By Zack Cimini
Off-season training and increased attention to decreasing body fat and a proper diet are all heightened focuses in the off-season in college athletics. One area athletes can not get proper advances on is on the court experience. That can’t be said for a couple of returning Syracuse athletes.
Fab Melo went through about as rough a season as a McDonalds All-American could go through. Yanked and yelled at consistently for poor play, it seemed as if Melo was proving to be a bust. Jim Boeheim continued to start him, but his on the court action would dwindle from the first five minutes to the first dead ball. He was just becoming too much of a liability. Chemistry on the court was not there, and it was as if Syracuse was playing four on five. Melo’s slow rotation in the center of the zone, would cause the guards to drift down. Inevitably a break down in the zone would occur with a few scissor passes, and the Cuse would be down early.
As the team got into a funk, including a four game losing streak, Melo’s play worsened. The team was in the middle of the pack of the Big East with a tough schedule ahead. The season was fading fast, and Boeheim had to limit Melo’s minutes even more. Suddenly though Syracuse clawed it’s way out of tough stretch, and faced Cincinnati and DePaul. Two teams they handled with ease, and got Melo back onto the court. Practicing and learning from the sideline seemed to have finally sunk in. Melo was quicker with his decision making, and nimble on his feet when making moves with the basketball. He finally was playing at game speed. Come Big East tournament time, he ignited the Cuse when the team was stagnant, with two critical back to back plays. Showcasing great footwork for a couple of nifty layups.
He was in the middle of controversy this off-season involving his ex-girlfriend. That seems to be behind him, as he was a part of the Brazilian team this summer. Melo started for Brazil, and was able to put together a couple of impressive games. Scoring in double figures in a couple of contests. Jim Boeheim knows when to strike that extra level in a player, and Melo will be much needed after the departure of Rick Jackson. Getting his stamina up will be key, and also reducing the amount of fouls he gains while on the court.
As much as Melo will be needed for the Cuse to advance deep in the NCAA tournament, the majority of Syracuse’s chances will ride on their point guard play. Cuse fans will remember the ending last year against Marquette. An over and back call that parlayed into a dagger three pointer by Marquette. The blame circled on that over and back call.
Jim Boeheim blamed the truth. Too many turnovers. Scoop Jardine was a hot potato with turnovers all season long. Games he played great, Syracuse stormed over teams. As is key in the zone though, limiting your turnovers gets the zone settled in place defensively. The Cuse held Marquette too poor shooting, but their careless turnovers kept Marquette in the game. The team had eighteen, and Jardine seemed to be in on a good share even though the box score listed only three. One should have counted as a turnover. Right before the half, Syracuse gained control of an offensive rebound, and could have played for the last shot. Instead, Jardine chucked up and hoisted an ill advised three pointer. Not only did he miss, Marquette capitalized with a bucket of their own.
These are mistakes you didn’t expect from Jardine, who is now a fifth year senior. The year prior the team lost a heart breaking game to Butler in the sweet sixteen. Jardine knows how close he has been to getting to the final four, and that he has one last chance. Teaming with Kris Joseph, they’ll be out to get it one last time. Jardine’s trimmed down fifteen pounds and been involved with numerous NBA players basketball camps, including Chris Paul’s.
In the World Basketball tournament, Jardine gained premier experience. He didn’t shoot a lot of shots, but showed a strong ability to knock down the three ball. Something he has improved upon, year after year.
Does Jardine want to be a true leader, is the question? Not one game, but a floor leader for the entire Syracuse season. He has been under the tutelage and played with Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson, Paul Harris, Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn, and Donte Greene. They all were a part of his career at some point. All would want to be in Jardine’s shoes, to give it a shot one last time wearing the Orange.