With both the school year and several of our Fizz writers’ OrangeFizz careers coming to a close soon, it seems like an apt time to do some reflecting. Four years ago, a Fizz staffer who graduated in 2019 compiled a Top 5 list of memorable athletes during his time at the university. Four years later and in the spirit of reflection, it’s time to share some thoughts on which figures in SU athletics will always stick out to the Class of 2023.
Let’s begin with some honorable mentions, in no particular order.
Tucker Dordevic (Men’s lacrosse, midfielder/attackman, 2018-2022)
It speaks to the immense talent of Dordevic, who was a fixture on SU’s heralded men’s lacrosse team for four healthy seasons, that despite his contributions he still feels like his potential went unfulfilled. It’s certainly sad that Dordevic never got a legitimate chance to win a National Championship as so many members of Orange lacrosse had before him.
As a freshman in 2018, ‘Cuse hit an uncharacteristic lull and was bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. An injury cost Dordevic the entirety of 2019 before the pandemic wiped away then-No. 1 ranked Syracuse’s best chance at a title in 2020. Underachievement and scandal ruined 2021 before Dordevic, by then a redshirt junior, was asked to swap positions and play attackman in 2022 for a doomed 4-10 squad. The day after SU’s season-ending loss to Notre Dame, Dordevic transferred to Georgetown ahead of 2023. Neither Syracuse as a program nor its famed 2019-21 midfield line that Dordevic composed a third of ever fulfilled the lofty expectations placed on them.
Despite the yearly frustration, Dordevic still thrived. As the best player on a bad team in his final season in Orange, Dordevic put up 47 goals and 59 points. The latter statistic marked the most for any Syracuse player since standout Dylan Donahue in 2016. For his career, Dordevic started 47 games, put up 124 points, and earned USILA Third-Team All-American Honors in 2021 and 2022.
Tiana Mangakahia (Women’s basketball, guard, 2017-2021)
SU’s Class of 2023 only saw Mangakahia play for the Orange for a single season, but the setback that held her out of the 2019-20 season eventually became an inspiration to all who watched her. Mangakahia was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in June 2019 and missed the season while undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy, but persevered to return to the Orange and later continue her professional career in her native Australia.
Mangakahia’s eventual return to the court coincided with SU women’s basketball’s post-pandemic comeback. In Mangakahia’s 2020-21 debut, the fifth-year guard started on opening night and dropped 16 points on Stony Brook. Mangakahia’s return helped the Orange stay ranked and eventual 11.4 points per game helped lead SU to an eventual NCAA Tournament victory.
For her Syracuse career, Mangakahia started 84 games and averaged 15.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game.
Oronde Gadsden II (Football, tight end, 2021-present)
Gadsden is one of the more recent entrants to the list, but his breakout 2022 campaign for Syracuse football proved to be one of the more memorable seasons for an SU offensive skill player in recent memory.
Entering the 2022 season, the Orange were desperate for offense and had just ranked last in passing offense the year prior. Syracuse brought in Robert Anae to man offensive coordinator duties, and he promptly took Gadsden – a sophomore with two catches to his name – and turned him into a versatile receiving threat. Gadsden’s wide receiver-like frame and athleticism at tight end instantly created mismatches, and the Florida native exploited them at will to snag 61 catches for 969 yards and six touchdowns in 2022. Gadsden’s electric performance helped Syracuse to a 7-5 record and its first bowl berth since 2018.
Gadsden also provided the 2022 season’s most memorable moment in the waning seconds of the team’s Week 3 matchup with Purdue. An improbable 25-yard touchdown reception with seven seconds remaining in regulation pushed the Orange to a 3-0 record and an upset over the Boilermakers. If the 1980s had McPherson to Owens and the 90s had McNabb to Brominski, the 2020s very well may have Shrader to Gadsden to thank for its most memorable victory.
Now onto our list.
5. Kadary Richmond (Men’s basketball, guard/small forward, 2020-2021)
We’ve discussed missed potential, inspiration, and unlikely breakout candidates in this article so far. Former men’s basketball guard Kadary Richmond does not fit any of those categories; you could argue he’s not even that memorable a player or a very positive figure in Syracuse athletics history. Even if you take that side, you can’t deny that Richmond is memorable in the space he occupies in Syracuse basketball fans’ minds.
Richmond played only a single season in Orange (2020-21) and quickly flashed the potential that had made him a 4-star recruit in the SU’s Class of 2020 recruiting bunch. During an up-and-down season that culminated in a Sweet Sixteen run, Richmond was SU’s sixth man off the bench and only started three games. Despite a limited role, Richmond showed an acumen for steals and was a stronger, more aggressive defender than then-sophomore Joe Girard.
However, the reason Richmond is on this list is because of the rift he had with Jim Boeheim and his subsequent surprising transfer. Boeheim quickly soured on questions as to why Girard continued to start over Richmond and drew criticism for saying Richmond “never worked hard” after he had left the program. A year later, Boeheim suffered his first losing season. A year after that, SU’s longtime head man chose to retire. Richmond’s transfer definitely didn’t start the beginning of the end for Boeheim, but losing a star prospect and publicly criticizing him undoubtedly contributed.
For his part, Richmond’s 180-turn to transfer to Seton Hall in April 2021 was a shocker and marked SU’s first real loss of the insta-transfer era. The NCAA had just passed new rules to soothe the pandemic’s impact on college athletics that spring and Richmond was the first big-time name to ditch Syracuse for somewhere else. I remember where I was when he transferred, and I suspect most people on campus at the time do too.
