Syracuse Orange men’s basketball guard Joe Girard didn’t actualize the expectations he set for himself last season. After a solid freshman campaign in which he earned the starting point guard role, Girard’s play was volatile as a sophomore.
He put together good games early last season, but struggled with his consistency. A bout with COVID-19 last December didn’t help matters. Then a slump persisted through January and February until he turned things around in the NCAA Tournament.
In the time since, Girard has dedicated himself to improvement as he eyes a bounce-back season as a junior. He stayed in Syracuse all summer. He was on campus for both summer sessions and worked on his game every day. When he wasn’t honing his craft on the hardwood, he and Buddy Boeheim would escape the Melo Center for a round of golf. But he was motivated after last season.
“I had a lot of expectations for myself last year that obviously didn’t come forward,” Girard acknowledged. “I read everything on the internet. I’ve seen all the stuff. It’s all in the back of my head. It’s making me grind each and every day here.”
At media day on Friday, Jim Boeheim made note of Girard’s improvement in the offseason. Boeheim thinks Girard’s practices have improved. In a brief anecdote, Girard looked to have regained some his lost bravado in the team’s scrimmage Friday night.
“People forget he was not a point guard in high school. He’s played the position for two years. He’s been better than everybody out there on the internet thinks. The internet haters that want to hate on Joe like they hated on Buddy,” Boeheim said.
Girard still posted modest numbers in 2020-21. He finished the season averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. His defense and shooting splits of 35.5%/33.3%/78.0% need to improve, but he didn’t botch the entire season.
Still, Girard had a fire lit under him in the offseason. He went back to the well of hard work to find his confidence.
“Personally I think I’ve taken a big step. I think a lot of it is confidence as well. But that comes within working hard. I’ve been in the gym each and every day. Still doing it until this day. I’ve worked out with G-Mac a lot. I’ve worked out with the coaches a lot. At the same time, I’m doing stuff on my own which really matters,” Girard said.
Girard wants to prove critics wrong. But at the end of the day he’s more concerned with proving it to himself. For him, it’s about getting back to basics and returning to the competitive nature that landed him where he is in the first place.
“It’s more personal to me. I want to prove all those people wrong on the internet,” Girard continued. “But at the same time I want to prove it to myself to say I can do this and I want to do this. There’s a lot of places that I want to go, a lot of things I want to do. And in order to do that I gotta prove it to myself.
“I think that’s the biggest thing for me is just being the competitive kid I’ve always been, getting that mindset back to where I want to prove everybody wrong like I’ve always done.”