harris in the SU backcourt. Following the graduations of Morrow and Harris, Coffey will likely take over as Syracuse’s starting point guard in 2011-12. With the growing pains of her freshman campaign behind her, Coffey is confident in her ability to lead the Orange. The sophomore has been preparing for this role since she first started dribbling at 5 years old. Coffey wasn’t interested in playing with toys as a kid. She just played basketball, emulat-

ing “Pistol” Pete Maravich and eventually learning to dribble two balls at once and spin the ball on her finger as he did. And like Maravich, she dribbled everywhere — around the house, to the store and to church, where Coffey even left during the service to work on her ball handling outside. “I didn’t really practice at it,” Coffey said. “I just always had a ball and kept dribbling and it became good.” Rob Dassie, the recreation leader of the center, always saw Coffey with a ball. When she wasn’t at the center, Dassie said, she was on the playground. Whether she was playing at the center or at the playground, Coffey was taking on older boys. They didn’t give her any breaks. She needed to get better and develop mental toughness if she wanted to survive. Coffey did more than just survive, she took it to them. “That’s what I really believe helped her out so well that she played so hard and she did so well against those guys,” Dassie said. “A lot of times, they were nervous about guarding her because at the end of the game they’d sometimes be arguing, ‘She’s a girl. She’s too good. She did us wrong. She took us off the dribble.’” Those countless hours spent at the center and on the playground honed her game and laid the foundation for a stellar high school career. Stephen Garner first saw the phenom play in fourth grade at a “Sports Saturday” program held for elementary school students at Kingston High School. She fired one-handed, nolook passes that surprised her teammates and displayed an array of advanced dribbling moves. Impressed by her moxie, Garner kept an eye on Coffey. Garner, Kingston’s girls basketball head coach, made Coffey his manager in sixth grade. A year later, she starred on the see coffey page 14


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2011-12 basketba ll season preview

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Height of her game

In 3rd year at SU, Kayla Alexander assumes the lead of a team with hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament By Chris Iseman

J

brandon weight | staff photographer

SEE ALEXANDER PAGE 14

INSIDE THREAT

Kayla Alexander was voted All-Big East First Team last season after leading Syracuse in scoring, fieldgoal percentage and free-throw percentage. The Orange offense ran through the junior center. With an inexperienced starting backcourt, SU will need Alexander to provide that stability on the offensive end again. Here’s a look at her production on offense in her first two seasons:

STAFF WRITER

oe Alexander refused to make it easy. In the driveway of his Ontario home, he spent hours playing games of 21 with his daughter, Kayla, trying to build up her basketball acumen. The 6-foot-5 former Niagara forward challenged her as if she had been playing the sport as long as he had. If she was going to win, she was going to have to beat her father without the benefit of any intentionally missed shots. “What I tried to get across to her was the mental aspect,” Joe Alexander said. “The understanding that you were going to have to compete for everything.” That driveway hoop was the site of the beginning of Kayla Alexander’s basketball career, but it was also the place of countless defeats. She could rarely beat her father, but each one of those losses built up her mental toughness. On the occasions that she did win, her confidence soared. Unlike her defeats to her father in 21, Alexander has rarely failed during her time at SU. She has transformed from a raw, lanky freshman to a strong junior center who was a 2011 All-Big East First-Team selection last season. Now, on an Orange team determined to break out of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and fight its way toward receiving an NCAA tournament berth, Alexander’s production in the frontcourt on both offense and defense is going to be key. From her freshman to sophomore season, Alexander scored four more points per game to average just less than 15 per game. She gathered in 69 more rebounds last season and also had 22 more blocks. She and forward Iasia Hemingway were the focal points of opposing teams’ defenses all season long. SU forced the ball inside where Alexander could score through a variety of post moves or be fouled. She’s a 76.6 percent free-throw shooter.

15

54

FG pct.

70

FT pct.

Freshman

55

FG pct.

77

10.8 14.8

FT pct.

Sophomore

0

PPG

Freshman

PPG

Sophomore


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triche

from page 4

working on a mid-range jumper. He played at the rim rather than above the rim, playing a little bit safer but still maintaining his aggression. Triche’s hunger and hard work didn’t waver. But with a big brace — and even in his first year without the brace — Triche’s confidence in his knee quivered. Yet Hymes, one of Triche’s closest friends, said the 11 games Triche missed with the injury also may have benefited him in the long run. “I think he got a lot smarter on the court from his whole sophomore year,” said Hymes, who plays for Canisius. “Being able to sit out and watch the game, learn the game and see it from a different perspective, not being on the court.” In his junior and senior seasons at Jamesville-DeWitt, Triche became a smarter player. He worked to become a better shooter and a better distributor. He became the player Syracuse got to know in his first two years. Triche struggled to adjust at times in his freshman season, averaging less than three assists per game as the starting point guard and playing tentatively. And then he switched to shooting guard for the first time in his life last year, allowing Scoop Jardine to start at the point. But there were glimpses of a reliable scorer. He burst out with 27 points against Oakland his freshman year, including nine points in a span of less than five minutes. He strung together his first back-to-back 20-point performances down the stretch last year against West Virginia and Louisville. He has also had duds. Triche scored 22 in a Big East tournament game against St. John’s last year, then rode the bench for much of the second half against Connecticut after making just 2-of-9 shots against the Huskies. “I think it’s a confidence thing,” Triche said.

“Stepping up and believing in myself. But I’ve been working on that since my freshman year. And the flashes I have worked on just to have the mentality that I am one of the best players on the team, but also I’m one of the best players on the court.” Part of the volatile scoring numbers can be attributed to Triche’s unselfish play. McNamara said he thinks Triche has tended to defer to some of the other players on the team in each of the past two seasons. And McKenney said Triche still didn’t look fully recovered from his gruesome knee injury. That has led to a missed dunk here or a quick pass where he could have shot there. “I don’t think people have even come close to seeing him the way I’ve seen him at times, and I think they’re going to,” McKenney said. Triche said his goal in the King of Kings Summer League was to score 100 points every time out. He managed to total 52 in the team’s regular-season finale. The electric playmaking ability at the rim is beginning to return to Triche as his self-confidence and health take better shape. “It’s me just having that hunger and showing it more than — showing it with my skills but showing it as an attitude,” Triche said. He worked his way toward fitting in his freshman season. He took steps forward into becoming a consistent scorer and playmaker for SU last year. This year, McNamara said he expects to see leaps. So does McKenney. So does Triche, who said he wants to be a player head coach Jim Boeheim can look at confidently with the game on the line. The skills are there. The health is, too. The confidence is on its way. “Being a go-to scorer?” Triche said. “I think just somebody that everybody can depend on. Every moment. It could be being a go-to scorer, but being one of the go-to playmakers I guess is a better way to say it.” mcooperj@syr.edu

Step by step

Brandon Triche progressed immensely in 201011, his sophomore season. Triche switched from point guard to shooting guard before the season and took on a greater role in the SU offense as the year continued. Here’s a look at Triche’s stats from his freshman and sophomore years:

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FAIR

FROM PAGE 5

minutes developed an inverse relationship. Last year’s Syracuse team didn’t need more offense. It needed a defensive spark that could rebound and exude toughness. “When you’re out there and play extended minutes, you’re going to have to contribute,” SU graduate assistant Gerry McNamara said. “That’s just the bottom line. If you’re going to be on the floor, you’re expected to do that. There were times last year where James didn’t rebound at a high rate last year and C.J. did. And I think that affected how the minutes played out.” There’s no better example than last year’s crushing loss on the road at Pittsburgh. Without star forward Kris Joseph, who was out with a concussion, Syracuse needed one of its bench players to emerge as a viable contributor. Fair and Southerland both played in excess of 35 minutes, but their stat lines read like opposites. Southerland scored eight points and grabbed but a single rebound. Fair exploded for what was then a season-high of 16 points and hauled in nine rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end of the floor. It was this game — despite the loss — that made Joseph realize his “little brother” could be the next dominant swingman down the road for the Orange. “I saw flashes of it in the nonconference,” Joseph said. “But definitely, definitely after that Pitt game he knew that he belonged. He stepped up, and since then, I saw him go up. I never saw him step back after that game.” From that game forward, Fair scored in

2011-12 basketba ll season preview

double fi gures six times and grabbed seven or more rebounds six times as well. Southerland never reached double fi gures the rest of the season, nor did he grab more than three rebounds in a game after the loss to Pittsburgh. Fair is adamant that Joseph has the starting small forward spot locked down for the upcoming season. But his length and versatility on offense and defense have him eyeing the starting power forward position left vacant by the departure of Rick Jackson. It’s a position that requires him to rebound consistently — like he did last year — while also defending bigger opponents. Jason Smith, who coached Fair at Brewster, said that shouldn’t be an issue. On a team with “seven or eight” future Division-I players, there was a three-week period when Smith opted for a smaller lineup.

