Skip to main content
Original Issue

16. Syracuse If everything goes right, a trio of promising juniors could hand Jim Boeheim his most balanced team in more than a decade

Whenever Orangemen coach Jim Boeheim is left in charge of his
infant son, he makes sure that all toys and food are placed to
the right of six-month-old Jim Jr. "He would never admit it,"
says Juli Boeheim, "but he's trying to make sure our son doesn't
turn out to be lefthanded."

While Boeheim may have a preference for righties, Syracuse
center Etan Thomas, a righthander, has been working diligently
this fall with assistant coach and resident big man guru Bernie
Fine on developing some lefthanded post moves that could turn
him into a more potent scorer. The shots that matter most,
however, probably won't be the inside ones from Thomas. They'll
be the outside ones from guard Jason Hart and forward Ryan
Blackwell. If those go swish instead of clang, then the
Orange--talented, deep and, in Boeheim's words, "as athletic as
any Syracuse team since Coleman, Seikaly and that bunch"--will
have the kind of balanced attack that could turn them into a Top
10 team.

The big question is: How will the shots be divided among the big
three--all juniors, all team leaders? "It might be a problem if
it was three guards," says Hart, a 6'1" point who may move to
two guard from time to time if versatile 6'4" freshman Tony
Bland is as good as advertised, and who, in fact, may move to
the bench from time to time if promising sophomore Allen Griffin
steps up. "But it's three different positions. It's going to be
easy for everybody to get enough." Well, maybe. But the
sometimes trigger-happy Hart shot only 36.6% from the floor last
season (26.0% on three-pointers), while both Blackwell and
Thomas need to develop take-charge, scorer's personalities.

Eric Williams, who will divide time at the power forward spot
with another talented sophomore, Damone Brown, quit the team
briefly last season because he was upset with his lack of PT.
Williams, slimmed down to 243 pounds from the 268 he was packing
last season, says he placed a photograph of Boeheim next to his
bed this summer and stared at it every morning to remind himself
to "prove what kind of player I can be." Boeheim might recognize
that as kind of a lefthanded compliment.

--Jack McCallum



SF [*]Ryan Blackwell 6'7" Jr. 12.6 ppg
PF Eric Williams 6'8" So. 2.4 rpg
C [*]Etan Thomas 6'8" Jr. 61.0 FG%
SG Allen Griffin 6'0" So. 2.4 ppg
PG [*]Jason Hart 6'1" Jr. 5.0 apg

'97-98 record: 26-9 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 13
[*]Returning starter