A Decade Later: How Carmelo Anthony Changed Syracuse Hoops Forever

His return trip to the Dome was a reminder at how much SU has been impacted by that season.

Ten years ago, can you believe it? The ’02-’03 season ended with Syracuse cutting down the nets in New Orleans, site of so much horror for the program before that. The kid that erased all those ghosts was back in the Dome this week.

The critics can howl until their orange-and-blue in the face about Carmelo Anthony. You’ve heard it all before: He doesn’t make his teammates better. He doesn’t play any defense. The offense stops when the ball touches his hands. He’ll never win a ring.

There are plenty of very valid criticisms of Melo as an NBA player (although many are breathlessly overblown because of the type of star he has become, and the city he plays in).

Some even point back to his college career and take potshots at being a one-and-done player. Did he even bother showing up on campus his spring semester? Was he at Syracuse for an education or an eight-month vocational program?

But one thing was made certain this week: Melo (and his merry band of underclassmen) made Syracuse basketball better. Forever. That was once again hammered home as the Knicks came to the Carrier Dome to play the Sixers in an exhibition game Sunday.

Scroll through Jonah Ballow’s Instagrams from the trip. That look of respect Melo is giving Boeheim on the stationary bikes is just priceless. There’s a general joy that Anthony has for his college experience. An earnest give back to the campus and the community. A bond that has deepened over the years.

There are plenty of reasons to wonder if Darryl Gross is the right man for the job. There’s always rumblings about how clumsy he is socially, how administrators in athletics don’t really trust him. He’s led us down the primrose path with Nike, allowing a sneaker company to have their way with SU’s jerseys and colors and swoosh-tastic-ness. (I mean, freaking Otto has a swoosh on him, now? Argh.)

But Gross’ ability to engineer Melo’s name on the front of the basketball practice facility is an enormous difference maker (although maybe we should give Boeheim the assist on this). How often does a program have a current professional athlete (not to mention super-duper star) donating $3M to his alma mater?

Eighteen-year-old recruits who view Melo as their idol are walking into his facility and looking at his history of just nine years ago. Amazing. And its working. Before Anthony, Syracuse was in a decade-long era of recruiting projects, instead of elite national talent. The classes before Melo included guys like Todd Burgan, Ryan Blackwell, Etan Thomas and Jason Hart. There were some stars (like Lawrence Moten and John Wallace), but SU wasn’t an NBA factory.

Look at what’s happened since Carmelo left for the league. Regular lottery picks (Flynn, Wes, Dion). First rounders (Hakim, Dont’e, Fab). SU is constantly fishing for McDonald’s All-Americans.

The three words are trite, but Melo changed everything. He took the monkey off Boehiem’s back. Now, The Per’fesser is viewed much more Peyton Manning than Dan Marino (he can win it all). His natural defense mechanisms softened, and Boeheim became a favorite for the national media (the local ones still seem to have their run-ins).

SU’s recruiting has only sped up, the Orange pluck from the nation’s best every year. Syracuse is a preseason top-10 program annually, looked at in the same regard as UNC, Duke, Kentucky and Kansas (albeit with less titles).

Now a decade gone by, Carmelo’s affect on the program is arguably getting more impactful every season. Say what you want about his NBA career. Throw all the grenades you want. Orange Nation knows the truth. The game changed when he stepped on campus. For good.

Posted: D.A.

22 Comments on this Post

  1. Melo has done a lot to raise the profile of an already highly regarded program – undeniable. One thing that needs to happen going forward is to have Syracuse players produce in the NBA. In recent memory it seems like most haven’t accomplished anything (if they even can stay on an NBA roster). Lot of pressure on Waiters after going much higher than anticipated at the 4 slot. Melo – who knows how he’ll pan out. Joseph looks like he’ll make the 15 man roster for the Celts, but won’t see the floor because they only dress 12.

    Hakim Warrick has been the best since Melo and he’s been mediocre. Demetrius Nichols, Johnny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Donte Green – not much traction. Granted some of those guys still have time to progress and I hope they do. Another issue is players leaving EARLY to not even get drafted… Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf……

    You’ve got to think Calipari, Coach K, Self, Roy W, etc are reminding recruits of the Orange’s lack of success in the NBA i.e. most elite HS players soon to be profession. If I’m Nerlens Noel (just one example) I’m probably choosing Kentucky over Syracuse too. They seem to have the best one year vocational program….