Fair and current Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim, who is 6 feet 6 inches, were the two frontcourt players. And Fair was expected to rebound and defend like a center. He never complained, Smith said, and had a slew of games with 12, 13 or 14 rebounds. “A lot of kids get caught up in positions — I’m a 2, I’m a 3, I’m a 4 — but I don’t think C.J. lets any of that stuff bother him,” Smith said. “His mental approach to the game is fantastic. He understands he’s a basketball player and that he can do many different things.” And the retooling of his jump shot represents the newest thing Fair can do on the court. Whether he earns a starting spot or not is yet to be seen, but when addressing Fair’s role Boeheim made it clear that this year’s Syracuse team would have less of a distinction between starters and players coming off the bench.

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Duane Davis, his former AAU coach, saw Fair a few times in the summer and noticed a different demeanor from the sophomore. Autry also saw it when Fair arrived on campus. He’s jumping again — bouncing off the f loor — now fully recovered from that ACL injury. And with an increased confidence on the heels of a successful freshman year, his past coaches and everyone in the SU program is expecting a dynamic sophomore season. “Sit back and watch,” Davis said. “He’s going to be something to see. If his confidence level is back where it was before his knee injury, he’s going to be fine. “I think he’s going to have a hell of a year at Syracuse this year. A breakout year.” mjcohe02@syr.edu


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What lies

ahead

Home games

Nov. 12

Away games

NIT SEASON TIPOFF (Syracuse)

Non-Conference games Big East games

Projected rankings NO. 1 CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

Last season’s record: (32-9, 9-9) Top returnees: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi

The whole college basketball universe is waiting to see whether or not Jeremy Lamb can fill the massive void left by Kemba Walker. Walker put the Huskies on his back in 2010, carrying them to a national championship. With Lamb and the rest of the starting lineup back and 6-foot-10, 270-pound center Andre Drummond thrown into the mix, UConn still has the talent to make another deep postseason run.

NO. 2 SYRACUSE ORANGE

Last season’s record: (27-8, 12-6) Top returnees: Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine

With forward Kris Joseph and point guard Scoop Jardine back for their senior years, the Orange is primed for another dominant season. Syracuse returns four of five starters, losing only power forward Rick Jackson to graduation. Sophomores C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters will be relied on for more consistent scoring efforts, and Fab Melo will look to improve upon a disappointing freshman campaign.

NO. 3 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS Last season’s record: (25-10, 12-6) Top returnees: Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva

The Cardinals lost leading scorer Preston Knowles to graduation, but the team returns three of its next four top contributors for the 2011 season. This includes Preseason All-Big East Second Team selection Peyton Siva. Louisville has an outside chance to make a run at the Big East title, trailing only Connecticut and Syracuse in the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll.

NO. 4 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

Last season’s record: (28-6, 15-3) Top returnees: Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson With three of Pittsburgh’s top five scorers from 2010 gone, including Gary McGhee, the Panthers’ leading rebounder, all the weight this season falls on the shoulders of Ashton Gibbs. After being named the Big East’s Most Improved Player in 2009-10, he averaged 16.8 points per game last season, shooting the lights out from the 3-point range. Gibbs was named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year this season.

NO. 5 CINCINNATI BEARCATS

Last season’s record: (26-9, 11-7) Top returnees: Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon

Bringing back its top four scorers, Cincinnati has the opportunity to climb to the top of the Big East behind seniors Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon. Gates averaged just less than 12 points and seven rebounds per game in 2010. However, the Bearcats will have to improve in conference play. UC struggled against Big East opponents last season in both the regular season and postseason play. Notre Dame eliminated Cincinnati in the second round of the conference tournament, and Connecticut knocked the Bearcats out of the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 32.

NO. 6 MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES

Last season’s record: (22-15, 9-9) Top returnees: Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae

Crowder Darius Johnson-Odom returns for his senior season after averaging 15.8 points per contest last year. The Preseason All-Big East First Team member and senior forward Jae Crowder will look to lead the Golden Eagles back to the Sweet Sixteen despite the loss of last year’s best player, Jimmy Butler, who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. Last season, Marquette defeated Syracuse twice, including a 66-62 victory in the Round of 32 that ended SU’s season.

NO. 7 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Last season’s record: (21-12, 11-7) Top returnees: Kevin Jones, Darryl Bryant

The Mountaineers held opponents to just 41.2 percent shooting from the field and 29.1 percent from downtown last season. They will need to maintain their stifling defensive effort, led by Preseason AllBig East First Team senior forward Kevin Jones, to climb to the top of the Big East. Sophomore point guard Jabarie Hinds, who was missed last season after issues arose regarding his high school transcript, could be a breakout player in the conference this season.

Fordham

Syracuse will be challenged throughout its regular-season schedule in preparation for another NCAA Tournament run

4 p.m.

Nov. 14

Manhattan

7 p.m.

Nov. 15

Albany/Brown

4 p.m./7 p.m.

Nov. 19

Colgate

4 p.m.

NIT SEASON TIPOFF (New York) Nov. 23 Nov. 25 Nov. 29

Oklahoma State/ Stanford/Virginia Tech Oklahoma State/ Stanford/Virginia Tech Eastern Michigan

7 p.m./9:30 p.m. 2:30 p.m./5 p.m. 7 p.m.

NO. 16 PROVIDENCE FRIARS

BIG EAST/SEC CHALLENGE (Syracuse) Dec. 2

Florida

6:30 p.m.

Dec. 6

Marshall

7 p.m.

Dec. 10

George Washington

7 p.m.

Dec. 17

at North Carolina State

6:30 p.m.

Dec. 20

Bucknell

7 p.m.

Dec. 22

Tulane

7 p.m.

Dec. 28

Seton Hall

7 p.m.

Jan. 1

at DePaul

5 p.m.

Jan. 4

at Providence

9 p.m.

Jan. 7

Marquette

4 p.m.

Jan. 11

at Villanova

7 p.m.

Jan. 14

Providence

6 p.m.

Jan. 16

Pittsburgh

7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21

at Notre Dame

6 p.m.

Jan. 23

at Cincinnati

7 p.m.

Jan. 28

West Virginia

1 p.m.

Feb. 4

at St. John’s

Noon

Feb. 8

Georgetown

7 p.m.

Feb. 11

Connecticut

1 p.m.

Feb. 13

at Louisville

7 p.m.

Feb. 19

at Rutgers

1 p.m.

Feb. 22

South Florida

7 p.m.

Feb. 25

at Connecticut

9 p.m.

March 3

Louisville

4 p.m.

Last season’s record: (15-17, 4-14) Top returnees: Vincent Council, Gerard Cole-

man With standout scorer Marshon Brooks in the NBA, guard Vincent Council will take the reins in 2011. After averaging 13.7 points per game and leading the Friars in assists last season, he is returning for his junior year with an increased scoring role. Council and Co. will need to learn to win on the road after going 0-10 away from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center last year.

