White Plains, N.Y. — Former Syracuse star CJ Fair scored 19 points and added three rebounds and three steals as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants crushed the Westchester Knicks, 109-87, in NBDL play. We caught up with Fair afterward to get his take on his professional playing career and the current state of the Syracuse basketball team.
The Juice Online: CJ, you scored 19 points in a blowout win. It seems like you’re getting comfortable out there. How do you feel?
CJ Fair: I feel good. My production is going up. Coach wants me to be aggressive with the offense, especially with [Andre Emmett], he’s our leading scorer but he wants to keep the offense balanced. So it makes things a little easier when ‘Dre is double-teamed. So just trying to do that and get better each and every day.
TJO: What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make at the pro level?
CF: Just adjusting the pro-style as far as man-to-man defense. The concept of it. Things like that. It’s a big transition coming from the zone for four years to man-to-man that has a lot principles. Three second [violations] and things like that.
TJO: Any other adjustments that you’ve made?
CJ: Coming here professionally, I’m the youngest here. I’ve got guys on the team that are 10 years older than me, so that’s something I’m not used to. Playing against grown men, literally. So that’s the biggest thing.
TJO: What are some of the biggest differences you’ve seen with the caliber of player?
CF: I’d say there’s some athletic guys, but it’s more fundamental on the next level. Guys that aren’t as athletic are very good fundamentally and they make up for their athleticism.
TJO: Let’s talk about Syracuse for a second. I’m sure it has to be tough seeing the basketball program with a self-imposed ban.
CF: I feel bad for the players there. They didn’t have any part of it, and for them to be penalized for it, I feel bad for them. I’m still close with a lot of the guys, so to see them go through it, it hurts me because it would have hurt me last year if we had to go through that. But they handled it well.
TJO: One of your former teammates, Rakeem Christmas, has had a breakout year. Did you see this coming?
CF: I knew he had the potential. I seen it coming. He’s more consistent than I thought he’d be. I think he’s the best big man in the country. In this year’s draft, I don’t see why he wouldn’t go first round.
TJO: You’ve had a lot of teammates in your four years at Syracuse. Who would you say you still talk to the most?
CF: I keep in touch with Michael Carter-Williams. I’d say him mainly because we [were] roommates a lot. I still keep in touch with the guys that are still playing like Rakeem, Ron Patterson, BJ [Johnson]. I keep in touch with Jerami [Grant] and Tyler [Ennis] throughout their careers. Everyone’s still close. Even if we don’t talk everyday.
TJO: What was your favorite memory from college?
CF: When we beat Marquette to go to the Final Four. That whole experience was awesome.
TJO: There are a bunch of Syracuse fans waiting to see you outside. If you had to say anything to Orange Nation right now, what would it be?
CF: Just keep hope alive. Stick with the team even though they’re not going to make the tournament. Just keep cheering them on. They need the effort.