The 2009-2010 Syracuse Orange Basketball season featured a team that was incredibly talented all over the floor. Led by senior starters Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku, they also had junior starters Wes Johnson and Rick Jackson. The team featured some young talent off the bench with sophomore's Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, and freshman Brandon Triche rounding out the starting lineup.
SU was the consensus Number 1 team in the country, but things took a turn when starting center Arinze Onuaku injured his knee against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament. The Orange were ousted in the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament by Butler. Then the realization set in that the Orange would have to replace Rautins, Onuaku, and junior Wes Johnson, who declared for the NBA Draft.
The class of 2010 became very important. The Orange received commitments from Fab Melo and Dion Waiters, rated 14th and 15th by ESPN. The Orange got a commitment from C.J. Fair, a small forward out of Baltimore, Maryland that was 63rd overall in the ESPN Top 100 rankings. Baye Moussa Kieta rounded out the class of 2010, a 6-foot 10 center from Oak Hill Academy. Waiters and Melo both struggled through out their freshman campaigns, but Fair and even Kieta showed some good signs. In their freshman year, the Orange lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, but the four players were determined to get better next season.
In the class's sophomore season the Orange went 34-3, eventually losing in the Elite Eight. Both Melo and Waiters lived up to their reputations coming in. Fab Melo became a standout in the zone, challenging shots and averaging 7.8 points per game to go along with six rebounds per game and most importantly three blocks per game. Perhaps the most telling stat that Melo has going for him was his average +/-. According to SportsRefrence.com, when Melo was on the floor, he logged a +/- of +10.3 when on the floor per 100 possessions. Melo was arguably the most important player for the Orange during the 2011-2012 year, and when he was suspended for the NCAA Tournament, his presence was missed in the middle of the zone. Melo went on to become a first-round draft choice for the Boston Celtics in that year's NBA Draft.
Waiters came off the bench for the Orange that year. The lengthy guard was a menace in the 2-3 zone, challenging shots and getting his hand in passing lanes. Waiters was the Sixth Man of the Year in college basketball and was a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. He averaged 12.6 points per game off the bench and also averaged nearly two steals a game. According to SportsRefrence.com, Waiters had a 5.0 win share, which measures the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense. His 5.0 win share was good for 10th in the Big East. Impressive that he contributed this much coming off the bench and only averaging 24 minutes per game.
C.J. Fair is one of the most recognizable Syracuse players in recent history. The 6-foot 7 forward came to Syracuse with the reputation of being a slashing forward. Fair was limited in offense in his first few seasons, but eventually developed a jump shot and became a great scorer for the Orange. Fair played in an astonishing 143 games for the Orange and won 119 of them in his Syracuse career, making for an average of just under 30 wins/season. Fair ranks 15th all-time in scoring at Syracuse, scoring 1,660 points over his career. Fair could score the ball, but he could also rebound. He ranks 16th all time in rebounding in Syracuse history with 818 boards in his career. Fair went on to star in the NBA D-League, and has spent some time in the NBA, though he can never really seem to stick around in the league.
The final player in that class, Baye Moussa Kieta, always made the most with his opportunities. Kieta would come into the game and man the middle of the zone. He always did a great job of protecting the rim and made sure he did not give up easy buckets. He became a fan favorite and always gave 100% effort. In the 2012-2013 season, when the Orange made the Final Four, Kieta appeared in all 40 games for the Orange and did an admirable job when asked to come in and play.
The class of 2010 were a part of some of the most impressive seasons in Syracuse Basketball history. They were a part of some of their best results in the NCAA Tournament too. Over their four years at Syracuse, they made the Round of 32, Elite Eight, Final Four and Round of 32. The Elite Eight and Final Four years were the two best back-to-back results Jim Boeheim ever had in his tenure at Syracuse.