Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball players whose jerseys should be retired

Leo Rautins
May 3, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is interviewed by Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin during the Cleveland Cavaliers game two of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Cavaliers beat the Raptors 128-110. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Item: Monday’s news that former Syracuse star Demetris Nichols has joined Jim Boeheim’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant, adds yet another ex-Orange standout to the sideline. Nichols, who averaged a team-high 18.9 ppg in his senior season (2007) and played in 18 career NBA games during an overall 13-year professional career, will join assistants Red Autry, Gerry McNamara and Allen Griffin tutoring the 2021-22 team. The return of Nichols to the program got us thinking about the next great SU player who should be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony as soon as next year.

It’s been six seasons since Syracuse honored its basketball past by retiring a player’s jersey. The last time jerseys were unveiled high above the Dome was for the great duo of Roosevelt Bouie (No. 50) and Louis Orr (No. 55) in February 2015, joining the 13 other Orange greats who have been similarly saluted.

There’s obvious names of 2003 championship team members McNamara (No. 3) and Hakim Warrick (No. 1), who will one day be given a loud standing ovation during halftime of a Dome contest as their jerseys are revealed, but there are others as deserving (including Autry No. 15).

Here’s our short list of five other Syracuse players who should be considered for jersey retirement sooner than later:

Rudy Hackett (1972-75)-The star big man on Syracuse’s first final four team, Hackett hit the key jumper at the regulation buzzer to send the East Regional final against Kansas State into overtime, finishing with 28-points and 16-rebounds to help SU shock the nation. Hackett, who wore No. 45, ended his Orangemen career second in scoring and rebounding, and is currently 24th all-time in scoring, and 6th rebounding.

Leo Rautins (1980-83)-Playing only three seasons in the Dome after transferring from Minnesota (where he was second in the Big 10 in assists his freshman season behind Magic Johnson), Rautins still managed to score 1,031 points for SU, and recorded the first triple-double in Big East history in 1983. Rautins, who wore No. 11, will always be remembered for the tip-in basket in triple overtime to beat Villanova for the 1981 Big East tournament title.

Stephen Thompson (1986-1990)-With teammates Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman and Rony Seiklaly already honored with jersey retirements, Thompson is perpetually overlooked at how great a player he was on four NCAA tournament teams, including the 1987 national finalists. Thompson, one of the most explosive athletes to ever play for Boeheim, finished his Orange career as the fourth all-time scoring leader wearing jersey No. 32.

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Jason Hart (1996-2000)-Hart was one of only four SU players to lead the team in assists for four straight years (Douglas, Autry, and McNamara). A tremendous defensive player at the top of the zone. Hart, who wore No. 5, twice recorded 90 or more steals in a season, and graduated as the school’s all-time leader in thefts, averaging 2.5 spg over his career in which he helped SU to two Sweet 16 appearances.

Preston Shumpert (1998-2002)-One of the sweetest pure shooters to play for Boeheim, any player who finishes his Orange career as a top 10 scorer and comes within 93-points of registering 2,000 for the ‘Cuse deserves recognition. Sure, Shumpert, who wore No. 3, was a defensive liability, not a prolific passer, and his senior season was hampered by off-court trouble with teammate DeShaun Williams, but he could shoot with the best of any SU player.

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About Brad Bierman 743 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.