Each Friday during the summer, The Juice Online will be looking back to some of the biggest story lines in the 2012-13 Syracuse sports year. This week, we take a look back at James Southerland being deemed ineligible.
For the second straight year, Syracuse missed a key player for a large stretch of the season.
In the 2011-12 season, the Orange played three games during the regular season, and the entire NCAA tournament without center Fab Melo.
The 2012-13 season seemed like déjà vu, with senior forward James Southerland declared ineligible prior to Syracuse’s game against Villanova on Jan. 12 with what The Juice Online learned was an academic issue.
Southerland missed six games, with the Orange going 4-2 during that time.
But he returned on Feb. 10 against St. John’s in the Carrier Dome.
Southerland showed some rust in the first half, but hit a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half, part of a 13-point effort, sparking SU to a 77-58 win.
“I feel confident. I feel like I took a lot of pressure off the guys just being in uniform and playing, another impact during the game,” Southerland said. “It definitely felt great. I was kind of hoping it came a little sooner, but I can’t complain.”
Southerland would go on to play a big role in Syracuse’s postseason. He set a Big East Tournament record with 17 3-pointers, and was named to the Big East All-Tournament Team, before scoring 16 points in SU’s win over Marquette in the Elite 8, propelling them to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.
WHAT WE SAID:
The quietest transaction to the Syracuse coaching staff was the unusually-timed, Dec. 19 in-season resignation of Stan Kissell as director of basketball operations after seven plus years. In fact, Kissell’s departure only came to light when Tim O’Toole’s hiring to replace him was quietly announced on Jan. 2, the day of the Big East opener against Rutgers. O’Toole, who left a three-year assistant’s spot with Coach Boeheim for one with Coach K in 1995, is a great addition to the program with his coaching resume including an eight year run as head coach at his alma mater Fairfield. The director of operations position is traditionally the program’s liaison to the university’s Academic Services Department. Whether or not any changes made were as a result of two players losing eligibility or simply a choice Boeheim and likely Mike Hopkins made to make the program’s academic-compliance better with O’Toole’s availability isn’t known, but the ramifications of these apparent academic-related situations are likely to be felt for the rest of this season and maybe longer. — Brad Bierman
WHAT THEY SAID:
Southerland’s 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game have become essential for the Orange. His offensive skills cannot be overstated, as seen when he dropped 35 points on Arkansas during the team’s first road test. Another key attribute of Southerland’s that we can’t forget is his defense. With a long 6’8″ frame and his special athleticism, he was very efficient in Boeheim’s fabled 2-3 zone. He was able to extend out on the wing or play well inside, while averaging 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He has become a complete player in his senior season, and Southerland will be sorely missed until he comes back—if he comes back. — Josh Schoch, Bleacher Report
Indeed, the sky hadn’t fallen on either Southerland or the Syracuse program, which went 4-2 in James’ absence and has now improved its overall record this season to 20-3 (and to 120-21 since back end of February, 2009). As such, the dreaming has begun anew. And why not? In this college basketball campaign that lacks a singularly great squad and has none that’s been able to sit in comfort at the top of the polls, the Orange — now, with apologies to the rehabilitating Dajuan Coleman, basically whole again — would seem to have as good a shot as any outfit in America to wend its way to the Final Four in Atlanta. — Bud Poliquin, Post-Standard