Kris Joseph: The Ultimate Fan Favorite
By: Jeezy Sanchez
An unproven, unranked Syracuse Orange team rolled into Kansas City, MO for the CBE Classic, an early season tournament featuring national college basketball powerhouses like Florida and defending national champion, Kansas. It was a tall order for Syracuse, coming off a disappointing NIT loss to UMass to end last year’s frustrating season. Led by tenacious point guard, Jonny Flynn and his best friend, “Do It All” Paul Harris, the Orange had their hands full. In retrospect, SU had a very solid roster, featuring juniors Andy Rautins, Eric Devendorf, and Arinze Onuaku, as well as KRISTOF! and Rick Jackson. It’s really no surprise that this team was able to beat Florida, and follow that up with a come from behind win against the Jayhawks, solidifying Jim Boeheim’s squad as a national contender (those chances were squashed by Blake Griffin dunking his face off the backboard). More importantly, the game against Florida was a coming out party for a skinny freshman from Canada, who was more known for his t-shirt than his jump shot.
Kris Joseph, originally from Montreal, played two years of high school hoops in Washington, DC. Coming into Syracuse, he was the 54th best recruit by Scouts, Inc. To put that in perspective, Mookie Jones was ranked 34th (!). He was ranked a measly 114th by Rivals. I had heard very little about Joseph. However, a local news interview during KrisJo’s senior year of high school instantly won me over. In it, Joseph stated he was excited to get to Syracuse and have Paul Harris, OF ALL PEOPLE, be his mentor. I was smitten. Joseph was a smart guy, he was funny, and it was obvious he was more than just a good basketball player. As someone looking for a new favorite Orangeman, I thought I had my guy, but first I needed to see him play.
His first few games for the Orange were very typical of a freshman. He tallied 7, 2, and 13 points in the early season warm-ups. Joseph went 6 for 6 in his game against Oakland and the sleeve-wearing frosh had my attention. This guy was good. He was definitely a slasher, but his jumper looked smooth, and you couldn’t help but hold out hope that his brick-laying was correctable. Fast forward to the game against Florida. In the first half, Kris Joseph did something that Syracuse fans hadn’t seen since Carmelo Anthony and a senior Hakim Warrick: He hit a mid-range jumper. I don’t know why, but that simple play still sticks out in my head. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but as soon as that went in, I jumped up and proclaimed that he was the second coming of Carmelo (Note from Haggleman: This is true, Jeezy really did that). Dick Vitale, who probably didn’t know where he was that night, yelled that Kris was really good, not quite a “Diaper Dandy,” but we both saw something exceptional about this kid. KrisJo ended up with 10 points, commendable for a freshman seeing limited minutes, and more importantly, Syracuse won. The Orange went on to beat Kansas after an incredible block by Harris and a game-tying three by Flynn. On a team FULL of egos, Kris quietly began writing his story in the Syracuse history books.
His first season was far from spectacular, finishing with a 3.4 PPG average and shooting 40% from the free throw line. Not to mention 27% from three, it was tough for me to defend why I thought Kris was the greatest thing since sliced bread, despite getting run at center in the 6-OT game against UConn. But it was more than just basketball. He would become a bigger fan favorite in part because of several guest appearances on Syracuse.com’s “Scoop & Wes Show”. The outgoing and well-spoken Joseph, who wants to be a broadcaster when his playing days are over, made it obvious that his teammates loved him, which in turn, created a Syracuse team with the best chemistry since 2003. KrisJo found his outlet, along with the rest of his teammates, on Twitter. We all got a sneak peek into his life and the secret world of Syracuse basketball. He is charming on Twitter, constantly interacting with fans, including yours truly. Instead of relying on Syracuse “insiders” who make you pay to hear what players are doing, Kris engaged with the public, told them he was going to the mall, where he was eating, etc. He didn’t try to be liked, because it’s impossible not to.
The 2009-10 season was one of the best in SU history, with transfer Wesley Johnson leading the Orange to a 30-5 regular season, before a freak injury to Onuaku derailed the Orange’s magic run. Joseph was awarded the Big East Conference’s 6th Man Award, while averaging 11 points and over 5 rebounds per game off the bench. His three point percentage was an abysmal 22%. People began to question whether Kris could ever amount to more than a dunker. He proved his doubters wrong in his junior season, where he averaged 14.3 ppg and upped his outside shooting to 36%. Joseph was always a shooter, it was just a matter of time before everything clicked (See: Nichols, Demetris). Last year also marked the debut of the “Scoop & KRIS Show” as Joseph became the face of the team.
