Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for having the privilege for being a Syracuse basketball fan, and for all the high and low moments every year.  There is joy in watching the team grow and develop each year.

I am thankful to have had the privilege to see Syracuse win a National Championship in 2003, and to see Hakim Warrick fly out of no where for one of the greatest game winning blocks ever.  I am thankful to have been able to watch the team win a dramatic 6 overtime game against UConn in the 2009 Big East Tournament, with players on both teams playing their hearts out.

I am thankful to have been able to attend the Syracuse / Boston College game with my dad on January 21, 1984, and watch a dynamic freshman Pearl Washington sink a half court shot to beat Boston College.

I am thankful for having been able to go to the Syracuse / Georgetown game in 1990 with my good friend Vady, and watch the Orangemen storm back from a big half time deficit to beat the Hoyas in overtime 89-87.  That may have been the loudest game I have ever attended at the dome.

I am thankful to have watched the 1996 Championship game with John Wallace carrying the Orangemen in the post season.  The Orangemen lost the game, but I was able to view it with my 3 month old son sitting on my lap.

I am thankful for having a wonderful family and having the time to share with them.  I am thankful that I have a home to live in, and always have food on the table. That I have friends to share the good times with, and those to support me in the bad times.  I am thankful the bad times are so far and few. I am thankful to have the lord in my life to provide me with inspiration each and every day.

Thanks thanks to all the Syracuse fans out there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Searching for that Big Time Scorer (30 points)

Amidst Syracuse’s scoring woes in this young season, I find myself longing for a big time scorer on the team.  The type of player who could carry the team for a night, with a 30+ point effort.  It may seem that Syracuse does not have that type of player right now, but that would only be if you have a short memory.  Trevor Cooney bombed Notre Dame for 33 points last February 2014 as he hit 9 of 12 three point shots.   Of course, we all know that Cooney can shoot; it is just that he can be very streaky and inconsistent and he is currently in the middle of a long slump.

Overall, 58 different Orangemen have scored 30+ points in agame; this has been accomplished 179 different times.

The first time was in 1904 when George Kirchgasser scored 30 against Jenners Prep.  Kirchgasser scored all 30 from the floor; he took no free throw shots in the game.  Because it was an earlier era, it isn’t recognized today as an official accomplishment.

The first official 30+ point game by an Orangemen occurred in 1943 when Bob Shaddock scored 30 over rival Colgate.

The Syracuse record for points in a game is 47 by Bill Smith.  Smith shot 17 of 23 from the floor, and made 13 free throws in a high scoring game against LaFayette.

Dave Bing scored 30 or more points in 20 different games, or roughly 26% of the varsity games he played at Syracuse.  That’s just in case you ever really wondered about the greatness of Bing.

Sharpshooting Greg Kohls is next on the list with 14 games with 30+ points.  The amazing thing about Kohls was that he barely played his sophomore season (freshman couldn’t play in his era).  He played 54 varsity games his junior and senior season as like Bing, scored 30+ in 26% of the games. Kohls was a terrific perimeter shooter; who knows how many 30+ point games he would have had if there had been a three point shot in that era.

Billy Owens is third with 10 games with 30+ points.  Owens was the first player under Jim Boeheim to average 20+ points a game. 7 of those 10 games occurred his junior season, after Derrick Coleman and Stephen Thompson had graduated.

30 point games have occurred everywhere.  94 times they have occurred at home (53% of the time).  59 occurred at the opponent’s home court.  8 occurred in a mid-season tournament, 2 in the post season NIT, 1 in the ECAC, 7 in the Big East tournament and 8 in the NCAA Tournament.

It may be surprising to see what players never accomplished the feat.  Derrick Coleman, Syracuse’s second all-time leading scorer never scored 30 points in a game.  Part of that reason was that Coleman was always surrounded by other great scorers in Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, Stephen Thompson and Billy Owens.  But Douglas, Seikaly and Owens all did it.