NO. 15 DEPAUL BLUE DEMONS

Last season’s record: (7-24, 1-17) Top returnees: Cleveland Melvin, Brandon

Young For a team that finished at the very bottom of the standings last season, the Blue Demons have the potential to move up in the conference this year. Forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young are back for their sophomore seasons after leading DePaul in scoring as freshmen. Also returning is senior center Krys Faber, the Blue Demons’ leading rebounder last year.

NO. 14 SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS

Last season’s record: (10-23, 3-15) Top returnees: Augustus Gilchrist, Jawanza

Poland With four of the team’s top five scorers from last season — including leading scorer Augustus Gilchrist — returning in 2011-12, South Florida has the potential to pose problems for some of the league’s top teams. The addition of 7-foot-3, 291-pound freshman center Jordan Omogbehin is also worth noting.

NO. 13 SETON HALL PIRATES

Last season’s record: (13-18, 7-11) Top returnees: Jordan Theodore, Herb Pope

The already mediocre Pirates lost their top two scorers from last season, including shooting guard Jeremy Hazell, who was one of the best sharpshooters in the conference. Seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope will have to carry the scoring load in 2011 with a very thin supporting cast.

NO. 12 ST. JOHN’S RED STORM Last season’s record: (21-11, 12-6) Top returnees: Malik Stith

With its entire starting five gone from last season, St. John’s may have a hard time winning conference games this season. Junior guard Malik Stith is the only returning letterwinner, so the Red Storm will have to lean heavily on its six newcomers. Three of the newcomers were Top 100 recruits in this year’s freshman class.

NO. 11 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

Last season’s record: (15-17, 5-13) Top returnees: Gilvydas Biruta, Dane Miller

The Scarlet Knights lost their only double-digit scorer from last season in Jonathan Mitchell, but they return two capable producers in senior forward Gilvydas Biruta and junior small forward Dane Miller. Rutgers shot a measly 67.7 percent from the free throw line last season and got outrebounded during the course of the year. With no legitimate inside presence, Miller actually led the team in boards with 6.1 per contest.

NO. 8 VILLANOVA WILDCATS

NO. 9 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH NO. 10 GEORGETOWN HOYAS

With three of Villanova’s top four scorers from last season — Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena — all gone, the returning Wildcats will need to make a lot of improvements. The trio accounted for more than 55 percent of Villanova’s scoring in 2010. Junior point guard Maalik Wayns is one player capable of making the necessary adjustments. He recorded 148 assists last season and must take charge of this team if the Wildcats want to assert their place in the top half of the conference.

Tim Abromaitis returns to captain the Fighting Irish for a second straight season. He averaged 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. With Abromaitis and senior Scott Martin leading the charge, they will have to make up for the loss of Ben Hansbrough, who averaged 18.4 points per game and was last year’s Big East Player of the Year.

Last season’s record: (21-12, 9-9) Top returnees: Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou

Last season’s record: (27-7, 14-4) Top returnees: Tim Abromaitis, Scott Martin

Last season’s record: (21-11, 10-8) Top returnees: Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson

Losing three of their five starters from a year ago, the Hoyas were picked to finish 10th in the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. John Thompson III will work with an unproven group that includes six freshmen and three upperclassmen. They will have to make up for the loss of last year’s Preseason Big East Player of the Year, Austin Freeman.

—Compiled by Stephen Bailey, asst. copy editor, sebail01@syr.edu


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SPORTS@ DA ILYOR A NGE.COM

Major

player

courtesy of butler sports information BRAD STEVENS has led Butler to the national championship game each of the past two seasons. Once there, the Bulldogs lost to Duke in 2010 and Connecticut in 2011.

By Andrew Tredinnick

E

ASST. COPY EDITOR

very time Matthew Graves drives past Lucas Oil Stadium, he can’t help but reminisce about Butler’s dream run to the 2010 NCAA Final Four — one that started with a similar drive. As the team bus drove to the airport to travel to its first round game in California that year, it went by the arena in downtown Indianapolis. Graves, Butler’s associate head coach, remembers one of the players saying how neat it would be to return in a few weeks to play there in the Final Four, just 10 miles from their campus. After winning its fi rst four games, that dream came to fruition. The Bulldogs then defeated Michigan State to advance to the NCAA championship game, where they lost to Duke. “Before the first time that we made that run, we always talked about it, dreamed about it,” Graves said. “But once you were able to finally get there, I think then the belief was finally established that this could happen.” Butler repeated the feat in 2011, falling to Connecticut in the national championship in Houston. The remarkable NCAA Tournament runs proved to the nation that a mid-major was capable of being a force on the national scene. In just four seasons under head coach Brad Stevens, the Horizon League program has become the model for success for mid-majors, combining good coaching with unique recruiting strategies. Butler was somewhat overlooked despite three straight tournament appearances before its two trips to the national title game. But despite a student body of just under 4,000 under-

graduates, the team has thrived under Stevens. The challenge for the Bulldogs this season is to fill the voids left by some of the best players in program history. Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard have moved on, one year after Gordon Hayward left for the NBA. Each played a vital role in Butler’s success during the past four seasons. The 2010 Bulldogs, led by Hayward, were mere inches from shocking the college basketball world

Butler shocked the college basketball world with backto-back appearances in the national title game. But 2011-12 will be much more difficult for the tiny Horizon League school following the graduation of key veteran contributors and winning their first-ever NCAA title. With Duke leading 61-59, Blue Devils center Brian Zoubek missed his second of two free throws. Hayward corralled the rebound and turned up court, receiving a screen from Howard near half court. Hayward, who had emerged as one of the best players in the tournament, hoisted up a shot from half court that glanced high off the backboard and hit off the front of the rim for a miss.

Cinderella story

Butler has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in every season since 2007. The highlights came in the last two seasons, when the Bulldogs made improbable runs to the national championship game. Butler upset fi ve teams combined as the ROUND SEED TEAM RESULT No. 5 seed and First Round 12 Texas-El Paso W, 77-59 No. 8 seed during Second Round 13 Murray State W, 54-52 the tournaments. Sweet 16 1 Syracuse W, 63-59 Here’s a look at Elite Eight 2 Kansas State W, 63-56 the Bulldogs’ road Final Four 5 Michigan State W, 52-50 to the national title NCAA Final 1 Duke L, 61-59 game each of the last two seasons:

2010

2011 ROUND

Second Round Third Round Sweet 16 Elite Eight Final Four NCAA Final

“It was like your heart stopped for a fleeting moment,” Graves said. “As the ball was in the air and it looked like it had a shot to go in all the way. … It almost went in, and that’s all you could ask for from our end.” A year later, despite losing Hayward to the NBA, Butler overcame a 4-4 start and a threegame conference losing streak, stretching into early February to make a run to the national

SEE BUTLER PAGE 19

SEED

9 1 4 2 11 3

TEAM

Old Dominion Pittsburgh Wisconsin Florida Virginia Commonwealth Connecticut

Loss, 53-41 Loss, 61-59

RESULTS

W, 60-58 W, 71-70 W, 61-54 W, 74-71 (OT) W, 70-62 L, 53-41


SPORTS@ DA ILYOR A NGE.COM

2011-12 basketba ll season preview

13

Youth

movement

Without All-American Kemba Walker, No. 4 Connecticut will rely on a talented group of underclassmen to lead its national title defense By Rachel Marcus

N

STAFF WRITER

EW YORK — Jeremy Lamb sat in his chair during Big East media day, flanked by teammates Shabazz Napier on his right and Alex Oriakhi on the left. Mobbed by reporters, Lamb politely answered each and every question, occasionally glancing down at his phone and then looking back up to finish his answer. To those who don’t know Lamb, that scene personifies the public’s perception of the Connecticut sophomore forward — quiet, laid-back, soft-spoken. But the assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. “Once you get him behind closed doors, he’s loud, he’s boisterous, he’s gregarious, he’s funny,” said Jesse McMillan, Lamb’s high school coach at Norcross (Ga.) High School. “When he’s around friends and people he feels comfortable with, he’s almost a clown. So we always laugh at the fact that he seems to have people snowed. And they think that he’s a quiet guy, and that’s not the case at all.” Lamb’s true personality shined on the court last season for the defending national champion Huskies as they made their run through the Big East tournament and NCAA Tournament. He played second fiddle to Walker’s heroics, but without his consistent ability to be the No. 2 scorer, UConn never would have won the title. Now, Lamb may very well hold the key if No. 4 Connecticut looks to win it all again. Lamb’s ability to be the next Husky superstar is one of many questions facing a UConn squad that surprised many on its way to 11 straight wins and a national title last season. With Walker gone to the NBA, Napier, also a sophomore, must step in and run the point.

