Thursday, August 23, 2007

What is in a Number?

What is in a number? Players choose uniform numbers for a variety of reasons. Some choose a number because it has a special personal meaning. Others choose a number to follow in a tradition or to emulate a player they admire (think #44). Still some choose a number because they want to be their ‘own man’ and want a number rarely used. Occasionally you will have a player who thinks they do not get enough respect so they will where a 0, or 00, or 13. And then you have those players who just happen to have a number because that is what the equipment manager gave them.

If you were to choose a number for Syracuse basketball, what number would it be? Some players have worn multiple numbers at Syracuse (you will see them more than once below). Virtually all college basketball numbers are restricted to digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. For those of you who ever wondered why, it is so the referee can single with his hands the uniform number of a player. For example, after a foul the referee can hold up a 3 in his right hand and a 4 in his left hand and indicate that the foul was on #34. Hard to do that with 67 as a number.

If you wanted to honor greatness, 44 is the obvious choice. Not only was 44 legendary for football, but it had its share of superstars for the basketball team too. Consider that Derrick Coleman, John Wallace, Danny Schayes, Marty Byrnes, Pete Chudy, and Mel Besdin all wore 44. So did Jim Brown in one of his seasons on the basketball team. I would rank this as the most significant number for basketball, which is only fitting. Four first round draft picks by the NBA in that group.

If you are looking for a great guard, I might suggest #22. Dave Bing stands out in front, but you have other great guards in Dennis DuVal, Ernie Austin, Jimmy ‘Bug’ Williams and Eddie Moss. That is quite a collection of guards.

Need a three point basket? Might I suggest looking at the guy wearing #3 on the court? That would include Gerry McNamara, Preston Shumpert and Matt Roe, all who could be deadly outside assassins. Greg Kohls, in the era before the three point shot wore 33; I’m sure he would have shaved a 3 off if he played today.

If you are looking for a talented forward, I might suggest #45. That list includes Rudy Hackett, Bob McDaniel, Gary Clark, Wendell Alexis, Otis Hill and Tom Jockle.

It is possible that the reason is it looks good on a big body, but several notable centers have worn #50, starting with Roosevelt Bouie. Joining him is Earnie Seibert, Bob Dooms, Wayne Ward, Manny Klutschkowski and Jim Snyder. Not all were extremely talented, but they were all big.

Number 30 brought some good luck to Billy Owens, Todd Burgan, Tony Bruin, Derek Brower, and a couple of playmakers inJohn Suder and Steve Ludd. Jim Brown wore 30 for one season of college basketball. Though to show there is not magic in every number, Josh Wright has not done too well.

Number 4 has a short but distinguished list of recent players including Demetris Nichols, Otis Hill, Dave Johnson and Rony Seikaly. That is a pretty eclectic mix of talent.

If you were looking for some help on the football field, I might suggest talking to guys in #24. That includes Donovan McNabb and Ernie Davis.

And if you are superstitious, I have a couple of numbers for you to avoid. Number 14 had some guys with great potential in Billy Edelin, Earl Duncan and Carl Vernick, but all disappeared after their sophomore seasons.

But the worst number at Syracuse is the number two below 44. Number 42 has not been kind to Orangemen, in general. Louie McCrosky, Bob McDaniel, John Karpis, Rodney Walker, Ernie Lotano and Ronald Kilpatrick all left school early for academic or disciplinary reasons. Then again, I guess Marius Janulis and Jon Cincebox might disagree about the value of number 42.

It goes to show, to each his own.

I do have to say I am not a fan of retiring numbers. I think a greater honor is achieved by having future players want to wear your number and display it on the court. It is a constant reminder of the number and those who wore it. My exception is to honor a player in a tragic situations, perhaps a player who died during a season, or died heroically shortly after college.

Of course, I state that you can have your number honored by current players, yet none of the incoming freshman are honoring the numbers I have highlighted above (see reference by Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician who commented on uniform numbers a couple of weeks ago). The exception is Ryan Cahak, who is throwing caution to the wind with #42.

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