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Reflecting On Scoop And Kris

As the regular season draws to a close with the home finales of Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to look back on the careers of Syracuse’s two senior leaders. While we all hope that another nine games are in store after tomorrow’s tilt against Louisville, today is an appropriate time to reflect a little bit.

This is going to sound silly, but while I’m only 25, there are moments as a sports fan that make me feel old. I’m sure I’m not alone here. You might remember watching a game, probably a pro sporting event, and some kind of graphic popped up that showed a player’s age or birth date, and the only thought that went through your head was “damn, I’m older than him?” Though I’m about the furthest thing from a Yankees fan, I had that feeling when I watched Phil Hughes start a game in April 2007. My wonder wasn’t out of jealousy of fame or accomplishment or ability (ok, maybe a little…), but it was sobering nonetheless. As Scoop Jardine is the last active SU player who was in school when I was an undergrad, it’s tough not to get a little sappy knowing that connection is about to be broken.

Scoop’s been a lightning rod for years. Jokes were easy to make during Cheesesteak-gate his freshman year and more recently, all I could do was shake my head when he made some insensitive comments about women and sexual assault on Twitter. And that’s before getting into his similarly poor decision-making on the court his first three seasons. Even though minutes were hard to come by as a freshman, he couldn’t stop turning the ball over and jacking up shots with an odd hitch in his shot.

While I still haven’t come full circle to liking Scoop as much as I have other players since he matriculated, I can at the very least respect what he’s been through in the time since. He’s had to adapt to a new role every season, and finally embraced the one he’s longed to hold as the guy who wants to finish games when they’re on the line. There’s also something to say about the fact that on a team full of unselfish players, he’s never hesitant to take the responsibility. Jardine’s improvement this season has been terrific, as he’s accepted his role as a facilitator on offense and upped his defensive ability without fouling. Backcourt experience is one of the key factors for making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and there aren’t many guards around the country with Scoop Jardine’s mileage.

Of course, Saturday will also mark the final home game for Kris Joseph. While he never evolved into the consistent 20 point-per-game scorer many thought he would be after his terrific sophomore campaign off the bench, it’s hardly an indictment of him as a player. Joseph has followed the prototypical path of a wing, showing driving and leaping ability as a freshman while developing range later on. In his last two seasons, 36.8% of Joseph’s shots have come from three-point land this season, contrasted with just 18.5% of his shots in his first two campaigns. Playing a high percentage of minutes, Joseph has been about as consistent as they come his last two seasons when it comes to the common statistical categories:

Minutes Per Game:
2010-11: 32.4
2011-12: 31.2

Points Per Game:
2010-11: 14.3
2011-12: 13.2

Shooting Percentage:
2011-12: 43.8%
2010-11: 45.6%

Three-Point Percentage:
2010-11: 36.6%
2011-12: 36.8%

Free Throw Percentage:
2010-11: 71.1%
2011-12: 76.3%

Rebounds Per Game:
2010-11: 5.2
2011-12: 5.0

Blocks Per Game:
2010-11: 0.65
2011-12: 0.63

While blocking shots is far from the most important skill for Joseph’s position, it indicates how amazingly thorough Joseph has been in his consistency. Fans who ask a lot from the team may look at the steadiness and ask why he hasn’t been markedly better as a senior. While that would be a fair question in most scenarios, he just so happens to play for a team with so many weapons that to take on more responsibility may actually hold the team back. If you’re looking for some areas of improvement, however, Joseph is shooting a career-best 76.3% from the free throw line and is sixth in the conference with an 11.2% turnover rate.

As the Orange close out the regular season with little to play for but an unblemished home record and momentum heading into the postseason, there will be plenty to remember about the outgoing seniors. While Joseph and Jardine are the unmistakable leaders of this year’s Syracuse team, let’s hope for a margin wide enough that Jim Boeheim can sub in senior walk-ons Brandon Reese, Matt Tomaszewski and Nick Resavy to get them a nice ovation as well. They’ve certainly earned it.

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