  2. ***referring to FAB Melo in the first paragraph questioning ‘how he’ll pan out’. Not the CarMELO – ha! oops

  3. D.A., thanks for the take. There’s no doubt that while Syracuse had a lot of success in the ten years before Melo, the title has taken things to another level. As you so aptly stated, Syracuse is now in on many of the top players every year. In the 9 years since Melo left Syracuse has gotten 6 McD’s AA’s, and in the 9 years before Melo they had gotten a grand total of zero. The guys’s impact on the program cannot be overstated.

  4. Jon – that’s a great stat about the McD’s AA’s. It opened the door and made SU a power broker. Program will never be the same – and thats a good thing.

  5. @mike, so outta all those guys from UK that have went in the draft how many of them even start? How many been NBA all stars? Look at their #’s they aren’t great.

  6. Patrick Oliver

    I agree DA.
    Go Carmelo!

  7. @Carlton,great response to mike’s post.Point counter point. Mike I believe that Carlton has you in “CHECKMATE”.

  8. @Ron – a post and a response equal checkmate? You play some quick chess, my friend

    @Carlton – of recent UK players – Jodie Meeks, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight, Rajon Rondo all seem to be doing pretty well… They had six guys drafted this year, including numbers one and two, some of whom I’m sure will add to this list. My point is not that every kid that goes through Kentucky becomes a star, but guys from Syracuse for whatever reason have not gone on to become above average players in recent memory, Carmelo withstanding.

    I’m not trying to knock Syracuse players, just noticing a recent trend that I promise you others (recruits and opposing coaches) do too

  9. Thank you Carmelo!!!


  10. John Wallace is still my favorite player because he stood in for 4 years and then went NBA first round.

  11. Okay, tied with Carmelo. We owe Carmelo a lot.

  12. You could argue John Wallace may have inspired or planted the seed for Carmelo to come to SU.

  13. @mike, rondo is not a cal guy. Meeks is a role player, wall has been awful an now is hurt. Cousins already got a coach canned an is a straight punk. He might be the best one outta the entire group. I’m sure AD will be good but I wouldn’t be shocked if the rest are busts that came out this yr from UK. My point is UK guys aren’t doin a lot at the next level. SU has a superstar an UK gots role players an bench warmers.

  14. I know Rondo is not a Cal guy, just a recent UK guy….

    Other recent Cal guys – Derrick Rose (one of the faces of the NBA) and Tyreke Evans from Memphis

    I feel like a Kentucky fan defending my opinion, but it’s just pretty clear to me… to my dismay I’ll add

    Also, I ask you this Carlton – Who on the current SU roster or incoming recruit (obviously difficult to judge) do you see as starter on an NBA roster down the road? Fair or Carter-Williams??

  15. Love this article. Keep up the good work!

  16. @Mike, Your statement was in context of Cal an the guys he’s coached at UK. That does not include rondo or rose. Cal has put a lot of guys in the league. No question about that but the # of guys that have panned out is pretty low.

    Guys coming in as recruits don’t know maybe Ennis? The other 2 in the current class need to develop and its hard to say what they will become. Now if they land Vonleh and Lawrence we have 2 one and done type guys that will be in the league someday.

    Current roster MCW will be on his way to the league after this season. I think by the end of the season he will end up being a top 10 guy. Fair is a tough call because i’m not at pratice. I cant tell if his jumper has gotten any better. If it has probably looking at him going in the draft. I think if he has improved your looking at mid to late 1st rd pick. Rak could also leave but again depends on his improvement. Hes gotten bigger but has his offensive skills gotten better? Does he have any low post moves? That is just for the upcoming draft. DC and grant both have a shot to be 1st rd guys as well.

  17. I almost never comment, but after reading a few of the responses on
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  18. see im from Baton Rouge i go to Woodlawn High school. I play fbooatll but i tried wrestling track. So with my school we work fbooatll everyday. During da season we have practice as normal but during off season we lift weights during 5th hour. then we do spring training for a week take about 2 weeks off. When summer starts we do more summer work outs which is alot of running lifting. yeah alot huh but dats jus fbooatll. now with wrestling our school wasnt known for wrestling so we jus did wrestlin only for da time between January to March then track started so i had to do both at the same time. wrestling ended it was time to do track meets. It was Over at da end of April for us we ended until this week where we have to run lift to get ready for track. so yeah it sound like a lot but its really not. im 6’2 . 235 lbs not skinny so yeah. if u really like it u wont mind it

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