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Buddy Boeheim is one of March’s Best Stories

AJ Mast, AP

He simply can’t be stopped. Coming off a scorching hot ACC tournament, which was rewarded with first-team honors, Buddy Boeheim has scored 55 points in the opening two games of the tournament. That ranks second among players still in the tournament field, and third in SU history behind Gary Clark (1967) and Gerry McNamara (2004). The Orange advanced to the Sweet 16, where they’ll play Houston.

Buddy’s emergence as a national star calls for rehashing his story. It’s not what people might think.

The predictable part of the story is that Buddy grew up as an SU superfan. His recollection of the program’s history in his lifetime is dynamite. He was a ballboy. He got to skip school for March Madness. He ran into Bob Huggins in the locker room. There was always an understanding that Buddy wanted to play for Syracuse…. if he could.

“It was always for me coming here about whether or not I was good enough,” Buddy said.

He was not on track to play at Syracuse until the summer of his junior year. Playing for the Albany City Rocks, he led the Nike Summer Circuit in three point field goals made, and got attention from top coaches for the first time. Both Jim and Buddy point to a specific tournament, Peach Jam, as the turning point for Buddy’s chances to play at Syracuse. After watching Buddy hit seven threes, Roy Williams told Jim, “you better take that kid.”

He was 6-foot-6 and he had a jumpshot, and he was just barely good enough to merit a scholarship from Syracuse basketball. But coming in as the 349th ranked player in the country, there was little expectation that Buddy would contribute as an underclassman, much less star.

After a notoriously difficult start to his freshman year, Buddy picked up his play and sparked Syracuse’s offense off the bench late in the season. Sophomore year, Buddy started. This past season, he was the go-to scorer. Despite playing far beyond initial expectations, charges of nepotism emerged on social media whenever Buddy’s play faltered.

He has never made an All-ACC team, postseason or preseason, despite leading the conference in three-point shooting in two consecutive years, and finishing in the top-5 of scoring.

The 2021 NCAA Tournament is a turning point. No longer will casual college basketball fans know Buddy as ‘Jim Boeheim’s Son.’ No longer will anyone question why Buddy is on Syracuse, or why he plays so many minutes. No longer will he be left off All-conference lists. He’s a star. And, upon further review, he’s an underdog.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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