Stephen Thompson, Syracuse’s 7th all-time leading scorer never hit 30.  I’m sure besides playing with other great scorers, that the inability to make free throws and a three point shot kept Thompson from that mark.  Thompson was a great scorer though; I’m not sure if there was ever a better scorer in the Boeheim era.

C.J. Fair, who finished as Syracuse’s 15th all-time leading scorer, never did it. Nor did Brandon Triche at #17 (though his uncle Howard did it), or #18 Todd Burgan, or #22 Jason Hart.
There have likewise been some surprising players who have had the unexpected big nights.

NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown had the talent on the basketball court, as well as the gridiron and the lacrosse field. He was second on the team in scoring his sophomore season with 15 ppg, and he would score 33 against Sampson Air Force Base that winter. 

In January 1952, Bucky Roche scored 35 at Cornell.  The senior guard was second in the team in scoring with 14 ppg; but he had scored only 121 points in his career before his senior year.

In December 1962, sophomore guard Phil Schoff would score 30 points against Cornell in a big loss.  Schoff would finish the season as the teams third scorer at 10.4 ppg.  Schoff would lose his starting position his junior year with the arrival of Dave Bing, Sam Penceal and Chuck Richards, though he would remain a valuable reserve.

In December 1986, senior forward Howard Triche would score 31 points in win over Northeastern. Triche was the fifth leading scorer on the team that year, and that was the only time in his career he would lead the Orangemen in scoring for a game.

The most surprising was probably Gene Waldon.  Waldron put up 40 points against Iona in the 1983 Carrier Classic. Waldron did this in the non-three point era.  He was the fifth leading scorer on the team that year, averaging 9.2 ppg and Waldon had never been a big scorer before.

If not for Waldron, the most surprising may have been senior Allen Griffin.  Griffin would score 31 in a double overtime win against St. John’s .  He as the fourth leading scorer on the team at 10.8 ppg, and had averaged only 3 ppg his junior year.  His method of scoring 31 points was highly unusual too. Griffin only made 5 of 9 baskets that night.  However, 3 of those 5 made field goals were 3 point baskets.  And he was sent to the free throw line 22 times where he made 18 of the them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014-2015 Season of Questions

The 2014-2015 Syracuse basketball season should be an interesting one.  It has been quite a long time since the Orange entered a season with so much unknown about the team.  The expected departure of C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita, along with the early departure of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant have left the Orange with a lot to be replaced.

DaJuan Coleman continues to remain hurt, and the most experienced returning sophomore Tyler Roberson only played in 20 of the teams 34 games.  The only 'known' quantities are returning starters Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas, and reserve swingman Michael Gbinije. 

Cooney and Christmas are both inconsistent players, with flashes of outstanding play, and periods of disappointing play.  Normally on any given season, you can find some dependable returning upperclassmen, or at least one star to rally the team around, but that is not the case this year.

The Orange are going to need Cooney and Christmas to both be more consistently good in their play, and Christmas will need to be a bigger part of the offense.  The freshman Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph are going to have to contribute quickly, and the sophomore trio of Roberson, B.J. Johnson, and Ron Patterson are going to have to be ready to play. Those last five mentioned players all have a lot of potential; it will be curious to see who has matured and developed since last year.

The last time the Orange had a season with this much doubt would likely have to be 1983-1984.  This was Pearl Washington's freshman year; in restrospect it seems funny to question that year, but there was concern if the Pearl's playground style would translate to the NCAA, and how good would he really be.  Plus, regardless of his talent, he was a true freshman, and the early 80s was not an era where most freshman excelled.

Syracuse was coming of a good (but not great) 21-10 season, with 9-7 in the Big East.  The trio of Erich Santifer, Leo Rautins and Tony Bruin had all graduated. Those three had been starters since their sophomore season.  Gene Waldron and Andre Hawkins were returning players, but neither was a star. Waldon was a competent point guard, but most of the offense had previously gone through Rautins as a 'point forward'.  Hawkins was limited on offense, undersized as a center, and prone to foul problems.  Raf Addison was the key reserve returning, and he had shown some promise in his bench role; however Addison wasn't a highly recruited player, so there were not big expectations for him

Things worked out well for the Orangemen that year.  The Pearl was as good as advertised, if not better. Addison turned into a star player, and led the team in scoring with a solid game of mid range jumpers and interior play.  Senior Sean Kerins showed that he had learned something after four years on the bench behind Rautins and Bruin, showing a combination of perimeter shooting and rebounding.