Andre Drummond, UConn’s highly touted 6-foot-10, 270-pound freshman, is just another player that has this Huskies team buzzing. “Last year was a totally different team,” Lamb said. “This is a new team. This is our time to build our new team.” Walker’s departure was offset, in theory, by the addition of three impressive freshmen. That, coupled with the experience gained last year by UConn’s young roster, is the cause of increased expectations in 2011. Last season, Connecticut was picked 10th in the league’s preseason poll. This season, the team was picked in a tie for first with Syracuse in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. “Last year, we weren’t expected to do anything,” Oriakhi said. “So the key for us was all we had to do was play basketball, so that was easy. But this year, it’s defi nitely a different story.” The rankings don’t deter UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, who enters his 26th season at the helm of Connecticut. He’s just fine with the expectations heaped upon his squad. “The favorite part doesn’t bother me,” Calhoun said. “But being picked 8th-9th, 1-2, I like 1-2 because people think you’re good. We’re trying to be 1-2 anyways every year, and we have a good record of doing that, so it’s not really an issue for us being where we’re picked.” Lamb’s phenomenal end to the season last year is one reason why people are thinking he’s going to be special in 2011-12. He was named to the AP Preseason All-America Team and will take over as one of the team’s leaders and the go-to scorer. He’s gained 18 pounds since last year and spent this past summer honing his skills in Lat-

courtesy of connecticut athletic communications JEREMY LAMB was UConn’s second scoring option last season behind point guard Kemba Walker. But with Walker gone for the NBA, Lamb will be counted on to step up. via on the United States U-19 team. His defensive ability and ball handling have improved, said McMillan, his high school coach. Still, the expectations don’t bother the sophomore. “I don’t feel pressure,” Lamb said. “I was talking to one of my coaches, and they just said, ‘You going to the gym at night, stuff like that, hard work pays off.’ I just have to stay in the gym and do what I know to do.” Calhoun enjoys telling the story of how far Lamb will go in search of a gym. Every night, Lamb shoots 200 to 300 jumpers, but one night he called Calhoun from Europe and said he

couldn’t find a gym in Latvia. He was disappointed, saddened. That’s how important the shots were to him. It left an impression on Calhoun. The coach rattles off past superstars he’s coached: Walker, Ray Allen and Caron Butler, all players he said relished the burden of responsibility and grew in it. He feels the same way about Lamb. McMillan was there for Lamb’s high school days and can back up that statement. His junior year at Norcross, Lamb came off the bench and backed up his older brother. He wasn’t one of the team’s top players. But entering his senior year, he completely changed. SEE CONNECTICUT PAGE 16

WALKING THE WALK

Vermont 42 points, .625 FG percentage

Maryland Baltimore County 24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists

March 24

March 19

March 11

Nov. 17

Dec. 3

This year’s UConn team has high expectations, but the Huskies are still missing one key player that drove the team last year — Kemba Walker. The former Husky, who was selected in June’s NBA draft, was arguably UConn’s biggest reason for winning the national championship last season. Here are some of Walker’s biggest games of last year:

Syracuse

Cincinnati

(Big East tournament)

(NCAA Tournament)

33 points, 12 rebounds

33 points, 14-14 FT

San Diego State (NCAA Tournament)

36 points, .500 3pt percentage


14 2 0 1 1 - 1 2 b a s k e t b a l l s e a s o n p r e v i e w

Coffey from page 6

JV team, and by eighth grade, she was ready to play varsity. It was the start of a five-year show at Kingston’s Kate Walton Field House. Word quickly spread about Coffey. Soon, the girls team was a bigger draw than the boys. The community flocked to the field house to see the basketball prodigy play. Her no-look passes dazzled the crowd and stunned her teammates. Her killer crossover made opponents fall to the floor and ignited a roar from the fans. “Every game, it was almost like you were always wondering what she was gonna do next,” said Louise DiIulio, her teammate at Kingston. “She always put on a show.” DiIulio said Coffey’s court vision was “unreal.” She could see her teammates were open before they even knew it, and she hit them with perfectly placed passes. Those unbelievable passes happened in

sports@ da ilyor a nge.com

every game. Garner always knew when one was coming: on a pick-and-roll with teammate Charlise Castro. Coffey started with a head fake and hesitation dribble to freeze her defender for the screen before exploding around the corner. As the defense frantically collapsed on her, she snapped off a shovel pass to a wide-open Castro under the basket for the layup. Sitting on the bench, Garner hardly ever saw how Coffey managed to thread the needle. At home after every game, he’d pop in the tape of the game and watch the play again, rewinding it over and over in disbelief of the pass he had seen hours earlier. “I would rewind that sucker three, four times and go, ‘How did she get it in there?’” Garner said. “I mean, traffic, traffic, traffic. ‘How did she get it in there?’” Rewinding it wasn’t enough to satisfy the coach, though. He’d freeze frame the play and go through it one frame at a time just to see exactly what Coffey saw. But Garner and DiIulio still don’t know how she did it.

“I saw her do things that I’ve never seen any other female basketball player do to this day,” DiIulio said. By the time the curtain closed on her career at Kingston, Coffey led the team to five sectional championships and set school records with 1,507 points and 569 assists. Her spectacular play grabbed the attention of multiple top programs, and she ultimately decided to play for Syracuse. SU head coach Quentin Hillsman recruited Coffey to be the point guard-in-waiting as a freshman. He knew he needed a replacement for Morrow and Harris, and Coffey was the total package. For the first time in a long time, Coffey wasn’t the best player on the team. Her confidence disappeared as she sat and watched from the bench. But she pushed the senior guards at practice and never complained. By the end of the season, Morrow saw a different player step in for her at practice as she nursed a knee injury. One filled with the confidence and mental toughness developed at the center and on the playground. The freshman needed that year to learn how

to play at the college level. With that experience under her belt, Hillsman said she needed to improve her conditioning for this season, especially because he expects her to handle the ball for 25 to 30 minutes per game. “She’s one of the top point guards in the country,” Hillsman said. “And I just believe that once she gets her conditioning together, where we keep the ball in her hand, and she can play for longer stretches, we’ll be a very good basketball team.” Six days a week during the offseason, she was at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center preparing for her increased role. She ran on the treadmill, lifted weights and then ran some more. Now, Coffey feels she’s ready for the challenge. After spending the last 16 years with a ball in her hand, it’s time for her to run the show at Syracuse. “I feel comfortable with the ball in my hands,” Coffey said. “I just gotta make sure I make good decisions and don’t turn the ball over.” rjgery@syr.edu

Women’s basketball beat writer predictions Ryne Gery

Chris Iseman

Andrew Tredinnick

Syracuse returns five of its top six scorers and adds top junior college transfer Shanee Williams to the mix. With a proven frontcourt in Kayla Alexander and Iasia Hemingway and veteran perimeter players surrounding them, the Orange should have another 20-win season. If Rachel Coffey can provide steady point guard play, SU should finally get over the hump and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Quentin Hillsman said at SU’s media day that his team has mastered the Women’s National Invitation Tournament but needs to take the next step for a spot in the NCAA tournament. With plenty of experience returning, this could be the year the Orange finally earns a tournament berth for the first time since 2007-08. With Iasia Hemingway providing leadership and Kayla Alexander giving SU a strong presence in the frontcourt, the pieces are in place for a potential tournament bid.

