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Build a Syracuse Orange Basketball Player: Small Forward

TNIAAM writers play mad scientist in order to create the perfect SU basketball player.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

How do you create the perfect basketball player? Surely he'd shoot like Larry Bird and have eyes everywhere like Magic Johnson. He'd be a physical freak like LeBron and have Michael Jordan's indomitable will to win.

The TNIAAM staff have taken on the challenge of creating a Frankenstein monster of the perfect SU player, mixing and matching body types, physical skills and intangible attributes of the best players in Orange(men) basketball history.

Next monster mash: The perfect small forward.

The Invisible Swordsman

Body - Paul Harris. We are only talking about body, right??? Paul was the kind of athlete who looked more like a linebacker than a basketball player, and he could shed players better than Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. His flaws seemed to overshadow his strengths during his time at SU, but stature was not one of those weaknesses.

Physical Attribute - Stephen Thompson's explosiveness. Thompson was a very undersized small forward for the Orange at 6'3"( he also played guard, but played forward primarily during his So-Sr seasons). But to see him play was akin to watching a border collie catch a frisbee. He could fly high, and seemingly forever! He was an exceptional rebounder whose success on the glass was predicated by a combination of quickness and his ability to jump to the ball faster and higher than men who were often 8" taller than he.

Intangible -- Carmelo Anthony's smile. As I sit on my front porch drinking Country Time lemonade with my bloodhound, I think back on 'Melo's year in Syracuse and the one vision I can still recall clearly is that smile...that easy smile which always seemed to suggest that he and his team had things under control. It suggested that we were going to be alright...and man, in 2003 were we ever alright!


Body- Paul Harris. I cited Brandon Triche in the SG piece. Paul Harris makes Triche look like Steve Urkel. Harris was so strong, so powerful. Really, it was the only reason he was any good as basketball at all. He certainly couldn't shoot or dribble worth a damn.

Physical Attribute- Gotta go with the hops again and cite Wes Johnson. Aside from maybe Jonny Flynn (and it's close), I've never seen a Syracuse player get off the floor as quick as Wes did. And he was able to use that on both ends of the floor, finishing monster dunks on one end and being an uncanny weak side shot blocker on the other.

Intangible- Carmelo Anthony's versatility. Clearly there are many things that make Carmelo a great basketball player but, to me, his ability to do so many different things is the key. He can post up. He can shoot from deep. He can take you to the rim. He can shoot from mid-range. Being able to score from all areas of the floor is a lost art these days when kids are concerned solely with dunking and shooting 3's. It's the reason why I think that, although less talented than Carmelo, CJ Fair has all the tools to dominate his lone ACC campaign and to be a better pro than most are predicting.

Lisa Nelson

Body - I have to combine two: James Southerland and Paul Harris. James’ length was phenomenal for perimeter shooting. Obviously, he made shots, but he couldn’t do that right away – it developed. You can’t develop that kind of length. I wanted James to have a bit more strength, though, and that’s where Harris comes in. As I said for Dion in the SG post, strength makes you versatile in the paint, as well as from outside. Geez. Can we just think about this combo for a hot second? Dynamite.

Physical Attribute - Carmelo Anthony’s entire offensive game (except for the first half of the NCAA Tournament game against OK State – scrap that.) Spin moves and jab steps and cross overs, oh my! He could shoot from anywhere, anytime, but he’d also get aggressive on the boards or (gasp!) pass the ball if a teammate’s shots were falling more than his were.

Intangible - Wes Johnson’s positive energy. The 2009-10 team was great because of this guy’s electricity. He really created the chemistry. You could tell he loved being out there, and it made him fun to watch. Maybe he was just excited to finally get on the court after waiting a year. Maybe that’s just how he is. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I guess that’s why it’s called an “intangible.”

Jeremy Ryan

Body- Carmelo Anthony looks like he was designed to play forward. At 6'8" and 220 pounds, he was big enough to punish smaller players in the post and quick enough to take bigger players off the dribble. That size has translated to the NBA, where he is able to bounce between small forward and power forward, perhaps to the long term detriment to his career.

Physical Attribute- Hakim Warrick aside, Stephen Thompson may have been the greatest leaper and dunker in SU history. Standing only about 6'4", Thompson routinely crushed on defenders a half a foot taller, and was a terror finishing the Orangemen's vaunted fast break of the late 80s. With Derrick Coleman rebounding and Sherman Douglas delivering the ball right where it needed to be, no team was safe from a sudden 10-0 run, and Thompson was always right in the middle of it.

Intangible- Josh Pace was one of those 'glue guys' you hear about - the kind of player who would do whatever it took to get a win. He may have had the ugliest looking shot we've ever seen, but that didn't stop him from averaging nearly 11 points a game his senior season. He may have stood only 6'4", but he still grabbed 5 rebounds a game. He may have had a terrible looking shot, but he made 57% of them. He got the most out of his ability, and it paid off with a championship ring in 2003.

Dan Lyons

Body - I'm going to lump both forward spots together, because they are largely interchangeable in the Syracuse system. I think that this year's prime "make the jump" candidate Jerami Grant has a nearly perfect build for a Syracuse player at the three or four. He's between 6'8" and 7'6" depending on what reporter you ask and he still has a lot of room to fill out, and he's long and agile, making him effective in getting out on the wing.

Physical attribute - Raw athleticism: Wes Johnson and James Southerland are the two guys who come to mind in recent years. Both had crazy verticals which made them dangerous in the full court, helped them crash the boards, and gave them the ability to rise above defenders and hit contested threes. Wes was also great on coming from the backside wing to block shots, which was also due to his superior athleticism.

Intangibles- Rick Jackson's determination: Rick's legacy at Syracuse kind of gets lost in the shuffle because his 2010-11 team was not as memorable as the ones around it that were #1 in the country, went to the final four, or played in one of the greatest games in basketball history, but the transformation he made from his junior to his senior year was remarkable. He completely reworked his body and became a real force on the block, and a rebounding monster. There were games where he was absolutely unstoppable, and without him, Syracuse might have been a bubble team that year.


So, there it is, the perfect small forward. Did we miss someone? Be sure to build your perfect player in the comments. Check back all week as we go position by position.