Yes, me, I'll tackle this one, Sean! A chance to write about one of those quintessential Syracuse Orange men? A player who not only stuck around the program for four years, but chose to develop, to get better, to work each and every season. Yeah, I can answer the question: was it worth it?
Hell yes it was worth it.
Geez, how do I put this one into words, though? Where do I start?
That's typically where I find my writer's block, before I even put fingers to keys. You wouldn't believe how many times I've had a post for this site, or a script to file for an editor all set for print only for me to highlight and delete. In fact, this is the second go-around for this very column.
Any work is always in progress until it's finished, right? That's what I tell myself anyway.
Okay, let's go with that to start.
It's a phrase that seems a pretty astute reading on Fair. We know he came to Syracuse a little under the radar because of Fab Melo and Dion Waiters. Then Fair accumulated a few DNPs his freshmen year -- a 'tweener without a jumper with a lot ahead.
Then that Pittsburgh game in 2011 came, the game where SU was down 18-0, the game where Carl Keith Fair: the frosh became C.J. Fair: the Guy Who Is Always There When You Need Him. I already wrote about 1,000 words on just how defining that game was for Fair; 36 minutes of what would eventually be classified as hardnosed basketball. A rebound, or a layup or help on defense needed and Fair was there and he's been there ever since. A forgettable loss to the Panthers left a lasting impression and groundwork for a legacy.
Well, that's a little hyperbolic. I mean, if C.J. Fair had come to SU and then bolted a couple years later, well, then that loss in January of 2011 probably wouldn't still register for me and so many Orange fans.
Still, that's kind of the point here: we've had three more years of Fair being the Glue Guy all while growing into something more. He's become the legitimate leading man of a program that's coming off of an Elite Eight in 2012, a Final Four just last year and is 27-4 right now. So, not only has Fair's role and overall play increased each season, the team has gotten better too. There's been some lumps, but they're supposed to be there every story needs a few good conflicts -- besides, any mistakes always seemed corrected rather quickly with Fair.Something not seen out of the young-ins that come and go and work on "issues" on the next level.
Come to think of it, we criticize the one-and-dones, the AAU-ing of college basketball; we pick apart Kentucky for being a factory, a sweat-shop of sorts, for the NBA. But do we truly appreciate the players that stay in school and that continue to get better or do we make jokes?
"Aaron Craft is a 45-year old senior!"
"Doug McDermott used to have to climb the ladder to get the ball out of the peach basket during his freshmen year!"
We get sick of them. Something that goes double for rival fan bases.
But truth is, college basketball is 100 times better because it has Craft (someone I've come around on lately), McDermott and Fair this season. The guys that build themselves and, either directly or indirectly, build their programs. Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and even Tyler Ennis are a treat to watch, special talents designed for bigger and better things sooner than later. Come five or ten years from now? I'll probably remember the guys who stayed and paid their dues more than most of the one-and-dones -- save for you, Carmelo.
Fair is worth remembering.
Was it worth it to come back? The way I see it, there wasn't another option, plus the NBA wasn't exactly calling last summer. Is it now? That's debatable. If Fair goes in the second round this June I don't think he'll lament his decision to come back because I don't think he would have even been drafted in 2013 -- even after the run to Atlanta in April.
I guess I probably could have been more analytical with my post on Fair, right? Breaking down mock drafts from '13 and comparing them to some expert's thoughts now. Telling you that another year in the program, learning and working and developing a jumper (oh that tricky 3-pointer, C.J., the one shot that decreased in probability each season), will help on the next level. But, really, I don't know if any of that is true, and who the hell cares anyway? He'll have a couple of more weeks to impress the scouts and NBA general managers, he'll have the workouts in Chicago and the interviews with teams to show his stuff.
A chance to convince a group of "professionals" -- who are better classified as the Terminally Stupid -- that they should employ him. Imagine that? Fair having to show himself worthy...again. Thank God college basketball, for all its flaws, isn't as screwed up as the NBA. Actually, the story of C.J. Fair, for now, shouldn't even be bothered with the NBA. That stuff is the ancillary side plot right now.
Fair's narrative is central to Syracuse and to its fans, his growth has lead to so much good for all involved, which means much more than any draft status.
So...now is where I should try to tie things together and close on a high note -- Costanza it. I got through the lede, I think, and it feels right to wrap it up. But Fair's story, even as I write and rewrite this, isn't over yet, making it tough to click the final period. Which, in all reality, is probably good for me. Because while I had to pick any number of ways to start off this post, the ending is up to him to write -- and if history has shown us anything, C.J. Fair will come through in one way or another.
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