Syracuse assistant coach Adrian Autry was prophetic.
Earlier this week, CJ Fair was in practice when the Orange needed an extra man to play at center. Autry suggested that Fair slide into that role.
“You never know,” Autry said to Fair. “You may be playing it.”
That is exactly what happened when Rakeem Christmas fouled out with 9:04 left of Syracuse’s 87-73 win over Providence on Wednesday night. The opportunity came up because starting center Fab Melo was in foul trouble and reserve center Baye Keita was unavailable due to a hip injury.
While at center, Fair drew a charge and grabbed a rebound.
“Luckily, they were looking for 3s when I was at center, so I wasn’t exposed,” Fair said to reporters following the game. “I just had to take up space rebounding.”
Of course, Fair is more used to playing on the wing, and it took a some adjusting.
“I had to remember the assignments,” Fair said. “Sometimes I was up too high playing the high post.”
Fair wouldn’t have had to play center had Syracuse not been in foul trouble. But Christmas and Melo were whistled for a combined nine fouls.
“They were doing a good job of attacking and hitting the gaps really hard,” Fair said. “Our defense wasn’t as good as it normally is and that gave them opportunities to score and create fouls.”
It was part of another solid night for Fair, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
It was also another impressive display of Syracuse’s depth.
“We were able to put CJ at the five and that worked out for us,” forward Kris Joseph said. “That shows our depth, and how deep we really are.”