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Syracuse Basketball Throwback Thursday: Paying Homage to James Southerland III

Big Game James waited his turn at Syracuse and eventually turned himself into an unerring threat from deep.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

James Southerland III came to Syracuse from Cardozo High School where he played for legendary coach Ron Naclerio, who also coached a guy named Rafer Alston. Southerland also attended Notre Dame Prep for a year, the same school that produced Paul Harris, before becoming a Syracuse Orange.

Southerland got off to an auspicious start at Syracuse by going 7-for-7 in his first exhibition game, making 5 three-pointers. The fast start would prove to ephemeral as Southerland would only appear in 13 games his freshman year.

In his sophomore year, Southerland would receive more minutes thanks to Wesley Johnson's departure to the NBA. Still behind Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and now freshman C.J. Fair in the rotation, Southerland would play just 14 minutes a game. He did start two games in his sophomore campaign against Pittsburgh and Seton Hall and posted a then-career-high 18 points against Morgan State.

Southerland started to accelerate in his junior season, playing in all 37 games. Syracuse and Kentucky were without question the two best teams in the nation in the 2011-2012 season. Big Game James would live up to his sobriquet when he hit two huge jumpers late in the game in the Big East Tournament to beat UConn.

Without Southerland, Syracuse might have been the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. Syracuse struggled mightily against a troubling UNC Asheville team -- they needed every bit of Southerland's 15 points and 8 rebounds to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He would go on to have another stellar performance against a good Kansas State team that featured Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez. Southerland finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks an assist and steal to help lead Syracuse to the Sweet 16 and eventually the Elite 8.


In his senior campaign, Southerland got off to another auspicious start dropping 75 points in a three-game stretch against PrincetonColgate and Arkansas. Agh, remember that Arkansas game?

Surely without Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams that game would have gotten ugly in a hurry. That would eventually be Arkansas' lone loss at home that season. That game would place Southerland on the all-time list at Syracuse for the most three-pointers made in a single game with nine. Southerland is tied with Gerry McNamara, Andy Rautins and Trevor Cooney for that record.

The reign wouldn't stop there as Southerland would drop a combined 43 points in the Gotham Classic against Canisius and Detroit, respectively. Heading into Syracuse's final season in the Big East, the Orange would face a tough stretch of basketball after losing Southerland to suspension. Syracuse would lose two games in the senior sharpshooter's absence. Even with Southerland back from suspension, Syracuse continued to lose three straight games at one point and four of the last five games during Big East play. The Orange looked dead in the water heading into the Big East Tournament after getting blown out at Georgetown 61-39.

But then there was James Southerland, disguised in his white Syracuse uniform, playing against Seton Hall in the first game of the last Big East Tournament as we knew it. What a facade that was as Southerland was masquerading his role of white knight for a Syracuse team in desperate search of offense.

Southerland would connect on six shots from deep in the first game against Seton Hall, leading Syracuse to a 75-63 win over the Pirates. He wasn't done yet.

Southerland would continue his hot-shooting in the next game against Pittsburgh by going 6-of-6 from range, the most threes attempted in the Big East Tournament without a miss. With the win over Pittsburgh, Syracuse would advance to the Big East semis to face a familiar foe: Georgetown.

Syracuse was 0-2 against Georgetown in the regular season. Otto Porter came to light up the dome in the first meeting, spoiling Carmelo Anthony's retired jersey ceremony. Then, there was the aforementioned defeat to Georgetown at the Verizon Center. A little foreshadowing, perhaps?

But first, what would then be deemed as the final meeting between Syracuse and Georgetown was underway with a tip that went from Rakeem Christmas to Michael Carter-Williams in Madison Square Garden, the arena that helped catapult the Big East into national supremacy. The ambiance was intense -- both teams understood what the game meant. It was a battle for the ages and it only seemed fitting that Syracuse and Georgetown, two titans that helped mold the Big East, would meet one last time in the world's most famous arena. The battle was legendary -- so much so that you should re-watch the epic clash. But seriously, this is a good game to re-watch if you have the time.

The game ended in a low-scoring, overtime victory that went to Syracuse on Southerland's 13 points. Trevor Cooney gave Syracuse a huge lift in the first half, scoring 10 points that were about as expected as Baye Keita's clutch free throws at the end of the game. And there was this.

Syracuse would lose to eventual National Champion Louisville the following night in the Big East Championship, but the Cardinals are probably the worst opponent to play when you've played four-straight days.

Southerland walked away from his and Syracuse's final Big East game with the most made three-pointers in a single Big East Tournament with 19.


Syracuse played so well through the Big East Tournament that they elevated themselves to a No. 4 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Southerland and Syracuse breezed though their first round match-up against Montana and beat Cal in San Jose to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years.

Coincidentally, Syracuse was set to play in the Verizon Center. (The same building Syracuse got embarrassed on in its loss to Georgetown) The Orange now had a matchup with arguably the best team in nation in No.1 seed Indiana. Syracuse pulled the upset as Indiana looked as though they had never seen a zone before. To be fair, Indiana had not seen much zone in the Big Ten and that proved to be the difference as Syracuse was moving on to the Elite Eight to face Marquette.

Less than two weeks before the loss to Georgetown, Syracuse lost to Marquette on their home floor. Fast forward to the NCAA Tournament and Jim Boeheim's club was playing some of the best zone to date. The Orange were able to hold the Golden Eagles to 39 points, the same amount of points Syracuse had against Georgetown just three weeks prior. Southerland led the way with 16 points and put Syracuse in the Final Four for the first time since 2003. That was a good year, if memory serves me correct.

The Orange would lose to Michigan in the Final Four. The loss stung initially, but in hindsight, making the Final Four that year was a tremendous accomplishment as many people had Syracuse losing early. Certainly nobody outside of Orange Nation expected Syracuse to make the Final Four.


Southerland bounced around the NBA and the D-League in 2013-2014 playing for the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Pelicans. In the next fall, Southerland would sign with the Portland Trail Blazers but was waived in October. Shortly after, Southerland signed with Limoges CSP of France.

People will remember him most for his magnificent run through the Big East Tournament in his final season and his easy-going, jocular personality. Southerland was a favorite because he was very friendly and connected with fans.

Fun Fact: Southerland chose to wear No. 43 because when you annunciate the numbers after his name it sounds like he just made a three. (James Southerland for three)

See some of Southerland's highlights below.