As they have for centuries, this post begins with a question on Twitter.
@NunesMagician Random thought: Zack Mahoney is probably SU football's all-time walk-on MVP. Who's his basketball equivalent?— dagsly (@dagsly) February 10, 2016
Hmmm. Well I think if we're going to even have this conversation, we have to draw a line in the sand and basically only consider Syracuse Orange basketball players from the "modern era," a.k.a. The Jim Boeheim Era. Otherwise, you've got decades full of guys who didn't have scholarships or who had football scholarships but also played basketball and it all gets a bit humbly. For example, Jim Boeheim came to Syracuse as a walk-on but earned a scholarship and became a starter. That's not what we're looking for.
Second, this person either has to have been a walk-on for their entire Syracuse career or at the very least been treated as such. There's a few guys who picked up schollies in their final year or two but that wasn't because they ended up getting good minutes. It just kinda worked out that way.
So saying all of that, who's in the running?
Justin Thomas: No discussion of memorable Syracuse walk-ons is complete without mentioning Thomas, who played significant minutes in the epic SixOvertimes.com game. Perhaps his stat sheet impact was minimal but that game was the rare time SU needed a walk-on to step up and contribute and he did his part. He also did some fabulous jumping jacks on the sidelines when he wasn't playing.
Donovan McNabb: McNabb kinda breaks the rules I just created but he's also Donovan McNabb. Breaking rules is his thing (for better or worse). The football star spent two seasons with the basketball team and ended up career-best, ten-point performance against Georgetown, which a big block of a Jahidi White dunk. That alone merits consideration.
Russ DeRemer: I couldn't really tell you anything DeRemer did on the basketball court, but I remember fondly what he did off of it. He was an eating champion, defeating bananas, Buffalo wings, and Mother Cupboard's Frittata Challenge. What more do you want from a walk-on?
Brandon Reese: Reese is probably the walk-on who actually accomplished the most basketball stuff. He did earn a scholarship and saw action in double-digit amounts of games in three of his four seasons. He then parlayed his time into a pro career in Israel and Kuwait. He also almost played for Boeheim's Army before an injury stopped him. How many walk-ons got that chance?
Elimu Nelson: After trying out and not making it as a sophomore, Nelson made the team as a walk-on in 1993. Believe it or not, Jim Boeheim put him in during the first half of the 1995 season-opener vs. Tennessee, the first time a walk-on had ever done so under JB. Nelson stayed with SU as a grad assistant during the run to the Finals in 1996 and went on to become an actor with quite a few credits to his name.
Matt Tomaszewski: Matty T was known for a while as Mr. Perfect for his three-point shooting prowess. SU's "other big man" as a senior finished 7-of-10 for his Orange career from beyond the arc. He then went on to challenge Brian Scalaborine to a one-on-one game and...it didn't go well.
Ronneil Herron: Herron was a walk-on in the early 2000's who spent four years on the team. He was such a good free throw shooter than Jim Boeheim inserted him into the game against Michigan State where he promptly made both attempts. How many walk-ons would Boeheim ever trust with the game on the line?
Charlie Lockwood: Lockwood's walk-on career wasn't much to speak of. He spent one season with the team, appearing in six games and scoring six total points. His role, however, was really more for conditioning than it was for on-court success. That's because Lockwood's main gig at Syracuse was being one of the best lacrosse players in school history. One of the No. 22s, Lockwood was a four-time All-American, won a National Championship and went on to win two World Championships with Team USA.
Which one is the best, depending on your criteria? And did we forget anyone?