It’s the middle of June, and if you’re a Syracuse Orange basketball fan it’s been nearly three months since you last saw your beloved team on the court. Unless you’re a big NBA Draft fan, there isn’t much going on to sate your appetite for Orange hoops between now and Midnight Madness in mid-October. So, when a chance arises to see a few former SU players take part in a 3-on-3 basketball exhibition for a good cause… you might say "Eh, why not?"
Friday night your humble blogger made the trek to the Le Moyne College gym (more on that later) for this event, which is the tipoff to the third annual Salvation Army Turn Around Jumpers 3-on-3 Tournament. Truth be told, I didn’t have a choice, because I’m playing in the tournament over the weekend and needed to register my team. But, I figured while I was there I’d take a few minutes and see if these former SU greats still had anything left on the court.
Some observations while I was watching the ‘action’:
- The game was made up of a handful of former SU ‘legends’ who donated their time to come out and play. Among those playing were Mike Hopkins, Roosevelt Bouie, Lazarus Sims, and Arinze Onuaku. Current SU center Baye Keita and incoming freshman DaJuan Coleman watched from the bench, but did not participate. Hopkins joked that he was probably breaking an NCAA rule just by talking about them, which sadly probably isn’t far from the truth.
- Radio "Voice of the Orange" Matt Park was the master of ceremonies, and provided play by play during the game.
- Hopkins seems like a genuinely nice guy, very outgoing and pleasant. His personality couldn’t be more opposite from a certain curmudgeon we all know and love.
- Hopkins let slip during his address to the crowd that Sims, the current player development coordinator and assistant conditioning coach for the Orange, has taken a job as an assistant coach with Binghamton University. Tony Kornheiser will no doubt be proud. I hadn’t heard that info, so I guess Hopkins was breaking some news there.
- Hopkins also said that Onuaku was working out and getting ready for another shot at the pros, presumably angling for an NBA summer league or free agent camp invitation.
- Every time I step inside Le Moyne’s gym I am reminded of November 3, 2009. Is that weird?
- Le Moyne’s gym is a fine place to watch a game, but it looks like a typical small college or large high school gym. However, their new artificial turf lacrosse field sits right outside, and that place is NICE. It might even be nicer than SU’s.
- Bouie looks like he still plays at least semi-regularly, even at 54 years old. I just hope I’m still able to walk by then, let alone play hoops.
- Onuaku, Coleman, and Keita all stood near each other long enough for me to gauge their respective heights. If Onuaku is a legit 6’8”, then Coleman is about 6’9” and Keita 6’10” or 6’11”. If Onuaku is shorter or taller, than adjust those accordingly.
- Onuaku looks like he has been hitting the gym hard, and actually canned a couple of threes. He also airballed one, so take that for what you will.
- Maybe it’s because of his youth and newness (is that a word?), but more kids asked Coleman for his autograph than the rest of the players combined – including Keita. He signed every last one, as far as I could tell.
- Keita is as thin as Coleman is thick. However, Coleman looks to be a little bit leaner than he was when I interviewed him in January.
- Sims can still pass. He threw a couple behind his back that were right on target.
Here’s about five and a half minutes of the game, shot from just behind the scorer’s table. The three heads in front of me are Coleman (left), local sports radio host Chris McManus (center), and Park (right). The video is a little jittery, and I'm not sure why. For the record, they did announce the other two players, but I do not recall their names. Sorry about that, folks.