Orange Avengers: The Syracuse Basketball Galaxy

Which six Syracuse players would form the Orange Avengers?

Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara
Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara speaks with former SU star Eric Devendorf. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

We’ve all had to find outlets for coping with the stresses of the COVID world over the past handful of months. I used this as an opportunity to catch up on the Avengers movies.

And let me just say….Endgame….a-ma-zing!!!!!

Producing content for a Syracuse sports website has been a bit challenging without actual Syracuse sports. My colleague, Wes Cheng, recently penned a column on what a Syracuse presidential party – the Orange Party…duh! – would look like.

I took that a step beyond.

Here’s what a team of Orange Avengers would like look as they saved the Syracuse basketball galaxy.

Captain America

The unquestioned leader of the Avengers, the former soldier always showed up and always delivered. He saved his best for the biggest moments. And his team responded. The Avengers were never out of a fight with Steve Rogers at the helm.

Just like John Wallace.

Wallace handled the responsibility of wearing the vaunted No. 44 while dominating from the power forward position as well as anyone.

The kid from Rochester guided Syracuse all the way to the final game of the year coming up just short against an absolutely stacked Kentucky team. Wallace had help for sure. A prototypical wing in sophomore Todd Burgan, a powerful center in Otis Hill, and a fifth-year senior point guard in Lazarus Sims. But the 1996 squad was Wallace’s team.

Wallace famously saved Syracuse’s season in the Sweet 16 against Georgia. First, he found Jason Cipolla for the game-tying bucket to force overtime. And then Wallace canned the game-winning three with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime.

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Despite being overmatched and undermanned in the title game against the Wildcats, Wallace gave everything he had until fouling out in the closing moments. A heroic effort in Syracuse sports history. All he was missing was the shield.

Iron Man

Tony Stark. The man built a tower the stretched to the Manhattan skyline AND he put his name on the building! Stark was brilliant, confident, and a bit cocky. He knew it and he wasn’t afraid to tell you.

Just like Derrick Coleman.

There’s a reason Coleman wore No. 44 at Syracuse. Supremely confident with the skills to match.

Coleman could dribble, shoot, run, finish, and block shots on defense. And oh, could the man throw down! Derrick Coleman didn’t dunk on you. DC dunked on you! And if you ever got caught on the business end of one of his dunks, you probably heard about it on the way up the court.

Thor

Arguably the most powerful, skilled, and dangerous Avenger. The Asgardian God of Thunder could do it all.

Just like Billy Owens.

Owens was a basketball God who could do everything on the court. Drive to the hoop, score inside, finish on the break, lead the break, shoot, pass, rebound in traffic. His talent was limitless.

But that shouldn’t be surprising given that he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated before playing a game for the Orange. Here Come the Hot Shots indeed!

Owens is in the debate for most talented player to ever suit up for Syracuse.

Hulk

The Hulk is the real gang green, not the New York Jets.

He could go from defense to offense faster than Pearl could push the ball on the break. One minute he’s saving Iron Man as he plummets towards earth, the next he’s pulling a fighter jet out of the sky. Raw, brute strength.

Just like Etan Thomas.

Thomas was the basketball version of the Hulk – presumably, minus the breath-taking anger management issues, as Tony Stark once described his green friend.

He anchored the back of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone as well as anyone that ever donned the jersey. Thomas finished his collegiate career as the Orange’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 424. A whopping 97 ahead of Roosevelt Bouie.

Swat a shot on one end of the court, throw down a monster dunk on the other end of the court. For as much as Thomas altered games on the defensive end, he was often rewarded – loudly – on the offensive end.

Let’s just say that Thomas didn’t get cheated when he dunked the ball. An opponent’s best defense when Thomas was determined to slam it was simply to get out of the way, or risk being posterized.

Hawkeye

Remember when the Chitauri started leveling Manhattan? There was Clint Barton perched atop a skyscraper nailing anything and everything in his sights. Yup, Barton was lethal from deep. A true deadeye.

Just like Andy Rautins.

Rautins sank 37.40 percent of his three-pointers during his Syracuse career. That’s good for fourteenth place all-time in Orange history. Though, it ranks seventh among players who stayed all four years.

And, Rautins made more threes than three of the six players in front of him attempted. The sharp-shooting Canadian saved his best for last by knocking down 40.7 percent as a senior, the highest percentage of his career.

Leo’s son also sits second all-time in three-pointers made for the Orange with 282. Only Gerry McNamara, with 400, made more triples. But McNamara took 377 more shots from beyond the arc in his career than Rautins.

Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff isn’t the biggest or strongest Avenger. And she doesn’t have super-human powers. But don’t bet against her. Because she is a lethal assassin who will cut your heart out.

Just like Gerry McNamara.

Gerry McNamara wasn’t as heralded as his recruiting class companion, Carmelo Anthony. But in many ways, he was just as important.

The Scranton Little Engine That Could was a relentless competitor. And could he EVER deliver a dagger.

Ask Georgetown

Ask Cincinnati

Ask BYU

And of course, ask Kansas about those six 3-pointers in the first half. 

So, there you have it. The Orange Avengers.

Now, if only getting rid of Georgetown was as easy as a snap of the fingers.

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About Steve Auger 108 Articles
Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.