4. Garrett Shrader (Football, quarterback, 2021-present)
Shrader is the other half of the Gadsden tandem that won Syracuse games in 2022. The North Carolinian has been entrenched as SU’s starter under center for the better part of three seasons going back to 2021.
Shrader transferred to Syracuse from Mississippi State prior to 2021 after he sporadically played quarterback with the Bulldogs and saw his role vanish once he changed positions to wideout. Shrader’s offseason battle for the Syracuse QB1 job with incumbent starter Tommy DeVito provided a lot of intrigue, and DeVito never firmly held his job again after Shrader arrived. Four games into 2021, Shrader was named the starter and DeVito never took another snap in a Syracuse uniform. The Orange improved from 1-10 in 2020 to 5-7 in 2021 to 7-5 in 2022 under Shrader’s watch, who brought newfound improvisational skills and mobility that Syracuse had sorely lacked.
No, Shrader has not been entirely consistent and no, he is not quite an upper-echelon ACC quarterback at the time of this writing. However, he’s a talented, gritty player who played through injuries in 2022 to get SU to its first bowl in four years and has provided Syracuse fans with plenty of excitement during his time on The Hill that was much-needed after two dreadful seasons prior to his arrival.
3. Meaghan Tyrrell (Women’s lacrosse, attack, 2019-present)
On a list so far populated with recent breakouts and yesterday’s success stories, Meaghan Tyrrell is the first legitimate star. Syracuse women’s lacrosse has been a perennial contender nearly every year since its introduction in 1998, and Tyrrell is just the latest transcendent talent to power the Orange to National Title-hopeful heights.
Since Tyrrell’s arrival in 2019, Syracuse women’s lacrosse is a combined 66-16 and has made the NCAA Tournament every year it was held. The record is no coincidence; Tyrrell’s production over her five-year Syracuse career has been astonishing. Thanks to impressive quickness and uncanny alertness on the field, the graduate attacker owns two All-ACC First Team Honors and a slew of program records to show for it, and ranks (at the time of this writing) third on Syracuse’s all-time points list. Tyrrell’s 2021 season (112 points, T-3rd most in SU history) is so far her best, but she’s on pace to eclipse that this year.
At the moment, Syracuse women’s lacrosse is No. 1 in the nation for the first time since 2014 and seeking its first-ever national title. A championship would be a fitting bookend on the career of one of its most prolific scorers and talents.
2. Sean Tucker (Football, running back, 2020-2022)
Sean Tucker could stake a good claim to be No. 1 on the list. His emergence from nowhere to defibrillate Syracuse’s football program in 2021 was a stunning one that defined a three-year era of SU football, including the last three that the Class of 2023 witnessed in person.
Syracuse entered 2020 fresh off a brutally disappointing 5-7 finish in 2019. The Orange began that season ranked, blew a shot at College Gameday, and eventually shook up its coaching staff. Things weren’t much better to start 2020; an 0-2 start saw Syracuse score just 16 points and rush for 119 combined yards. Tucker was a freshman at the time and began the year fourth on the running back depth chart behind Abdul Adams, Jarveon Howard, and Jawhar Jordan. Adams and Howard opted out prior to the season due to COVID concerns, and Jordan might’ve been the worst player on a Syracuse team that eventually finished 1-10. Tucker took over running back duties in Week 4 and promptly finished the year with 626 yards, the third-most ever for an SU freshman.
A year later, Tucker ran for 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to AP Second-Team All-American honors and nearly willed Syracuse into a bowl by himself. The Orange finished 5-7 but scored surprising wins over Liberty and Virginia Tech that injected some life into the program. Tucker was a famously unassuming star and never did win a bowl with SU, but the Maryland native is on his way to the NFL Draft this April with a laundry list of Syracuse program records to his credit. For a program and a fanbase that was in dire need of something to cheer for, Tucker fit the bill and then some in unforgettable fashion.
1. Buddy Boeheim (Men’s basketball, guard, 2018-2022)
Buddy Boeheim is our final entrant on this list and barely gets the nod over Tucker because of what he achieved during his Syracuse career. Boeheim didn’t get as far in the tournament as other ‘Cuse players throughout history but provided SU basketball fans with their deepest NCAA Tournament run over the past four years.
Boeheim was a consistent presence in SU’s lineup beginning in 2019-20 when he became an everyday starter for a team with tournament aspirations. Together with leading scorer Elijah Hughes, the Orange looked to be ready for a tournament run in 2020 before the pandemic wiped away the postseason. Boeheim got his chance a year later to fill Hughes’ shoes and make the tournament and fulfilled both goals. Despite a cancellation-marred schedule, Boeheim thrived to set new career marks in scoring (17.8 points per game) and three-point efficiency (38.3%) that would become his calling card. As an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament, ‘Cuse faced No. 6 seed San Diego State. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone befuddled the Aztecs, but Boeheim’s shooting display (30 points, seven three-pointers) helped build a giant early lead that the Orange never relinquished. The second round against No. 3 seed West Virginia was more of the same – Boeheim scored 25, nailed clutch free throws down the stretch, and helped SU glide to the Sweet Sixteen.
The 2021 run proved to be Jim Boeheim’s final tournament appearance and is still one of the more exciting SU sports memories that the Class of 2023 holds. Boeheim now plays in the NBA, but his legacy at Syracuse is that of a one-time ACC leading scorer and clutch postseason performer. For that, he stands above all others on this list.