Hawkins learned to be comfortable at the post, and became a reliable 10 point scored, and sophomore Wendell Alexis developed into a very important sixth man backing up the forward and center positions.  The Orangemen would go 23-9, 12-4 in the Big East, and actually improved from the previous year.  

You could argue the 2002-2003 season had as many question marks.  The team had lost leading scorers Preston Shumpert and DeShaun Williams, and it was a team that had collapsed and had missed out on the NCAA tournament, having to settle for the NIT.  However, the team did have three returning starters in Kueth Duany, Hakim Warrick and Craig Forth.   Duany was a senior, and Warrick had played very well down the stretch, including in the NIT tournament.  

Plus the Orangemen the highly touted Carmelo Anthony joining the team, along with highly rated Billy Edelin, and a scrappy sharp shooting guard Gerry McNamara.  The team definitely turned out to be much better than anyone could have expected; winning Syracuse's first National Title one season after being in the NIT was definitely a tremendous feat.  Anthony turned out to be as good as he was touted, and Gerry McNamara was much better than anyone could have anticipated.  Warrick had improved tremendously, as had classmate Josh Pace, and Duany was a solid senior.  The Orangemen unexpectedly did not have the services of Edelin for most of the regular season, but the team excelled.

So anything could happen in the 2014-2015 season. Jim Boeheim does have a good track record of exceeding expectations when the team is low rated; they are starting this year at #23 in the country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day 2014

On this Veterans day, as I have done each year past, I would like to thank all those who have served our country, putting their lives on the line to do those tasks that need to be done. The Orange basketball team has had its share of veterans over the decades. And has been tradition at OrangeHoops, I would like to recognize those former basketball Orangemen who did serve. I acknowledge this is not a complete list; only those I know of (each year I add a few more). I imagine more Orangemen were in the service that I am omitting; if so, please post a recognition here! Also please feel free to recognize any other veterans in the comments.

In World War I, the following served:
Albert Ackley
Bradley Barnard
Ross Bibbens
Meyer Bloom
Jim Casey
Ed Cronauer
John Cronauer
Charles Fasce
Russ Finsterwald
Ken Harris
Ted Huntley
Bernie Kates
Ken Lavin
Nathan Malefski
Danny Martin
Walter ‘Dutch’ Notman
Walter Peters
Elias Raff
Billy Rafter
Horace Ruffin
Courtland Sanney
Clifford Steele

In World War II, the following served:
Jim Ackerson
Earl Ackley
Lou Alkoff
John Balinsky
John Beaulieu
John Beck
Leo Canale
Dick Casey
Larry Crandall
Wilbur Crisp
Dan DiPace
Les Dye
Alton Elliott
John Emerich
Bill Estoff
Bob Felasco
Paul Ferris
Billy Gabor
Ed Glacken
Joe Glacken
Marc Guley
Mark Haller
Lew Hayman
Bill Hennemuth
Tom Huggins
George Jarvis
Ed Jontos
Walter Kiebach
Jim Konstanty
Stan Kruse (Kruszewski)
Glenn Loucks
Guy Luciano
Saul Mariaschin
Don McNaughton
Tom McTiernan
Francis Miller
Joe Minsavage
Andy Mogish
Roy Peters
Hank Piro
Edward Pond
Phil Rakov
John Schroeder
Bill Schubert
Bob Shaddock
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Red Stanton
Mike Stark
Bobby Stewart
Joe Sylvestri
Charles Taggart
Ray Tice
Joe Weber

In Korea the following served:
Reaves Baysinger, Jr
John Beaulieu
Fred Serley

In Vietnam, the following served:
Reaves Baysinger, Jr
John Beaulieu
George Crofoot
Rick Dean

The following were veterans who served but were fortunate to miss a war era:
Art Barr
Mel Besdin
Rudy Cosentino
Roy Danforth
Ronnie Kilpatrick
George Koesters
Tom Jockle
Jack Malone
Frank Reddout

Four of the aforementioned players deserve special note, as they sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was a member of the Tuskegee Airman, and was killed in a training accident when his plane crashed into Lake Michigan in 1943.

