By Ryan Pike
Managing Editor for Writing and Reporting
Since the days of Jonny Flynn and the classic “Six in the City” Big East Tournament game, Syracuse University’s Mens Basketball team has been in the spotlight in both the local and national media. Between the 2008-09 season, when Flynn led the ‘Cuse to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament, and the 2011-12 season, when first round NBA Draft selection Dion Waiters brought the squad to the Elite Eight, the Orange lost only 25 games while winning 119. The fan expectations that a record like this creates are hard to maintain for a college team. But this year, some Jamesville-DeWitt High School students are losing faith in the Orange based on their struggles this season. Others still maintain their belief that the team can win a second national championship.
The Orange have already more than doubled their loss total from last year’s season with eight losses. Syracuse’s next game will come in the Big East Tournament against the Pittsburgh Panthers, who have already beat the Orange, 65-55, in February. The BET will likely be followed by a fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. As the ‘Cuse squad approaches these tournaments, most would hope the team would be on a roll entering the postseason. However, the team just recently ended a three game losing streak. “They’re struggling but I think they’ll get it together in time for the tournament,” said junior David Antosh. “They’ve just hit a bump in the road,” said senior Mike Mulvihill; “They’re still a good team.”
Junior Kyle Rumble disagrees and calls the team “mediocre,” while sophomore Ben Vahey has a stronger negative feeling about the squad; “They suck!” “They’re playing some tough competition so its tough to get a win,” rationalized junior Jafar Kinsey; “They’ll be back on top soon.” Junior Rasheed Baker thinks the squad can win it all come tournament time. “It’s all about wins in the tournament,” he added.
Students feel the Orange have struggled at times this season for a multitude of reasons, mostly revolving around specific players. “They can’t really shoot and their rebounding is terrible,” said senior Brian Roth. Sophomores Alyssa Robens and Jacob Eich both think the team lacks strong leadership. Junior Gus Weinstein feels that sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas hinders the team by attempting to get blocks and alley-oop dunks rather than simply contesting shots and making easy layups. Junior Rob Murphy thinks Christmas and junior center Baye Moussa Keita get in foul trouble too easily since freshman center DaJuan Coleman, a J-DHS alum, tore his meniscus and only briefly returned to action in recent games. Junior Maki Mandelis thinks Coleman should play “a little more” than the 13 minutes per game he averages to take pressure off of Christmas and Keita. Junior Brian Kelner said he finds that SU redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney lacks confidence in his shot and needs to find it in order for the Orange to succeed.
One player who is always at the center of conversations about the squad is sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. “He’s a turnover machine,” said sophomore Evan Dourdas. “He is the cause for all of the losses. I hate him,” said junior Adam Resitarits. “His game is really sloppy,” said Eich. However, MC-W has some loyal fans at J-DHS. “Everyone likes to try to blame Michael Carter-Williams, but I don’t think it’s his fault,” said Antosh. Freshman Grayson Burns is one student who finds Carter-Williams to be the best player on the team. “He’s just that good,” Burns explained; “I think he’s the best player in the country.”
Despite all of the issues students have with nearly everyone on this year’s ‘Cuse squad, one player is named by most at J-DHS as the best on the team- junior forward CJ Fair. “He’s fundamentally sound. He has good shot selection. He rebounds. He can shoot the three. He’s great,” said Mandelis. Roth finds Fair to be the only consistent player on the team, and junior Brad Carr agrees. “CJ Fair is the only good player on the team,” Carr affirmed; “He’s just a good, smart basketball player.” “He glues the team together and gets them through tough situations,” said senior Maddy Devereaux. Fair is known for wearing a headband during games. “The headband melts my heart,” said junior Julie Benaroch, one of Fair’s biggest fans. “CJ Fair is so hot,” concurred sophomore Maggie French, another big Fair fan.