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13 Syracuse The inconsistent Orangemen have lots of talent, but winning may be a matter of Hart

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim gets a puzzled look on his face as he
tries to explain the Orangemen's wildly erratic 21-12 performance
last season. With his top seven players back, including all five
starters, Boeheim would like to feel excited, but he isn't sure
exactly what to expect. "Last year we either played really well
and won easily or we played horribly and got killed," says
Boeheim. "It was one of the strangest things I've ever been
through because I couldn't figure out my team. If we're not more
consistent, we're not going anywhere."

Syracuse started last season 6-0 and beat Indiana in the Maui
Classic, only to lose to Ohio at home two games later. The
Orangemen easily beat Seton Hall, Villanova and then-No. 1 UConn
on the road but lost badly to all three at home. Part of the
problem was the lack of outside shooting--Syracuse made only 31.1%
of its three-pointers--something guard Jason Hart has been quick
to remind his teammates.

Before returning to campus this fall, Hart called all of his
teammates from his home in Los Angeles. He asked them if they had
been working on their outside shooting. He also asked if they
were ready to dedicate themselves for the next six months. Hart
has taken it upon himself to play a bigger leadership role this
season and says the team has found the drive and focus it lacked.
"There is no excuse for what happened last year," says Hart, who
led the team with an average of 13.9 points per game. "We have to
keep our heads together, and we have to hit our shots."

Much of Syracuse's success hinges on 6'9" senior center Etan
Thomas. He can block shots--he averaged 4.0 a game last season
and needs 106 rejections to break Patrick Ewing's Big East
record of 247--but he must be more aggressive around the basket
if he's going to increase his scoring from last season's 12.3
points per game. If Thomas gives the Orange a bigger presence in
the middle, it will open the way for 6'8" junior forward Damone
Brown, a slashing scorer who Boeheim says has a chance to be
Syracuse's best player.

"This is the most experience I've ever had coming back," says
Boeheim. "We'll be deeper, quicker and more athletic than we've
been in the past. If we can learn to be consistent, we'll be
awfully good."




SF Damone Brown[1] 6'8" Jr. 9.5 ppg
PF Ryan Blackwell[1] 6'8" Sr. 7.8 rpg
C Etan Thomas[1] 6'9" Sr. 4.0 bpg
SG Allen Griffin[1] 6'0" Jr. 7.9 ppg
PG Jason Hart[1] 6'3" Sr. 13.9 ppg

1998-99 record: 21-12 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked
Returning starter[1]