Syracuse Basketball Preview: Appreciating C.J. Fair

USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Fair could have gone pro last summer, but we that wasn't meant to be, and that's a very good thing for everyone.

Let's be real, C.J. Fair had no choice but to come back to Syracuse for his senior season. Sure, Fair's name was thrown into the NBA conversation, with it even showing up in the latter end of the first round in the "expert" mock drafts.

And of course, this happened:


Fair putting the future number three pick in the 2013 NBA draft on a poster! And Otto Porter is far from the only opponent forever trapped in a YouTube wormhole by the kid from Baltimore.


Actually, it didn't take long for Syracuse fans to realize Fair was something special.


Hot! Damn!

But jaw-dropping dunks aside, Fair had no guarantees of being selected in the lottery portion of June's draft. It was a crapshoot that could have ended with a late first round selection or a not even being taken at all. And while Fair wanted to turn professional, everyone smart around him had to explain that coming back for a fourth year on the Hill was the only real option.

Which sounds like an insult, right? Like I'm somehow demeaning Fair's game by saying he had to stick at Syracuse. That he's not good enough to play on the next level. But the thing is, I love Fair's game and I think it does translate to the NBA.

But obviously, Fair isn't in the NBA. Instead, he's going to be continuing his steady C.J.-Fair-like climb up the all-time scorers list for Syracuse University. Showcasing exactly what the college game should be about: A player who puts team and winning above self and statistics. Someone who grows on the court right before our eyes. He's gone from raw to legit and now it's his time to be The Man. It's about maturity on the court and his work ethic paying off before getting paid.

A rather perfect imagery for the Orange fans. Fair is doing what an Etan Thomas or Hakim Warrick has done before him. Every season on the floor, C.J. Fair has gotten better.

  • 2010-11: 18.6 minutes per game - 6.4 ppg; 3.8 rpg; 0.8 spg
  • 2011-12: 26.4 minutes per game - 8.5 ppg; 5.4 rpg; 1.1 spg
  • 2012-13: 34.9 minutes per game - 14.5 ppg; 7 rpg; 1.1 spg

And those numbers don't even take into account Fair's shooting percentages, which have improved to the point that he shot nearly 47 percent from three last season. Sure, he's not exactly Steph Curry from distance, but that's dedication. Locating and understanding a flaw in his game and then working to correct it. Imagine if a Billy Edelin or a Josh Pace developed the shot their games lacked?

I should also point out that Fair has become a more than competent free throw shooter, hitting nearly 75 percent free from the charity stripe.

So why was I so confident that Fair wouldn't go pro? What NBA general manager wouldn't want them some C.J. Fair? Size and a still-developing jumper hurt. Plus, is he a three? Does he have the right body structure to play at the four spot? A 'tweener lacking the standard NBA qualities, right?

Simply put, he's a player without a defined role.

That's how the professionals see Fair. And you know what? Good. I'm glad I was right, that he's back again. Let those idiot GMs turn to teenagers with attitudes; the next big star has to be someone scouts and front offices have all been waiting for since they were in the third grade. So let them wait for Wiggins, we'll all sit back, get comfy, and laugh as we watch C.J. Fair give us more of this:


If there is a way to sum up C.J. Fair in one game instead of highlight reel clips, I think I have the perfect choice. Let's go back a little. Remember January 17, 2011? It's okay if you don't, as you may have that game tucked far away in the recesses of your mind. But that Monday night in western Pennsylvania saw no. 3 Syracuse trailing no. 4 Pittsburgh, 19 - 0. A safety away from a three-touchdown deficit, to start the game!

And then the freshmen on that Syracuse team not named Dion Waiters and Fab Melo scored three straight buckets. All of a sudden a nineteen point lead was cut to thirteen. Eventually the Orange got within four points in a game they had no business even being in. Fair finished with 16 points and nine boards and if there was any question coming in, he let it be known: C.J. Fair was here to play, and play he will.

That's been his calling card for three seasons. Sure, this season the offense will now be geared more toward the senior, the player who's waited his turn and is now will be labeled the unsung leader. It's supposed to be this big change. But it's likely to be more of the same. C.J. Fair doing what it takes for the team.

The NBA wasn't so sure about his game, but we are. We've known this for three years. When a rebound is needed, when a bucket has to happen, that's the time Syracuse turns to C.J. Fair and, of course, he'll be there.

Carl Keith Fair, Jr. will eventually find himself in the NBA. And all those experts will finally realize what they've been missing out on.

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