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From Orange to the NBA: Syracuse’s Most Celebrated Basketball Prodigies

The state of New York has been a hotbed for basketball talent over the years. From legendary streetballers like Wilt Chamberlain to college greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, many of the greatest players in history have New York roots. 

No college in the Empire State has produced as many notable NBA talents as Syracuse. Let’s take a look at some of Syracuse’s most celebrated basketball prodigies and their journeys from college to the big leagues.

Carmelo Anthony

One of Syracuse’s most successful alumni is undoubtedly Anthony. During his single season with the Orange, Anthony averaged 22.2 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals per game on his way to capturing Big East Rookie of the Year honors in 2003. 

He was also named Most Outstanding Player of that year’s Final Four after leading Syracuse to its only national championship in school history. After being drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the third overall pick in 2003, Anthony went on to become one of the biggest stars in the NBA during his 16-year career. 

As an 11-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist (2008 Beijing), he’ll go down as one of Syracuse’s all-time greats.

Derrick Coleman

Another former Orange who made a name for himself is Derrick Coleman. After four successful seasons with Syracuse, during which he became just the third player in school history to win Big East Player of the Year (1990), Coleman was selected first overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 1990 NBA Draft. 

Over his 13-year career with five different NBA teams, he managed to put together impressive averages of 17 points and 9 rebounds per game while making two All-Star appearances (1994 and 1995). His post-basketball career wouldn’t be too shabby either; he was inducted into Syracuse’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and currently serves as CEO/President for The Derrick Coleman Foundation – a foundation dedicated to providing educational opportunities for at-risk youth throughout Central New York.

John Wallace

An equally noteworthy member of Syracuse’s alumni roster is John Wallace – the 1996 Big East Player of the Year who led SU to a Final Four appearance (1996).

 After being taken 18th overall by the New York Knicks in the 1996 NBA Draft, Wallace spent 11 seasons with seven different teams, during which he posted averages of 7 points and 3 rebounds per game while also making a brief foray into rap music under stage names “John Rage” and “Rage”. 

In 2017 Wallace returned home once again when he joined Jim Boeheim’s coaching staff at SU where he continues to serve today as Director Of Player Development/Alumni Relations. 


The legacy left behind by these three players speaks volumes about how far basketball at Syracuse has come since its inception over 100 years ago. From small beginnings as part of an intramural sports program to its rise as one of college hoops’ premier programs today. 

While each player had their unique journey from college stardom to playing for various NBA teams across America, common threads connect them all – passion for their craft and a commitment to giving back both on and off-court. These traits ensure that they remain timeless figures within SU Basketball lore forevermore. And it all started with a simple orange ball. It remains to be seen what new stars will emerge from this university next.

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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