As soon as he became good enough to earn Nike’s praise by selling his jersey, I snatched one up, as well as any shirt I could get my hands on (thankfully, no dynasty shirt that year). I had a full-fledged man crush on him. A friend of mine once got a voicemail from Kris because of a mutual friend. He told her they should Skype sometime, and he was dead serious. My jealousy was unmatched. The point of all that is Kris is just a really good guy, with no baggage attached. He hams it up with reporters, as unbearable as they may be. No fights at a party, no flunked classes, no stolen credit cards, no cheesesteak incidents, and no arguments with the head coach. It was a rare thing for a Syracuse player to have no off-court drama. SU has had a recent bump in recruiting, and based on Twitter and the general reaction from his teammates, I firmly believe a lot of that has to do with the environment Kris has brought to this team. He has made everything fun, and at the end of the day, basketball is just a game to him. And as good as a teammate he was, he was just as good at making the highlight reels.
Over the summer, there were rumors of Kris leaving early and entering the NBA Draft. If the rumors were about any other Syracuse player, I would have believed them in a second. This was different. I knew Kris wasn’t leaving. He cared too much about the school, his team, and his fans. He is also smarter than most of the players we are used to and made the right decision to come back. This season, Kris Joseph has had another solid year on a loaded team with tons of depth. He plays less minutes, but still manages to average 14 ppg and puts the team on his back when necessary. At 29-1, Syracuse will be a favorite to win the national championship. By the end of his career, Joseph will be the winningest player in Syracuse basketball history. When you look at the players who have laced it up for the Orange, that is an incredible feat. He stated in an interview that when he has graduated and moved on to the NBA, he still wants to come back to Syracuse. He wants to be among the likes of Derrick Coleman, Lawrence Moten, and others who keep close ties with the program. Syracuse University has impacted his life as much as he has impacted the university.
Syracuse basketball will not be the same without Kris Joseph. I’ll never go quite as apeshit watching someone play hoops as I did watching him, in a good way, not a Scoop way. The program will be better because of him. Anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament, and regardless of what SU does, I’ll be sad to see the book close on a magnificent career. On March 3rd, he will play for the last time at the Carrier Dome, in front of 30,000+ people. I know for sure that there will be one fan, watching at home, getting teary eyed as he hoists his framed jersey up in the air. I hope even the most bitter of Syracuse fans get off their asses and give #32 a standing ovation when his name is announced. He’s earned it.
This March, I’m going to root for Syracuse, but more importantly, I’ll be rooting for Kris Joseph to finally get his One Shining Moment.
Scoop Jardine: No No No, Yes?
I am 22 years old. In mathematical terms, the Scoop Jardine era has made up approximately one-fifth of my Syracuse Basketball fan career. There have been times where it felt like it would never end, and there have been times where I wanted it to end sooner. I regret them all. I can say truthfully that I’m going to miss the Scoop Jardine era, and you know what? You will too.
Believe it or not, Scoop came to Syracuse five years ago, when the “Dynasty” era was about to hit full flight before it crashed and burned like something out of a Jerry Bruckheimer production. It should’ve been called the Dy-NASTY era for how horrible it was am I right or am I right? (EDIT: It’s not dead yet! Here’s proof) Moving on, in the wake of a bitter NIT season, Syracuse hauled in an incredible recruiting class, featuring five star point guard Jonny Flynn, five star small forward Donte Greene, four star power forward/center Rick Jackson, and everyone’s favorite, Scoop Jardine. (Sean Williams man, you really blew it.) Scoop was given four stars and was listed as a shooting guard, which is ironic when you consider he couldn’t shoot for a few years.
Scoop walked on to Syracuse University as an 18 year old kid. He will leave it a man. His freshman season was marred by a scandal in which he stole another student’s ID card. These days, with everything on campus run by electronic currency, it’s realistic to say Scoop could have used this ID card for almost anything at Syracuse University. In a classic Scoop move, he ended up buying cheesesteaks. The resulting suspension for Scoop began the most important period of his career. He could have sulked and quit. He could have transferred, especially considering he would redshirt his sophomore season. Scoop stuck around and dedicated himself to Syracuse basketball. The success story had begun.