Finally, it’s the year the Orange doesn’t feel the wrath of the NCAA tournament selection committee. With the continued development of Kayla Alexander, the team’s success in the paint will be its strength come Big East play. Although the loss of Erica Morrow does hurt, head coach Quentin Hillsman now has the power to mix and match at the guard position. As he looks to increase the tempo of the game, the wealth of athleticism in the backcourt will only help.

Regular-season record: 21-9 Big East finish: 7th NCAA tournament finish: First Round Biggest surprise: Shanee Williams

Alexander from page 7

“I think she’s taken more of a leadership role of just demanding the basketball,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “I think as she catches it and as she scores, that’s as good as we are.” From a driveway in Canada to the go-to scorer for Syracuse, Alexander has come a long way. She didn’t start playing basketball until she was 13 years old. Joe Alexander said he never tried to get his daughter involved in the sport because he never

Regular-season record: 20-10 Big East finish: 6th NCAA tournament finish: First Round Biggest surprise: Rachel Coffey

thought Alexander had any interest. So it came as a surprise when she came home one day and told him she was trying out for Canada’s version of an AAU team. Alexander had the size and some general understanding of the game, but Joe Alexander saw how much improvement she needed. The former college player’s genes passed down the physical attributes Alexander would need — mainly her height — but not the natural basketball ability. Alexander’s follow-through was nearly nonexistent. Her strength needed to be built up or else “she didn’t have a prayer” at making a shot while opponents were making contact. The ball would go flying as soon as it left her hand, Joe Alexander said. “It was quite obvious that she lacked the skill,” he said. “She lacked the overall basketball knowledge.” What Alexander lacked in natural ability, though, she made up for with an unmatched work ethic. When the coaches in Canada taught her something new, whether it was on the court or in the weight room, Alexander spent time on her own after practice working on it. After many of her team’s practices, Joe Alexander would arrive at the gym and shoot around with his daughter. He constantly implored Alexander to bend her knees to give the ball more of a push so it gets to the basket. He made sure her release point was nearly perfect. When Alexander was playing for the Canadian national team, the coach told her father she was the hardest-working player. “As she progressed, she had something her dad didn’t have,” Joe Alexander said. “I was a little different. Things came naturally, so I

Regular-season record: 22-8 Big East finish: 5th NCAA tournament finish: First Round Biggest surprise: Rachel Coffey

“I think she’s taken more of a leadership role of just demanding the basketball. I think as she catches it and as she scores, that’s as good as we are.” Quentin Hillsman

SU head coach

didn’t work hard. She has this unbelievable work ethic.” Alexander was a fairly unknown recruit out of Canada. Not necessarily a blue-chip prospect, Alexander had an impressive high school career, including a national championship with Team Ontario in 2008. And she also played on the Under18 Canadian National Team that same year. She received recruiting letters from several schools, and one day while sifting through to find a couple to respond to, the one from Syracuse stood out. Of all the offers, playing at Syracuse had the combination of athletics and academics she was searching for. Most of all, she trusted the coaches. And so did her father. He didn’t want anyone to tell her she’d be guaranteed playing time, but instead wanted coaches to tell Alexander she was going to have to earn it. “I was looking through different letters I got from various coaches, and I just called (associate head) coach (Matt) Luneau,” Alexander said. “He and my dad got a conversation going. We got good relationships with the coaches. They’re good people, which is important to me.”

Even now, years removed from the days of having to work in the Ontario high school gyms and in her driveway, Alexander can still list what she needs to improve. The work ethic that earned her a starting spot in the Orange lineup hasn’t waned. That includes everything from getting faster on the court to committing fewer fouls. Joe Alexander said his daughter’s strength has been built up tremendously with the help of Ryan Cabiles, SU’s director of strength and conditioning, but it is still an “ongoing process.” “You can always learn something new,” Alexander said. “You’re never going to be perfect. Wherever you are, you always want to boost it up and improve yourself. I think every year, there’s always something to improve on.” Instead of battling her father, Alexander now takes on SU’s backup center Shakeya Leary in practice every day. It’s a matchup between two dynamic centers who match each other’s competitiveness. Hillsman allows his centers to play physically in practice, rarely calling fouls to help build toughness and strength for Big East conference games. And it’s Leary’s presence that allows Alexander to keep developing. “She’s just willing to work to get better every day,” Leary said. “She has that mentality and that’s what makes her a real great player.” As Alexander’s strength and skill have advanced, her confidence on the floor has also gone to the next level. Her father, coaches and teammates have watched the progression. And this season, the Orange will continue to reap the benefits. “She’s going to do a lot this year,” Hemingway said. “She’s going to make us a great team.” cjiseman@syr.edu


SPORTS@ DA ILYOR A NGE.COM

2011-12 basketba ll season preview

15

Men’s basketball beat writer predictions ZACH BROWN

MICHAEL COHEN

MARK COOPER

Regular-season record: 27-4 (14-4 Big East) Big East finish: 2nd NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight Biggest surprise: Fab Melo

Regular-season record: 26-5 (13-5 Big East) Big East finish: 2nd NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight Biggest surprise: C.J. Fair

Regular-season record: 26-5 (13-5 Big East) Big East finish: 3rd NCAA Tournament finish: Final Four Biggest surprise: Dion Waiters

The biggest question facing Syracuse entering the season is how it will replace Rick Jackson in the middle. Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita didn’t look up to the task last year, but the duo of big men already looks improved from last season. Throw in freshman Rakeem Christmas, and it’s another spot with solid depth on an Orange squad that could go 10 deep. SU should compete for a Big East title and play well into the postseason.

Perhaps the beginning of the basketball season will put the talk of the move to the Atlantic Coast Conference to bed. Probably not, but one can hope. Regardless, it’s the best time of the year for people in the Syracuse area, and this year’s SU team is certainly generating a buzz. The Orange enters 2011-12 as the No. 5 team in the country and arguably the deepest group head coach Jim Boeheim has ever had. It’s loaded with talent from top to bottom and is poised to make a run deep in the NCAA Tournament. If Brandon Triche, Kris Joseph or perhaps a dark horse can emerge as a bona fide scorer, a Final Four isn’t out of the question.

Basketball season has finally arrived, and just in time with the football team’s slide. This Syracuse team has high expectations, as high as they’ve been since Syracuse won its lone national championship in 2003. And they’re warranted. Everyone’s back except Rick Jackson, but the improvement of Baye Moussa Keita and Fab Melo, along with freshman Rakeem Christmas, should help patch the hole. But to win a national championship, a team needs to have that go-to guy. Syracuse had Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Connecticut had Kemba Walker last year. The Orange looks like a Final Four team, but I don’t think it has that star to lead it to a title.

Position-by-position Small Forward

Power Forward

Freshman Rakeem Christmas was a highly touted recruit, rated the No. 2 center, according to Scout and Rivals. He had just five points in SU’s exhibition win over Cal State-Los Angeles, but already showed his greatest asset — shot blocking. The 6-foot-9 big man has an uncanny ability to alter shots with his length and athleticism. Although his offensive game isn’t polished, Christmas’ defensive presence makes him valuable in the 2-3 zone. That offensive production should come more from C.J. Fair, who showed flashes of his potential last season. Fair has improved his shooting range to go with his ability to make plays around the basket.

Fab Melo

Rakeem Christmas Center

The biggest challenge Fab Melo had last season was staying on the court. Melo struggled to find his comfort zone for SU and failed to live up to the hype as last year’s Big East’s Preseason Rookie of the Year. The highlight for Melo came when he scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a two-game span against DePaul and St. John’s. A better-conditioned Melo should result in a more productive season in 2011-12. If that isn’t the case, Baye Moussa Keita is next in line. The sophomore provided great energy off the bench and is also a raw talent.

