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Syracuse Basketball: A Look at the All-Time Greats

The Syracuse Orange, iconic in college hoops, boasts a rich history of formidable victories, legendary coaches, and extraordinary athletes.

Under the stalwart leadership of Coach Jim Boeheim, the Orange made it to the NCAA national title game three times, achieved numerous appearances in the Final Four, and clinched an acclaimed NCAA championship in 2003. The legacy, however, is not solely built on team achievements. The players, their on-court finesse, and their devotion to the game have etched their names in Syracuse lore.

In this piece, we honor these athletes, detailing the careers of six of the most outstanding Syracuse Basketball players, chronologically listed from past to present.

Vic Hanson

Hanson, a forward who played from 1925-27, is undoubtedly one of the most versatile athletes in the history of college sports. Known for his agile footwork and impeccable shooting skills, Hanson left an indelible mark on the Syracuse program. His prowess saw him average approximately 14 points each game during his three seasons, a feat that significantly contributed to the team’s success. 

Hanson’s crowning achievement came in 1926 when he was pivotal in leading the Orange to their national title, as recognized by the Helms Athletic Foundation. His extraordinary talent and dedication to the game earned him the unique distinction of being the only athlete inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, cementing his status as a true Syracuse legend.

Dwayne “Pearl” Washington

“Pearl” Washington, who played as a guard from 1984-86, holds a revered spot in team history. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Washington was one of the most sought-after recruits ever in Syracuse. His exceptional skill set, which included a remarkable shooting accuracy of 52.6 percent, helped him maintain an average of 15.7 points per game throughout his three seasons with the Orange. 

Washington’s extraordinary talent for passing is also noteworthy; his 637 career assists place him fourth among all Syracuse players. His skill and charisma won him the hearts of many, making him one of the most popular athletes to play for the Orange. Sadly, “Pearl” Washington passed away in 2016 after a courageous battle with cancer, but his legacy continues to shine brightly within the Syracuse community.

Sherman Douglas

Sherman Douglas, known as “The General,” was a force to be reckoned with on the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team from 1985 to 1989. His outstanding performance as one of the greatest point guards in college basketball helped earn his team a national championship appearance in 1987, where they lost on a last-second shot by Keith Smart and Indiana.

Douglas showcased an impeccable knack for stealing the ball, with a total of 235 steals, which ranks third-best in the school’s history. His most significant contribution, however, was his extraordinary ability to create scoring opportunities for his team. Douglas set an initial Division I record with an astonishing 960 assists.

After his illustrious college career, Douglas went on to excel in the NBA, frequently paired with his college teammate, Rony Seikaly. He constantly proved his brilliance on the floor during his twelve-year professional career, exceeding six assists per game in his first five complete seasons, divided between Miami and Boston. His synergy with Seikaly was evident, as they shared the floor in four different seasons with the Heat and Nets.

Derrick Coleman

Derrick Coleman, a dominant force on the court from 1986 to 1990, left an indelible mark on Syracuse’s basketball history. His freshman year was marked by an impressive 19-rebound effort in the 1987 championship game, a school record that was unfortunately overshadowed by a crucial missed free throw, contributing to Indiana’s title win. Notwithstanding this setback, Coleman’s subsequent years at Syracuse were nothing short of stellar. He went on to become the greatest Orangemen post-player of all time, recording a massive 2,143 points, which still stands as the second-best in the program’s history and a record-breaking 1,537 rebounds.

Coleman’s transition to the NBA, though laden with high expectations as the No. 1 overall pick, saw him continue to excel as a formidable power forward. His initial seasons with the New Jersey Nets were particularly noteworthy, with an average of at least 18.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, earning him an All-Star appearance. Over a professional career spanning 15 seasons, Coleman maintained impressive career averages of 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Despite facing undue criticism, Derrick Coleman’s contributions to basketball, both at Syracuse and in the NBA, remain an undeniable testament to his skill and dedication to the game.

John Wallace

Wallace, a forward who donned the Orange jersey from 1993-96, is remembered as one of the top scorers in Syracuse history. He scored an impressive 2,119 points during his career, marking the third-highest score in the school’s record. His stellar performance during the 1995-96 campaign, where he scored 845 points, remains the highest single-season tally by any Syracuse player. Wallace’s scoring prowess is further highlighted by his career statistics: he ranks among the school’s top five in made field goals (784) and free throws (510). 

But his contribution was not limited to scoring alone. With 1,065 rebounds, Wallace showcased tenacity on the boards. The two-time first-team All-Big East selection had an average of 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists throughout his career. His unmatched skills and dedication significantly contributed to the legacy of Syracuse basketball.

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony, often simply known as ‘Melo,’ was an unforgettable presence during his time in Syracuse. In the 2002-2003 season, his only season with the Orange, Anthony set new standards for what freshmen could achieve.

Averaging 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game, his extraordinary performance was instrumental in leading Syracuse to its only national title in school history. His offensive prowess and ability to rebound placed him firmly in the spotlight and established him as a force to be reckoned with. After his breakout college season, Anthony was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. He quickly made his mark in the professional league and has since built a successful career, with ten All-Star appearances.

Despite his impressive career at the NBA level, Syracuse fans continue to remember Anthony for the single, stellar season he played there, where his remarkable talent and commitment became evident to the world.

Final Thoughts

As one of the most prestigious programs in college basketball, Syracuse has produced some of the greatest players in the sport’s history. Other greats that deserve mention include C.J. Fair, Rony Seikaly, Dave Bing, Gary McNamara, Lew Castle, and Lawrence Moten. Each of these players has left a unique mark on the program and contributed to its rich legacy.

As we look forward to future seasons and new additions to this list, it is clear that Syracuse basketball is built on a foundation of exceptional talent, hard work, and dedication. And with the help of college basketball odds, fans can continue to support and follow the success of these legendary players as they leave their indelible mark on the sport.

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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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