Though he started his freshman season behind Jonny Flynn, Andy Rautins, and Eric Devendorf on the depth chart, Scoop was pressed into action due to ACL injuries to both Devendorf and Rautins. He finished his freshman season averaging a modest 5.5 points and 2.5 assists per game. The next year he redshirted due to a stress fracture in his leg, though with a healthy stable of guards, it was unlikely he would have much playing time anyway. In the offseason following his redshirt season, Scoop went to Boeheim wondering whether he would even play at Syracuse. Boeheim told him to lose weight and work on his shooting. If you don’t remember what Scoop’s original jump shot looked like, it was the basketball equivalent of Henry Rowengartner’s slingshot throw. There were some awkward herky-jerky motions that looked like a broken down pitching machine on its last legs.
***IMPORTANT*** There may be bad words in that video. I DON’T KNOW FOR SURE.
Scoop spent his whole summer between his second and third years at Syracuse working on his body. He returned in the fall a trimmer version of himself with a better jump shot. Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf were gone, which left the starting point guard spot open. Boeheim gave it to freshman Brandon Triche. I didn’t like the move, and frankly I still don’t understand it. Scoop could have easily became angry at Triche for being handed the spot like I did. (Funny to consider now, as Triche is my faves <3). Instead, Scoop kept working, and he became a key contributor averaging 9.1 points and 4.3 assists per game on a team that went 30-5.
Scoop’s junior and senior years have been almost identical. His assist to turnover ratio has hovered around 5-to-2 for both seasons and although his offensive point production has declined this year, it must be noted that he’s now playing on a team with five or six offensive weapons as opposed to three last year.
Scoop has never been someone to judge on the surface. You have to have a deeper knowledge of the game to see exactly how much Scoop does for this team. Syracuse fans love to hate him. He gets the strongest criticism among any group of fans not named Jardine or Boeheim. But the fans just can’t see what Scoop does anymore. Maybe they are too biased against him at this point, or maybe they are just so used to his style that it gets overlooked. When freshman Michael Carter-Williams comes in and threads a pass to Fab Melo for a dunk, everyone notices. They compliment the pass and say “he should play more!”. Scoop makes that same pass five times a game, sometimes more. When Scoop takes a bad shot, it’s always the worst shot selection in the history of basketball. Here’s a conversation that will happen at every Syracuse game:
[Scoop takes a contested shot][Brick]
Guy 1: Scoop, you f***! What the f*** are you doing?!
Guy 2: Take him out! He’s been around five years and still can’t get his s*** together!
Later in the game:
[Waiters takes contested shot][Brick]
Guy 1: You know Bill, we really need Waiters to get going. He’s our best player.
Guy 2: [wipes brow] You’re right, we’re not going anywhere in March unless Dion can make those shots.
That’s just how it goes for Scoop. He’s been around so long that his haters are like hipsters. It was WAY cooler to hate him three years ago. It doesn’t matter how many big shots he makes. Doesn’t matter that he hit big threes this year to put away Cincinnati and Rutgers, or that he shot 8 for 9 against Uconn, or that he scored 27 points last year against Detroit that saved an early season upset. Every time Scoop rises to take that shot, there’s a collective cringe among Orange nation.
What we neglect in our hatred of Scoop is how much he wants that shot. He lives for that moment. Scoop has huevos, and they are MASSIVE. He got crushed for rushing a shot in overtime against Uconn at the Big East Tournament last year, but that was after he hit two threes in regulation just to get the Orange to extra time. He wants the ball in his hands to take the last shot, and he’s not afraid to miss.
My dad always says, “do yourself proud.” I think Scoop has done that. He came to Syracuse to get away from the troubled streets of Philly. Growing up he was afraid of becoming a statistic, and now he’ll leave as one of the most fearless players to ever wear orange. He’ll also take away an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University in addition to being one of the winningest players in Syracuse history. At the end of the day, I think that’s something to be proud of.
So thank you, Scoop. We’ll miss you, even if we all don’t realize it yet.