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 power forward.
Body - Derrick Coleman. A prototypical NBA-ready power forward, Derrick had the combination size, length, strength and coordination that Syracuse fans dream of. He used his physical gifts to pretty much do whatever he wanted to, whenever he wanted to.
Physical Attribute - Hakim Warrick's wingspan. Do I even need to elaborate here??? Kansas' Michael Lee would rather I didn't!
Intangible - Kristof Ongenaet's "cultiness". Every team needs a player whom the fan base can rally around....Someone who may drop a 2-1-1 stat line, yet every basket, rebound and assist is met with the kind of enthusiasm typically reserved for the liberation of a country from an evil occupying force. Kristof was that guy for us...a mussel pot of pure awesomeness.
Body- Hakim Warrick's length. If were were taking about the ideal basketball player overall, I might not pick Hak. He's woefully thin for a PF. But his Plastic Man length is perfect for the SU zone.
Physical Attribute- Derrick Coleman's versatility. Do yourself a favor. Go to YouTube and find some old videos of Coleman during his Syracuse days. It's not much of a stretch to say that Coleman was a proto-LeBron (though, of course, Magic Johnson is the best analog). There's nothing that Coleman couldn't do on the court and, most often, do well (except shooting FTs).
Intangible- Rick Jackson's toughness. Rick was the definition of blue collar. I don't think he spent more than 10 minutes total in his whole career more than 6 feet from the basket. Rick was the kind of player who would elbow you in the mouth and then make you apologize for it. He was a lunch pail guy both on the court and off.
Body - Rick Jackson during his senior year. After using the summer to get in great shape, he was listed at powerful 6’9”, 240 with a wingspan of 7’1”. With his increased speed and stamina, he had no trouble beating the other big men to the glass for rebounds, tip-ins, or blocks. His hard work was validated when he was named the Big East’s Defensive Player.
Physical Attribute - Warrick’s high-flying shenanigans. I had a hard time not putting Hak in the “Body” category, but I realized that we can keep the great stuff about him (the dunks, the blocks, the ability to start his layups from essentially mid court) if we put his vertical leap in our perfect player’s skill set. Add Jackson’s 20 pounds, and you have a flying freight train.
Intangible - John Wallace’s John-Wallace-ness. I don’t know what else to call it. Not only was he talented, but he also never backed down, was supremely determined, and was, without question, one of the greatest leaders in Orange. What’s more, he genuinely appreciates the Syracuse community to this day. Need proof? When told that the photo he took (and later signed) with a 12-year-old fan in 1996 was still hanging on her wall almost 18 years later, he actually gave her a call, just to say thank you. May the fours be with you.
Body type- If you had to build a power forward, could you do any better than Derrick Coleman circa 1990? 6'10", 230, long arms, athletic, left handed (an underrated attribute), and soft hands that snatched every rebound he went after. He could have and should have been one of the best NBA power forwards off all time, but he WAS one of the best college players of all time. That's good enough for me.
Physical attribute- Hakim Warrick had the longest arms and the most brutal college dunks I have ever seen. Remember that 2005 dunk at Notre Dame, where Warrick pump faked and wrecked shop on Dennis Latimore like he was Inspector Gadget? Even Royal Ivey feels bad for Latimore after that one.
Intangible- John Wallace was that guy who just knew how to win. I was an SU sophomore in 1996 when Wallace led a group of overachievers to the Final Four, and the Georgia and Kansas games are probably the two most exciting basketball games I will ever witness. Wallace's pull-up three in overtime vs. Georgia likely took years off of my life.
Body - I'm going to lump both forward spots together, because they are largely interchangable 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 Syracuse power forward. Someone we missed? Build your perfect player in the comments. Check back tomorrow as we build the perfect SU center.