Scoop Jardine Point Guard

Kris Joseph

Scoop Jardine has the potential to be Syracuse’s hero or goat going into the 2011-12 season. The fifth-year senior’s effectiveness distributing the ball was key to the Orange’s success last season. In games in which Jardine had at least six assists, the Orange went 17-2. The point guard has forced shots at times throughout his career, but with a year at starting point guard under his belt, he should know when to pass it off and when to take big shots. Backing up the senior is freshman Michael Carter-Williams. The combo guard is a McDonald’s All-American who comes in with high expectations for his first season.

Kris Joseph is the best all-around offensive player for Syracuse. The senior was voted to the preseason All-Big East First Team after leading SU in points with 14.3 a game last year. Joseph can knock down 3-pointers and has a knack for getting to the basket and finishing. He is the team’s go-to scorer going into the season. But his health is in question after a sore knee held him to limited time in SU’s first exhibition of the year and partly out of practice. It’s not the knee that he had surgery at the end of last year, but it could be a cause for concern as the season progresses.

Brandon Triche Shooting Guard

The Big East coaches didn’t think Brandon Triche was worthy of an honorable mention choice on the preseason allconference team, but the junior is one of the top shooting guards in the Big East. Triche averaged 11.1 points a game and was Syracuse’s top offensive threat at times last season. The shooting guard was consistent from beyond the arc and effective going to the basket. Now, Triche must play with aggression for the full 40 minutes. Dion Waiters, his backup, almost always looks to make something happen when he gets on the court. If SU’s tournament game against Marquette is an indicator of anything, Waiters could be in store for a breakout season.

—Compiled by David Propper, staff writer, dgproppe@syr.edu


16 2 0 1 1 - 1 2 b a s k e t b a l l s e a s o n p r e v i e w

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“He had such a jump in his level of play and his confidence,” McMillan said. “Going into his senior year, we kind of saw flashes of where he is now, that potential.” But unlike last year, when Walker was the undisputed star of the Huskies, Lamb has substantial support that has many, including UConn

“Last year, we weren’t expected to do anything. So the key for us was all we had to do was play basketball, so that was easy. But this year, it’s definitely a different story.”

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players and opponents, calling this year’s team better than the national championship squad. Calhoun and Oriakhi rave about Drummond’s natural physical gifts and his ability to listen. Having another big man down low will also benefit Oriakhi and help him avoid double teams. And Napier, the new starting point guard, had a year to learn from Walker. “A lot of things (Walker) did last year, it was amazing,” Napier said, “but when you look back at film, it was just simple. He didn’t make anything harder than what it was. All the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ he did were just because he was so fundamentally sound. And that’s what I’m try-

ing to work on.” Last season, Napier showed he has the ability to run the point — he was second on the team in assists behind Walker. But replacing Walker amounts to more than just filling the stat sheet. After wins in the Maui Invitational and Big East tournament last year, Walker brought the trophy with him for the bus ride. Each time, his teammates gave him a standing ovation. The team, Calhoun said, relished Walker’s greatness and acknowledged that no one can fill Walker’s shoes that easily. “We have more good players than we did last year,” Calhoun said. “The only thing we don’t have, we don’t have anybody as magical right now. As talented as some of these young kids may be, they aren’t magical.” But even if UConn has more talent this year, getting the pieces to fit together is a big task. Right now, the Huskies are 0-0, Calhoun tells his players. Last year’s title means nothing. The season following UConn’s 2009 Final Four run was a regression. The Huskies lost in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. The result shocked Calhoun. This time around, his thoughts echo those of his players — new year, new team, time to get back to work. And UConn will look to Lamb to lead that new pursuit. No, he’s not magical like Walker. But he’s the new UConn superstar Calhoun and the eager Huskies will depend on in their quest for a second-straight title. “We’re not the defending national champs,” Calhoun said. “We’re one of the teams that are eligible to win the national championship. So we aren’t defending anything. We got that. What we are is starting on a new pursuit, with a different team. “ … I don’t love this team like last year — yet. But they’re pretty likeable.” rnmarcus@syr.edu


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2011-12 basketba ll season preview

17

Rosters MEN’S NO.

1 2 3 4 5 10 11 12 13 14 20 21 23 24 25 32 33 34 43 51

NAME

Michael Carter-Williams Nick Resavy Dion Waiters Nolan Hart C.J. Fair Trevor Cooney Scoop Jardine Baye Moussa Keita Griffin Hoffmann Matt Lyde-Cajuste Brandon Triche Mookie Jones Russ DeRemer Brandon Reese Rakeem Christmas Kris Joseph Albert Nassar Matt Tomaszewski James Southerland Fab Melo

POS.

G G G G F G G C G F G F G G F F F F F C

HT

WT

6-5 6-2 6-4 5-10 6-8 6-4 6-2 6-10 6-0 6-4 6-4 6-6 6-4 5-11 6-9 6-7 6-6 6-8 6-8 7-0

176 201 215 152 203 185 190 213 178 205 205 220 210 160 222 210 195 215 210 244

CLASS

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

HOMETOWN

Hamilton, Mass. West Milford, N.J. Philadelphia Albany, N.Y. Baltimore Wilmington, Del. Philadelphia Saint Louis, Senegal New York Mt. Vernon, N.Y. Jamesville, N.Y. Peekskill, N.Y. Wrentham, Mass. Davie, Fla. Philadelphia Montreal Stuart, Fla. Seabrook, N.H. Bayside, N.Y. Juiz de Forz, Brazil

WOMEN’S NO.

2 3 4 5 14 23 32 33 34 40 43 44

NAME

Elashier Hall Rachel Coffey La’Shay Taft Shanee Williams Troya Berry Tyler Ash Tiara Butler Phylesha Bullard Shakeya Leary Kayla Alexander Iasia Hemingway Carmen Tyson-Thomas

POS.

G G G G F G G G C C F G

HT

5-11 5-7 5-7 5-7 6-2 6-2 5-10 5-11 6-3 6-4 5-11 5-9

CLASS

Jr. So. So. Jr. Sr. Jr. RF So. So. Jr. Sr. Jr.

M E N ’ S

B A S K E T B A L l

Tues. Nov. 1 CAL-sTATe Los ANgeLes (exh) 7:00 p.m. Tues. Nov. 8 CoLLege oF sT. Rose (exh) 7:00 p.m. sAT. Nov. 12 FoRDhAm 4:00 p.m. NIT seAsoN TIpoFF moN. Nov. 14 mANhATTAN^ Tues. Nov. 15 ALBANY oR BRoWN^ sAT. Nov. 19 CoLgATe

7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m.

NIT seAsoN TIpoFF Wed. Nov. 23 oklahoma st., virginia Tech or stanford Fri. Nov. 25 oklahoma st., virginia Tech or stanford

7/9:30 p.m. 2:30/5 p.m.

Tues. Nov. 29 eAsTeRN mIChIgAN

7:00 p.m.

BIg eAsT/seC ChALLeNge FRI. DeC. 2 FLoRIDA

6:30 p.m.

sAT. DeC. 10 geoRge WAshINgToN sat. Dec. 17 at North Carolina state Tues. DeC. 20 BuCKNeLL# ThuR. DeC. 22 TuLANe# WeD. DeC. 28 seToN hALL *# sun. Jan. 1 at Depaul * Wed. Jan. 4 at providence * sAT. JAN. 7 mARQueTTe *#

7:00 p.m. 6:30 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. 9:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m.

