Carmelo steals spotlight at Orange madness
The Syracuse team was already on the court when Orange coach Jim Boeheim gave the crowd of 20,000 in the Carrier Dome some great news.
He stepped to the center of the court bearing his name and declared ''There's one more guy here.'' He pointed to the tunnel at the corner of the building and yelled the name they all were hoping to hear.
New York Knicks' forward Carmelo Anthony jogged onto the court where he left his definitive mark during Syracuse's 2003 national championship season.
It was all part of Syracuse's annual Midnight Madness on Friday night when the 2011-12 men's and women's teams made their season debut.
Tickets for the event were sold out.
''It's going to be exciting to be in front of them again,'' senior small forward Kris Joseph said before the event. ''I love the fans of Syracuse. They've definitely shown me a lot of appreciation for all my four years here.''
The night featured a legends scrimmage made up of former Syracuse greats including Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Hakeem Warrick, John Wallace and Gerry McNamara among others.
Wallace stole the show with a couple of slam dunks that brought back memories of his days with the Orange in the early 1990's.
The fans briefly chanted ''We want 'Melo,'' but their calls were to no avail, as Anthony didn't take the court for the game.
Following the former Syracuse players, the current roster wore their uniforms and scrimmaged. And defense was certainly not at a premium.
Newcomer Rakeem Christmas delighted the crowd with a dunk, while fellow freshman Trevor Cooney knocked down a 3.
The Syracuse women's team didn't play a scrimmage as it had in previous years, but was introduced to the crowd before the men.
Earlier in the day, both teams hosted their annual media day. When Boeheim stepped to the podium, he joked to reporters that he never knows when it's going to be his last one.
Boeheim went on to say that he's pleased with the group of players he has returning this season, and said his four sophomores especially - guard Dion Waiters, forward C.J. Fair, center Baye Moussa Keita and center Fab Melo - should benefit greatly from the experience they gained last season.
''We've got a good group of guys,'' Boeheim said. ''I think they've worked hard through the fall. They understand what has to get done are looking forward to getting started tomorrow.''
Syracuse finished 2010-11 with a 66-62 loss to Marquette in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Following the crushing defeat, Joseph said the only thing the Orange could do was move on and look toward this season with the hopes of avenging the early exit.
''When you lose, there's not much you can do,'' Joseph said. ''The only thing about the NCAA tournament, when you lose, there's no `Let's get them back next week.' You just kind of have to bite the bullet and move past it. But it was hard.''
Boeheim told the crowd this team can make a long run in the NCAA tournament, even reaching the Final Four: ''We think we've got a team that's certainly in the top five or six teams in the country. And if you're in that position, you've got to think you can do it. We're excited about this group.''