Charles Taggart was a member of the US Navy serving aboard the USS Frederick C. Davis, and was killed when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on April 24, 1945. Taggart and 115 crew members perished.

John Cronauer was killed in World War I in 1918.

Joe Minsavage was killed in World War II on June 19, 1943 when his ship was attacked and he was lost at sea.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Orange Hoops Hall of Fame 2014

In 2007, OrangeHoops inducted its charter class into the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame: Dave BingDerrick ColemanSherman DouglasVic Hanson, and Pearl Washington. The next six years saw the addition of Billy Owens (2008), Billy Gabor (2009), Lawrence Moten (2010), Louis Orr (2011), Roosevelt Bouie (2011)  John Wallace (2012), and Rony Seikaly.  So the list now stands at 12. Another year has passed, and now it is time for the 2014 inductee.

I established my rules for the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame back in 2007 and you can catch up on them here. 2014 does have four new eligible candidates (using the fifteen year rule): Elvir Ovcina, Josh Watson, Eric Williams, and Malik Campbell.

Elvir Ovcina was a four year player for Syracuse, primarily as a backup center and forward.  He was a decent short range perimeter shooter, but fancied himself as a three point shooter.  Unfortunately, he wasn't as he hit only 37 of 153 attempts for a 24.2%. He also struggled at the free throw line making 53% of his shots.

Josh Watson was a walk-on his senior year. He was a big man, and was primarily used to help Syracuse's big men have a big body to practice against.  Watson's only game was on senior night.

Erik Williams was a highly recruited forward.  He did not get much playing time his freshman season; he was a starter the beginning of his sophomore year, and showed he was a strong rebounder.  However, Damone Brown would outplay him and replace him before the Big East season began, and Williams would transfer to UMass.  Williams was never more than a reserve there.

Malik Campbell was a valuable receiver on the Orangemen football team for three seasons.  He was a reserve on the basketball floor scoring 66 points in his two seasons.

None of the new eligible candidates from 1998-1999 would make my list of top 10 eligible candidates.

I think this year’s viable top 10 candidates come down to the following, listed chronologically: Lew CastleJoe SchwarzerLew Andreas, Ev KatzVinnie Cohen, Jon Cincebox, Jimmy Lee, Rudy Hackett, Leo Rautins, and Stephen Thompson.

Castle was a two time All-American at Syracuse, and was captain and leading scorer of Syracuse’s only undefeated team, the 1913-1914 squad that went 12-0.

Schwarzer was a two time All-American, and was captain and leading scorer of the 1917-1918 squad that went 16-1 and was retroactively named the National Champions by the Helms Foundation.

Andreas coached Syracuse basketball for 27 seasons, including the 19-1 1925-1926 squad that was awarded the Helms Foundation National Championship. He had a career record of 358-134, and he was the Syracuse Athletic Director for 28 years (1937-1964).

Katz was part of the famed Reindeer Five at Syracuse, that went 45-10 their three years together a Syracuse. Katz was very speedy and one of the early pioneers of the one handed set shot.

Cohen was an All-American, the first Syracuse player to average 20+ points a game in a season, and led the team to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1956-1957.

Cincebox was on the best rebounders in Syracuse history (in an era when rebounding numbers were admittedly high).  He helped Syracuse to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1956-1957, as the dominant big man for the Orangemen.

Lee was a clutch shooter with terrific perimeter range, and outstanding free throw shooting ability. He was able to use his shooting ability to set himself up as a solid passer. Lee's 18 foot jumper with five seconds remaining led the Orangemen to beat heavily favored North Carolina, as the Orangemen eventually moved on to their first NCAA Final Four. Lee would end up making the All-Tournament team for his outstanding performances.

