Syracuse forward Kris Joseph went straight to the point. When asked about teammate Scoop Jardine’s career-high 27 point performance in a mid-November contest against Detroit, he needed only 13 words.
“Scoop just put the team on his back and led us to victory,” Joseph said.
Jardine exploded for 14 of those points in the first eight minutes of the second half as Syracuse went on to a 66-55 victory. He also finished with eight assists and five steals.
“I am going to try to do whatever my team needs me to do this year,” Jardine said. “If I have to play defense, get 20 assists or pull down 20 rebounds I am going to put myself out to do it.”
Said coach Jim Boeheim: “If Scoop didn’t just pull us up on his shoulders tonight and take the game over we would have had no chance to win.”
It marked the emergence of Jardine as Syracuse’s most important player as it attempts to return to the NCAA Tournament to finish last year’s team goal of making the Final Four. It also has marked Jardine’s turnaround from nearly leaving the school after his freshman year.
But it wasn’t always this way for Jardine. When Jardine first arrived on the Syracuse campus in 2008, he was buried in a crowded rotation.
There was fellow freshman Jonny Flynn, and more established guards like Josh Wright, Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins in line for playing time. But Jardine soon found himself pressed into the starting lineup with injuries.
The guard found a steady place in Boeheim’s rotation after an 18 point performance against Northeastern on Dec. 30, 2007.
Less than a month after that, Jardine had his eye-opening experience.
Jardine was indefinitely suspended in January of 2008 after Jardine was linked to a stolen SU student identification card that was used to purchase $115.65 of food and drinks. He ended up being suspended for two games and lost his starting job.
Looking back on it now, Jardine reflected on the lesson he learned.
REBUILDING A FOUNDATION
After the season, it was announced that Jardine had a stress fracture in his foot, and he was going to redshirt his academic sophomore year.
With a full year away from basketball, Jardine matured. He and changed his sleeping and eating patterns. He took school more seriously. Jardine now carries a 2.9 grade point average.
That, in turn, helped his basketball career.
“[The maturity] is not the only reason,” Boeheim said. “But he’s worked hard. He’s definitely come a long way.”
Jardine also chose his friends and role models more wisely. One of the people he began to emulate was former Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku – and not just for his basketball prowess, but also for his abilities in the classroom.
“I followed his lead,” Jardine said. “He helped me be the man I am.”
With the depature of Onuaku, Rautins and Wes Johnson, Jardine has now assumed a new role on Syracuse – leader.
One of the players who has listened closely is SU freshman and Jardine’s cousin, Dion Waiters. The two have always been close, since Waiters lived with Jardine and his grandmother in South Philadelphia.
“He was a guy that looked up to me,” Jardine said. “I was like a role model and I am still a role model to him at Syracuse.”
It is a role that Jardine relishes, not just with Waiters, but for the entire team.
“We have guys like Dion and Fab [Melo] who are young and haven’t experienced this yet, but I remember how that was,” Jardine said. “I remember being in their shoes. I think we will do just fine and we are ready for these guys to follow us.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for SuJuiceOnline.com.