Wed. Jan. 11 at villanova * 7:00 p.m. sAT. JAN. 14 pRovIDeNCe *# 6:00 p.m. moN. JAN. 16 pITTsBuRgh * 7:30 p.m. sat. Jan. 21 at Notre Dame * 6:00 p.m. mon. Jan. 23 at Cincinnati * 7:00 p.m. sAT. JAN. 28 WesT vIRgINIA * 1:00 p.m. sat. Feb. 4 at st. John’s * 12:00 p.m. WeD. FeB. 8 geoRgeToWN * 7:00 p.m. sAT. FeB. 11 CoNNeCTICuT * 1:00 p.m. mon. Feb. 13 at Louisville * 7:00 p.m. sun. Feb. 19 at Rutgers * 1:00 p.m. WeD. FeB. 22 usF * 7:00 p.m. sat. Feb. 25 at Connecticut * 9:00 p.m. sAT. mAR. 3 LouIsvILLe * 4:00 p.m. mar. 6-10 BIg eAsT Conference Tournament TBA at madison square garden

home Away * Denotes a BIg eAsT game # Not included in the student package

^ each night features a doubleheader with the first game at 4:00 pm: Albany

vs Brown on the 14th, and manhattan vs. either Albany or Brown on the 15th. All Dates and Times are subject to Change

HOMETOWN

Washington, D.C. Kingston, N.Y. Baltimore Queens, N.Y. Flint, Mich. Liverpool, N.Y. Waldorf, Md. Cincinnati Brooklyn, N.Y. Milton, Ontario Newark, N.J. Philadelphia

Sal and all the folks at SAL’S BIRDLAND would like to wish the SU Basketball Orangemen the very best for a great and successful season For the very best Birdland Style Chicken Wings, Fresh Seasoned Potato Wedges and Sal's Macaroni Salad on this planet.

W O M E N ’ S Long Beach State UniverSity SUn, nov 13 St. FranciS UniverSity (pa.) Fri, nov 18 LaFayette coLLege Sat, nov 19 UniverSity at BUFFaLo tUe, nov 22 Binghamton University Sat, nov 26 Boise State University tue, nov 29 hUkiLaU invitationaL University of arizona Fri, Dec 2 Brigham young University Sat, Dec 3 WeSt virginia UniverSity * WeD, Dec 7 coppin State UniverSity Sat, Dec 10 DUeL in the DeSert Xavier University Sun, Dec 18 oklahoma University mon, Dec 19 ohio University tue, Dec 20 niagara UniverSity thU, Dec 29 * Denotes a BIG East game

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B A S K E T B A L L 1 p.m. 7 p.m. 7 p.m. 7 p.m. 2 p.m. 9 p.m. 9 p.m. 6 p.m. 7 p.m. 1 p.m. tBa tBa tBa 7 p.m.

All Dates and Times are Subject to Change

coLgate UniverSity rutgers University* University of pittsburgh * St. John’S UniverSity * georgetown University * Seton hall University * UniverSity oF connecticUt * UniverSity oF cincinnati * providence college* UniverSity oF SoUth FLoriDa * UniverSity oF notre Dame * University of Louisville * marqUette UniverSity * Depaul University * georgetoWn UniverSity * villanova University *

Sat, Dec 31 tue, Jan 3 Sat, Jan 7 WeD, Jan 11 Sun, Jan 15 Sun, Jan 22 WeD, Jan 25 Sat, Jan 28 tue, Jan 31 Sat, FeB 4 tUe, FeB 7 Sat, Feb 11 Sat, FeB 18 tue, Feb 21 Sat, FeB 25 mon, Feb 27

noon 9 p.m. 2 p.m. 7 p.m. noon 2 p.m. 7 p.m. 4 p.m. 7 p.m. 1 p.m. 7 p.m. 2 p.m. 2 p.m. 9 p.m. 1 p.m. tBD

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ADMISSION IS FREE FOR STUDENTS AT ALL WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAMES!


18 2 0 1 1 - 1 2 b a s k e t b a l l s e a s o n p r e v i e w Feb. 22, 1997 | Rutgers Boeheim hits the 500-win mark with a blowout over the Scarlet Knights. W, 92-62 March 12, 1997 | Florida State

SU loses its first-round game of the National Invitational Tournament and fails to win 20 games for the first time since the 1981-82 season. L, 82-67 Feb. 1, 1999 | Connecticut SU beats No. 1 UConn in Connecticut to earn a key win for its NCAA Tournament resume. The Huskies went on to win the national championship. W, 59-42 March 16, 2001 | Hawaii

Boeheim gets his 600th win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. W, 79-69 March 30, 2003 | Oklahoma

Freshman superstar Carmelo Anthony leads the Orange to its third Final Four under Boeheim. W, 63-47 April 7, 2003 | Kansas Syracuse wins its first national championship thanks to a huge last-second block by Hakim Warrick. W, 81-78 Feb. 29, 2004 | Pittsburgh Unranked SU knocks off the No. 3 Panthers in Pittsburgh as part of a five-game winning streak to secure another NCAA Tournament berth. W, 49-46 (OT) Feb. 26, 2005 | Providence Boeheim wins his 700th game as Syracuse’s head coach, making him the fifthfastest coach to reach 700 victories. W, 91-66 March 12, 2005 | West Virginia Syracuse takes its fourth Big East tournament title with a win over the Mountaineers. W, 68-59 March 18, 2005  | Vermont The No. 4 Orange loses a heartbreaker to the No. 13 Catamounts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. L, 60-57 (OT) March 11, 2006 | Pittsburgh Gerry McNamara’s historic run through the Big East tournament is capped off by Syracuse’s fifth conference tournament title. W, 65-61 March 12, 2008  | Villanova The Orange loses in the first round of the Big East tournament and misses the NCAA Tournament for consecutive seasons for the first time since Boeheim’s fifth and sixth years as head coach. L, 82-63 March 12, 2009 | Connecticut In one of the greatest games in college basketball history, Syracuse outlasts the Huskies through six overtimes in the quarterfinal round of the Big East tournament. W, 127-117 (6OT) Nov. 9, 2009 | Albany Boeheim gets his 800th win to open his 34th season at the helm. W, 75-43

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boeheim from page 3

game to finally call it quits. And as for the man who has been a part of Syracuse basketball for the last 50 years, that decision to come back has always been an easy one. “I’ve never really gotten to that point,” Boeheim said. “I don’t know when that point will be. I’m pretty open-minded at the end of every year. I look at it and think what’s going on and think about what I want to do. It’s never been close. I’ve never come close to thinking I wouldn’t come back.”

“As long as he’s enjoying what he’s doing and having the kind of success that he’s having, then I’m hopeful that he’ll keep doing what he’s doing because it’s great for the school.” Dave Bing

Former SU guard and teammate of Boeheim

The story begins It’s possible 1962 is the most important year in the history of Syracuse basketball. At that point, the Orangemen had one NCAA Tournament berth on their resume. They went a combined 6-41 the previous two seasons, resulting in Fred Lewis replacing Marc Guiley as head coach. But in 1962, two of the most important people in SU basketball history joined the program. The first was Dave Bing, the Washington, D.C., native who would go on to have one of the most illustrious careers in Syracuse history. The second was Boeheim, an unknown walkon from just an hour’s drive away in Lyons, N.Y. “Syracuse was starting to rebuild,” Boeheim said thinking back. “They had hired a new coach. They had not had much success in basketball and were rebuilding. I thought that Syracuse was going to be an up-and-coming program, and I wanted to be a part of it.” And he did so, despite lacking the typical basketball player’s physique. Bing’s first impression of Boeheim was that he was a gangly, 6-foot-4 guy with glasses who looked nothing like an athlete. But when the two played together on the freshman team, it became clear that not only could Boeheim shoot, but he also always found a way to get open. Bing learned quickly that when defenses collapsed on him, Boeheim would be waiting in the open area and could knock down the shot. That formula on the court carried over for the next three years on the varsity team. And off the court, the two became close friends and roommates. Syracuse went 52-24 during its three years, and they led Syracuse to its second NCAA Tournament berth as seniors. Bing scored 24.7 points per game through his three years, which remains the highest career average in Orange history. Boeheim’s scoring rose each of his three years on varsity, culminating in a senior season in which he averaged 14.6 points per game. “He was a very smart player, which really helped him,” said SU assistant coach Bernie Fine, who was a student manager when Bing and Boeheim were sophomores. “He played with Dave Bing and utilized Dave’s strengths. He got open and just knew how to play.” Many of Boeheim’s players believe it’s that knowledge of the game that separates him from other coaches. And although Boeheim said he would have liked to continue playing professionally, when that dream came to an end, he couldn’t let go of the game. He turned to coaching and returned to his alma mater. But in Bing’s mind, Boeheim had been coaching years before he was ever hired at SU. “He thought he was a coach as a freshman or sophomore,” Bing said. “Four years there,

I think he felt he knew more than the coaches. It culminated into an unbelievable coaching career.”