Rautins was a terrific ball-handling forward with a nice shooting touch, solid rebounding and scoring skills. He is most well known for his game winning tip in basket to win the Big East Championship in triple overtime against Villanova in 1981.  Rautins also recorded two triple-doubles in Big East action.

Thompson was an explosive swingman, with incredible quickness and vertical leap, and excellent defensive skills. He was extremely adept at playing above the basket though he was only about 6'2". He teamed with Sherman Douglas to perfect the alley-oop basket.  Thompson was an extremely proficient scorer, despite the fact he was a terrible perimeter shooter.  

All are worthy players, and tough selections to make.  I designed my selection rules to make it tough; the Hall of Fame should be the 'best of the best', and I would rather have a line of worthy players outside the Hall of Fame, than cheapen it by having lessor players included.

My selection for 2014 is Vinnie Cohen.  Cohen was the first true African American superstar basketball player for Syracuse. Cohen and his classmate Jim Brown were the individuals who helped integrate Syracuse sports at the high levels.

Cohen was an explosive leaper and quick to the basket.  He was only 6'1", but played forward. Cohen would average 24.2 points a game his senior season, becoming the first Orangemen to break the 20 ppg barrier. He would lead the Orangemen into the NCAA tournament. Syracuse played #1 North Carolina in
the Elite Eight.  Cohen would score 26 points to lead the Orangemen; it would not be enough as the Tar Heels were much bigger and stronger off the boards.

Cohen was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals to play in the NBA, but turned down the opportunity to pursue his law degree.

Congratulations to Vinnie Cohen, the 2014 Inductee into the Orange Hoops Hall of Fame.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2013-2014 Historical Context

The 2013-2014 season started better than any Syracuse fan could ever have hoped, winning a school record 25 games and catapulting the Orange to a #1 ranking.  It also crashed and burned at the end of the season, losing six of the last nine games of the year, including a first round exit in the ACC Tournament and a 2nd round exit in the NCAA.

The team did finish with 28 wins, which is an impressive total.  However, they did exceed that total in four of the previous five seasons. Jim Boeheim has put his program at such a high standard, that 28 wins is now below par.

However, the purpose of this article is really to focus on how the players individual career accomplishments ended.

C.J. Fair, as a fourth year senior, reached the loftiest heights.  He did lead the Orange in rebounding the last three seasons.  The last player to lead the team three years in a row was John Wallace.  Jerami Grant was a better rebounder, but he played in two less games and had fewer minutes.  Only Jon Cincebox, Rudy Hackett, Derrick Coleman and John Wallace have accomplished that before.  Though in Fair's case, I think it was more the lack of competition that gave him the title three years.  Fair also lead the Orange in scoring his last two seasons.

Fair finished as SU's 15th all-time leading scorer with 1,660 points, just behind Eric Devendorf.  He was the 16th best rebounder, putting him near Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku.  Fair was way down the list in assists, at #72. He finished as the 249th most accurate 3 pt shooter, and 29th on the all-time list in terms of 3 point baskets made.  And to round it out, he was 43rd all time in free throw shooting percentage.

Tyler Ennis finished as 49th all time in assists, five less that Rick Jackson and 2 more than Dave Bing (though in Bing's case they only had assists as a statistic his senior year).  Ennis was 44th all time in 3 point shots made, and 19th all time in 3 point shooting percentage.  Ennis was clutch in free throw shooting all season, and finished at 18th all-time at SU.

Jerami Grant finished his career 64th in rebounding and 99th in assists. He was 60th in 3 pt baskets made, and 86th in career free throw percentage (in the ball park of Conrad McRae, Otis Hill and Rakeem Christmas).

