Jim Boeheim takes a lot of criticism for his handling of players – some of it justified – but he stood his ground with the talented Waiters following Dion’s freshman season at SU and it worked out marvelously. The Orange head coach told Waiters he had two choices – accept his role off the bench or transfer. Dion’s mom told her son she didn’t raise a quitter and advised him to return to Syracuse and work things out, which he did.
Interestingly, Waiters didn’t start a single game during his two years at SU, but wound up having a sensational sophomore season off the bench, averaging 12.6 points per game in 24 minutes per contest as the Orange men set a school record for most regular season victories and reached their first Elite Eight since their national championship season in 2003.
I’m wondering if Waiters is the highest NBA draft pick never to have started a game in college (excluding, of course, players who were picked directly out of high school).
I think the patience and maturity that Waiters gained this past season will bode well for his pro career. Boeheim says he’s the most NBA-ready guard he has ever coached, and there are scouts who believed Waiters not only will start immediately for the Cavs, but will challenge top overall pick Anthony Davis for rookie-of-the-year honors.
Fab Melo, the 7-foot center from SU who was taken by the Boston Celtics with the 22nd pick overall, has a tremendous upside, and could make an immediate impact as a defender and shot-blocker. But, given all the off-the-court problems he was involved in, I wonder if he will realize his potential. The Brazilian didn’t handle his fame well and I worry about him now that he is about to have fortune added to the equation. I think he has the ability to become a good NBA player, but I don’t know if he can handle the money.
It was nice that Kris Joseph was taken in the second round by the Celts – giving the Orange three draft picks in the same season for the first time since 1986. He’s a nice young man, but I didn’t see the skills during his SU days to make me believe he can play at this level. I think he can have a nice pro hoops career overseas.
***The trend towards pitchers dominating continues, with the San Francisco Giants staff turning in its fourth consecutive shutout last night. This, along with the three no-hitters (including two perfect games) and continuing decline in batting averages have some worried, but not me. I like it. There’s no question that the recently instituted drug tests and public humiliation associated with the use of performance enhancing drugs have been big factors in stemming the slow-pitch softball numbers put up by phonies such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Hey, I like to see offense from time to time, but the game in the late 1990s and most of the 2000s had become an offensive orgy and the numbers weren’t real.
The recent injuries to Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia, coupled with the long-shot hopes that retread Freddy Garcia and untried hurlers will fill the void, means the Yankees won’t run away with the AL East. And if CC is out for any extended length of time, New York could have trouble earning a wildcard.***
Congratulations to my friend Rich Funke, who announced he will be retiring from the airwaves this December after more than 40 years in the television business. When I started at the Democrat and Chronicle in 1985, I was told to beware of Funke as far as scoops were concerned. The well-connected Funke helped Channel 10 become the dominant sports broadcast in this market through the 1980s and early ‘90s. He then made a successful transition from sports anchor to news anchor. Beyond that, he has given so much back to the community through his charity work. I wish him nothing but the best in retirement.
And one final personal note: Congratulations to my friend, Matt Michael. The long-time Syracuse Post-Standard baseball writer is getting married today. I wish him and Robin the same happiness I have found with my loving bride, Beth.