Over their shared time on campus, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita have built an easy relationship. As the team started to gather for its official picture on Media Day, Keita adjusted Fair’s trademark headband, then plucked an errant thread and discarded it. The two chuckled over a silly moment.
When the laughs of Media Day are a distant memory and the Syracuse basketball team is facing a tough opponent in a rowdy atmosphere, its members will look at those two players for guidance, and not just because they were in the middle of this year’s team photograph. C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita are the leaders of this team by unanimous decision.
The two seniors, who were the driving force of the frontcourt when the Orange reached the Final Four last season, were the players mentioned most at the debut of the 2013-14 team, in particular, by head coach Jim Boeheim.
“I think the great thing we’ve been able to do over the years is to have senior leadership,” Boeheim said. “To have those seniors, I think, is important. They’ve played in the Tournament, they’ve played in big games for their whole careers. I think that’s something that younger players can look to.”
The message seemed to be drummed through everyone’s heads. Even the new guys on campus know who to lean on.
“Being a freshman point guard, it’s not easy to lead, but having guys like C.J., Baye, and the experienced guys is going to help you a lot,“ Tyler Ennis said.
Ennis was effusive in his praise of Fair, the Preseason ACC Player of the Year. “C.J. has been here for four years and he knows the ins and outs of what Coach wants. The guys respect his work.”
While relatively new to campus, Ennis showed he was not new to the team, crediting the other senior leader, as well.
“With Baye being one of the most vocal guys on the court, it’s easy to follow the lead.”
When it was time for the team to line up for the picture that will commemorate the young men on this team, everyone looked at Fair and Keita, the two in the middle. Not because they are among the tallest on the team and not just because that was how the photographer directed them.
It was their leadership.