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Syracuse men’s basketball: Joe Girard III, and the mythologies we create

Let’s not get carried away just yet...

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As a high school player at Glens Falls, Joe Girard III was a prolific shooter who set records and lit up scoreboards. His accomplishments were news in New York state, at the very least, and obviously caught the eye of Syracuse Orange men’s basketball fans looking for a spark at guard in 2019.

Girard committed to Syracuse over the likes of Boston College, Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State — an impressive list for certain. But he was also a three-star prospect just outside the top 200 according to the 247 composite rankings. That’s not to decry him as a recruit or a talent with the Orange. Or even portray what his ceiling may be with SU. It’s just to point out where expectations should reasonably be for a freshman point guard.

And yet...

A quick look around the Syracuse fan base since he signed has revealed a fan base overly smitten with the player already, to the point where his floor (!!!) is Gerry McNamara (who recruited him). The hype around the 6-foot-1, 181-pound guard has only grown in the two games since, to the point where members of the student section were calling for Girard when Jalen Carey struggled early vs. Colgate on Wednesday night. Girard entered, the offense seemingly flowed better. And by the post-game presser, Jim Boeheim named Girard his starting point guard for Saturday’s game against Seattle.

“Mission accomplished” seemed to be the mantra for many Orange supporters in the aftermath, with even more outrageous fever dreams being ascribed to Girard. Such accolades would seemingly indicate the freshman has looked incredible in early minutes. But the actual returns: Four points and three assists per game on 3-of-12 shooting (2-of-8 from three).

Look, this isn’t even a knock on Girard, who did right the offense against Colgate, and has looked better than Carey thus far. It’s to point out that this fan base is very good at mythos building, and can sometimes get ahead of itself. Girard did come in with a bit of his own mythology as a record-setting shooter, yes. But the swooning reactions to Joe both before and since he started getting the majority of minutes at point guard do seem like a step too far at this juncture.

That’s not to say he can’t get to the lofty expectations set for him. He very well may, and we’ll be thrilled if and when he does. However, is it fair to apply such goals (being better than Gerry McNamara and far more ridiculous comparisons) to a three-star guard who’s averaging four points per game thus far?


We’ve been through this before, to varying degrees. Eric Devendorf was the next Gerry, and then he wasn’t due to a variety of factors. Gerry Terry Trevor Cooney was the guy, and then the fan base spent most of his final 1.5 seasons dragging the guy despite being a key part of a surprise Final Four run to end his career.

We’re seeing a similar issue in football right now (sorry to even bring it up), where there’s a constant need to compare Tommy DeVito to Eric Dungey, deifying the latter in a manner that the former could never possibly live up to — and sorry to break it to you, but Dungey didn’t either.

The same is happening with Girard, as we (as a group) continually ignore reasonable expectations to anoint him the second coming just two games into his initial season. It’s a weighty mythology he certainly notices, and perhaps even courted prior to coming to SU. But it’s one that makes absolutely no sense when looking at the current product: a freshman who’s managed the offense reasonably well while shooting poorly and struggling a little on defense. He can get past all of those things, certainly, and round into quite the player for Syracuse. We should probably just give him some time to do so, though.

Because when he struggles — and he will — you can’t just pretend all of this fawning never happened. And you also can’t use this current hype cycle against him when that happens, either. It’s why you shouldn’t build myths around the living. They’ll almost always fall short, even if not of their own accord.