Consistency Roosevelt Bouie needed a father figure to be his college basketball coach. He had only been playing basketball for four years and knew he didn’t have a great understanding of the game. He knew he needed someone that could explain the game without screaming and yelling about every little mistake. Enter Boeheim. “When I did something he wanted me to during the game,” Bouie said, “he’d come right over to me and say, ‘OK, just like that. That’s the way I want you to do it.’ And that’s when it was still fresh in my mind, so I knew exactly what he wanted from me after that.” Bouie was part of Boeheim’s first recruiting class at SU. The head coach didn’t have his Hall of Fame credentials back then, and Syracuse wasn’t a storied program in 1976. But Boeheim didn’t need all that to draw in talent. His knowledge of the game and his confident demeanor attracted recruits. Bouie and Louis Orr came to SU in Boeheim’s first year and led the Orangemen to a 100-18 record in the head coach’s first four seasons at the helm. That was just the beginning of arguably the most consistent coaching career in Division-I history. SU has won at least 20 games in 33 of Boeheim’s 35 years as head coach. He has led the Orange to 28 NCAA Tournament berths. He has never gone more than two seasons without taking a team to the Big Dance. “I think the biggest thing is his consistency,” SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “He’s the same guy when I came here in 1989. The consistency really builds consistency with your teams. They usually take on the attitude or the personality of the coach, and you see that year in and year out with this team.” Although his older players said Boeheim is more laid-back now than the coach who once sprained his ankle jumping around to argue a goaltending call, they point out the same attitudes and coaching styles his current team talks about now. Both his current and former players cite that brilliant basketball mind Boeheim showed as a freshman walk-on. They see him as a father figure now, just like Bouie did when the coach first started. And both groups spoke similarly about the way Boeheim develops his players. From Bouie and Rautins to current Orange seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, Boeheim has used the same approach. He tells his players at the end of the year what they need to do to get better. After that, it’s up to the player

Feb. 27, 2010 | Villanova

March 25, 2010 | Butler

The Orange jumps up to the No. 1 ranking after handling the No. 7 Wildcats in the Carrier Dome. SU goes on to win the Big East regular-season title. W, 95-77

The No. 1-seed SU ties its lowest scoring total of the season and falls to eventual NCAA Tournament runner-up Butler in the Sweet 16. L, 63-59

to make it happen. “He treats us like men,” Joseph said. “He’s not going to babysit us. He’s not going to force us to do something. He’ll tell us, and it’s up to us to make the decision if we’re going to do it or not.” And that strategy has paid off for many of Boeheim’s players. In Joseph’s case, for example, Boeheim told the small forward after his freshman year that he needed to get in better shape and build some muscle. Joseph did that and went from averaging 3.4 points per game to earning the Big East Sixth Man of the Year award as a sophomore. After that, the coach told Joseph to work on his jump shot. Joseph did, and the forward’s scoring increased another four points per game last season. “Coach looks out for the best of every player,” Joseph said. “He wants to get the best out of every player that he coaches from the walk-ons to the star guys on the team. He does the right thing. Anything he says goes.”

Nearing the end? Boeheim started off the season at Syracuse’s annual media day with some of the sarcasm Syracuse fans have become so accustomed to from their head coach. “You never know when it’s going to be the last time, so I can’t tell you just how much I look forward to this,” Boeheim said before pausing to prepare everyone for the sarcastic punch line. “If it’s the last time, I’d really be happy.” Jardine thinks the last time will come in about five years. Bouie said he couldn’t fathom the idea of Boeheim and retirement in the same sentence. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who served as an assistant under Boeheim for two years, thinks it will come a couple of years after Syracuse joins the ACC. Hopkins, who Boeheim said is next in line once he does retire, thinks that switch will make Boeheim’s career last even longer because he’ll see it as a new challenge. Boeheim himself said he doesn’t know when he will retire. But Bing, who is still close with the Orange head coach, is surprised each year Boeheim comes back. Three years ago, Bing said Boeheim told him he had a transition plan in place. But there was no detail provided about how long that transition would take. “I don’t know how soon, but I think in the back of his mind, he’s got a time frame,” Bing said. “I haven’t pressed that. As long as he’s enjoying what he’s doing and having the kind of success that he’s having, then I’m hopeful that he’ll keep doing what he’s doing because it’s great for the school.” Boeheim said the transition plan was just a reference to Hopkins taking the reigns, not a specific timetable for his retirement. But whenever it does come, a strange new chapter of Orange basketball will begin — one that differs from the last half-century. In that time, as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Boeheim has become Syracuse basketball. And he still will be, for at least one more year. “He means everything to the basketball program,” Bing said. “And then you expand that beyond basketball to the school and beyond that to Upstate New York and the Big East and the East Coast. I’m not sure there are any coaches that have more respect than him. When you put it all together, he’s had one hell of a career, and once again, it’s not over yet.” zjbrown@syr.edu

Feb. 2, 2011 | Connecticut Syracuse knocks off the No. 6 Huskies on the road to end a four-game losing streak. The win began a stretch in which SU won seven of its last nine games to end the regular season. W, 66-58


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BUTLER F RO M PAG E 12

championship game. The Bulldogs caught fire with Howard and Mack leading the team to 14 consecutive wins before the loss to UConn in the championship. For Bill Benner, the senior associate commissioner of external affairs of the Horizon League, the Bulldogs’ success to close out the season started with Stevens. “Stevens did a masterful job of keeping the team out of the panic mode,” Benner said. “When they were struggling and telling them that he was seeing things that he thought they were getting better, and they were starting to lock into some of the defensive play that helped them in the previous year.” Stevens’ brilliant coaching combined with his success on the recruiting trail has been the formula for Butler’s success. Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s senior college basketball recruiting analyst, said Butler doesn’t waste time going after players that do not want to be there. Butler may not get the biggest-name recruits, but that’s because they recruit differently from other major conference schools. Stevens recruits players that fit the program’s vision. “It’s not always about who has the biggest and best of everything,” Benner said. “You don’t have to have the best arena in the country, you don’t have to have the biggest weight room, you don’t need to be pumping the most money into your program. “If you recruit well and you have a good system and you recruit kids to fit your system than you can be successful at the national level.” Getting local talent has also been crucial. Hayward and Howard were both natives of the state of Indiana.

2011-12 basketba ll season preview

And the Bulldogs have continued to pursue players from the Hoosier State. Butler locked up homegrown talent Kellen Dunham, a three-star recruit in the Class of 2012, according to Rivals. “At the end of the day, it’s still about finding the right fit for Butler University,” Graves said. “There’s just not as many student-athletes out there, regardless of whether you make a run to the national title game, or you’re .500, our philosophy on the type of person we want to bring in hasn’t changed.” And this season, Butler has just three seniors on the roster. Senior guard Ronald Nored and junior center Andrew Smith will lead Butler as two of the team’s returning contributors in the last two seasons. Smith averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. Nored played crucial minutes as a part-time starter. Graves said the coaches are not going to expect anything different from Nored, especially because they know what each of these players is capable of. “His job is going to be just like it was the year before and the year before, is to be a great vocal leader for our team,” Graves said, “and to keep everybody on the same page. And that’s what we’re going to ask him to do. Everything else will take care of itself.” Still, Telep questions whether the Bulldogs can overcome their key losses. Telep said it would be too much to expect Butler to make it to the national championship game for the third consecutive season, especially after losing its core players. “They haven’t just lost guys from last year,” Telep said. “They lost the year before an NBA lottery pick, and that’s a lot for a mid-major program to absorb. It’s about the long haul there, and they’ll have the next man that will step up. But they’ve experienced some heavier losses than most mid-major programs.” adtredin@syr.edu

19


2011-2012 Syracuse Men's Basketball Preview  

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