Baye Moussa Keita finished at 43rd in rebounding.and a woeful 97th in free throw shooting percentage (putting him in the range of Rony Seikaly and LeRon Ellis).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 NBA Draft for the Orange

Three starting Syracuse basketball players had an opportunity to be drafted in the 2014 NBA draft.  The draft went okay for Tyler Ennis, while both Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair have to be disappointed in the results.
I think Ennis made the right choice financially. His game was stellar for Syracuse at the college level, and I wish we had three more years of him with the Orange.  But I’m not sure his game would have improved significantly enough over the next year or two to make him better than the 18th overall pick, and if he didn’t continue to develop in those years, this ‘potential’ would have decreased as the reality of who and what he was became more clear.  He could have actually dropped by staying around.  There are some strong points to his game, but he needs to improve his shooting, and he needs to prove he can consistently play up tempo if needed.  In 2013-2014 those were unknowns and thus ‘potentials’ he could build upon; but if he did not improve in those areas next year, that would cause him to drop.

Ennis has the guaranteed money for 2014-2015, at about $1.24 million (Forbes article)  for the next two years, and that could go four years if his NBA team wants him that long.  That’s $1.24 million this year, instead of no income, and $4.96 million over four years.  If he stayed around one more season and went 15th in the draft in 2015, he would have made about $1.57 million a year, or $6.28 million over four years.  BUT, by going in the draft his year, he would be an unrestricted free agent in 2018-2019 and free to earn what he could get on the market, instead of making the $1.57 million he would have had going in next year’s draft at the hypothetical #15.  Assuming he is successful, he almost certainly would be making more money in 2018-19 in the first year of a free agent contract, than the $1.57 million.

You can use the math of any of the top picks, and I think realistically Ennis would never go higher than #10.  But when you take the impact of getting the $1.23 million this year guaranteed (which is money he would never be able to make up because his career will now be one year longer) and that his free agency will start one year earlier, it’s the smart move.

Jerami Grant , on the other hand, has to be regretting the move.  Assuming he was in good academic standing, he would have had an opportunity to be the central star on the 2014-2015 Syracuse Orange.  He came into the 2014 NBA draft with a ton of potential, but a lot of areas with need for improvement. He could jump explosively and leap quickly, he blocks well, rebounds well, and has a very long reach.  But he needs to dramatically improve his shooting, ball handling and defense.  The real skills he has in 2014 are not uncommon skills in the NBA; they are unteachable, which is what makes him attractive, but it’s not a unique skill set.

Grant ended up the 39th overall pick.  He is not going to get a guaranteed contract, and he’s going to make less than $800k (possibly around $500k) if he makes the team at all. Philadelphia is a good fit for him because it is in a youth movement, but he left a lot of money on the table. If he does sign with the 76’ers and stays on the team, he will have earn about $2.5 million over his first four years of his NBA contract.   Grant has the athletic ability and potential to have moved into a lottery position in the 2015 draft, and he could have earned that amount of guaranteed money in his first season.    He could've earned $10 million over his first four years in the NBA, instead of $2.5 million, and he would be unlikely to make up that difference in the first year of his free agency.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim thought Grant could have made All-America next season, and I agree with that assessment.  

"As far as what he should do, I think, what I think if he came back, he would have had a good chance to make 1st-team All-American based on what he can do and what we would ask him to do next year," Boeheim said. "I think that would have helped his draft stock quite a bit. But players have to decide what they want."  

C.J. Fair made the right decision to stay another year in college. He was not going to be drafted in the 2013 NBA draft. He got another year under his belt to improve his game, and I hope he finished his degree.  The 2013-2014 season did not elevate Fair to a level where he got drafted.  He struggled to score once he became the primary scoring option for the Orange, and his perimeter shooting decreased as he was now a focus of the opposing defense.  Fair struggled at times to be the ‘go to’ man for Syracuse, and really wasn’t able to carry the team on his back many had hoped.  He was a good player last year, but not NBA draft worthy.  

At least Fair is an undrafted free agent and has the opportunity to try to find the right fit himself. 

Fair is a lesson to what could have happened to Ennis if he had stayed.  Fair did improve his senior year, but the ceiling for his potential also dropped as it became clearer what he could and could not do. 

Good luck to all three former Orange on their future professional endeavors, whether it is in the NBA, another league, or another business venture altogether.