SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Paddy Casey never could’ve expected this.
The division II transfer who walked on at Syracuse couldn’t quite believe when Gerry McNamara offered him a spot on the team last year. So when buses from his hometown of Scranton came up to Syracuse on Saturday—equipped with Fatheads with blown up images of Casey’s face—to watch him hopefully get a few minutes of game action against Boston College, it surpassed his expectations. The whole experience at Syracuse has, really.
“The fact that I get in the game in the Carrier Dome,” Casey began, “I wouldn’t even say it’s a dream come true because eighth grade, freshman year of high school I was like, ‘I’m not going to play at that level.’ So you kind of move on. So this entire year I’ve been trying to soak it in as best as possible.
“A lot of me on the court there is eight-year-old Paddy. Like ‘Oh my god. You’re at the Carrier Dome. You just scored.’ It’s so surreal. It’s completely exceeded my expectations. This program is unbelievable, especially with the walk-ons. I’m enjoying every single day.”
Casey has made the most of his opportunity at Syracuse and on Saturday his teammates were well aware of the support he was receiving.
“I know there was a couple buses that came this way from Scranton,” Jimmy Boeheim said. “We were all really fired up on the bench.”
The Syracuse team knew Casey had some extra support in the crowd on Saturday and they wanted to ensure a chance for Casey to play. They would do just that, as Syracuse was holding a 20 point lead with just over a minute left, Casey entered the game. As usual, it didn’t disappoint. McNamara probably instructed Casey to “peel it” which is Scranton vernacular translated to “shoot the ball.”
But Casey missed his first shot attempt, a step-back three with 30 seconds left. He says he laughed to himself about the missed chance.
“I thought that was my only opportunity,” Casey said.
But Symir Torrence wouldn’t be having any of that. The Syracuse native dug up a steal and alertly threw the ball ahead to a leaking Casey for a breakaway layup. He made the bucket and was fouled on the play.
The People's Champ: @PaddyCasey31 pic.twitter.com/ZV6KZgBPq1— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) February 19, 2022
“Sy made a really good defensive play and then I kind of ran out and there was no one in front of me. He threw me the pass up and I was so nervous I was going to smoke it and miss the layup. Fortunately it went down and the free throw went down too,” Casey said.
The Carrier Dome was at its loudest when Casey scored. The student section has been exuberant all season, but on a day where the Carrier Dome crowd would pale in comparison to what attendance will look like for this Saturday’s game against Duke, there was a particularly raucous section over by the Syracuse bench.
“So that’s just Scranton people. They organized a bus trip for this game. My parents put it together. Everyone from Scranton—all my family and friends—have been so supportive of this process. They’ve been saying they wanted to come up to a game so we kind of organized it for this game. They printed out those fatheads—which I didn’t know was going to happen—it was pretty funny. My teammates and I were getting a kick out of it looking into the stands.”
Kids from Casey’s neighborhood in Green Ridge, Scranton, made Fatheads for the hometown kid. There were at least three.
“They put them on the jumbotron at one point too,” Casey said. “So it was cool to see that.”
Scranton, PA @Coach_McNamara @PaddyCasey31 pic.twitter.com/lIOrU5Lnwv— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) February 19, 2022
Casey’s unsung efforts in practice have been greeted with less fanfare. His work has been rewarded and he’s scored in three of the five games he’s played in. But after Saturday’s game, Jim Boeheim made sure to mention how Casey face-guards Buddy Boeheim the whole time in practice.
“He plays Buddy about as hard as anybody does,” Jim Boeheim said. “It’s been good for Buddy because every day he gets somebody right in his face. Paddy’s really good.”
Casey thinks his best skill is working hard and giving maximum effort. His goal is to give Buddy the most realistic defensive look he can as it relates to how opponents will guard him.
So it’s of no surprise that Buddy thinks it’s awesome when Casey gets a chance to earn minutes with an opportunity to score. He knows the fans love it. He can relate, as he admits seeing walk-ons score was his favorite part of Syracuse games growing up. But Buddy acknowledges Casey’s hard-work in practice and says he’s one of the best teammates he’s ever had.
“He’s helped me a lot honestly,” Buddy said. “He guards me very similar to in-games, just pressuring me, being physical with me whenever I try to drive.”
Jimmy Boeheim backed that sentiment.
“He’s great in practice every day. He’s awesome for us. He pushes every day. He’s a great teammate. He’s everything you could ask for,” Jimmy said.
“He could play somewhere I think,” Buddy added.
Knowing that Casey had a pair of buses that made the trip from Scranton, Buddy wanted to ensure an opportunity for him to get minutes with Syracuse’s play. But he also had to mention it to the Syracuse head coach too.
“I made sure to let my dad know to get him some minutes to get him a look. We made that happen,” Buddy finished.