Our hoop guru takes a look at the subject of Syracuse’s best basketball shot blockers during the Jim Boeheim era.
Ahead of the Syracuse 2021-22 basketball campaign, now is the right time for a 10-part series showcasing the best of the Boeheim era (1976-present).
I’ll give my opinion, ranking the “Top 3” in many categories, from the best free throw shooters to the most exciting on a quick break. From the best Dome games to the best NCAA tournament games and everything in between.
I was 7 years old in 1976 when Jim Boeheim, who is the second-all-time career winner in Division I of men’s basketball, became Orange’s head coach. If I haven’t watched (or listened to on the radio) carefully every Syracuse basketball game since then, then it’s almost 98%.
The statistical facts in each Top 3 are powered by the impressive OrangeHoops.org website.
Part 1: Top 3 triple doubles.
Part 2: Top 3 free throw shooters.
Part 3: Top 3 Most Exciting On Fast Break.
Part 4: Top 3 games at Carrier Dome.
And today, part 5: My 3 best shot blockers:
First off, when you start talking about individual blocked shots in Jim Boeheim’s day, there’s only one that immediately comes to mind. And this block will stand the test of time as the largest in Syracuse basketball history.
If it was a book, the title would simply be “The Block”. And, the author would be Hakim Warrick.
The scene was the 2003 NCAA National Championship game Syracuse vs. Kansas at the New Orleans Superdome. Syracuse held an 81-78 lead with just seconds to go when Kansas got the ball to keep Michael Lee for a 3-point wide open. Lee stood up for the jumper who would have equalized the match, but apparently out of nowhere came out the outstretched left arm of Warrick, who had made it to the spot. Warrick repelled the ball, saved the game and Syracuse won their first national championship.
The iconic Hakim block photo is framed and mounted on my wall.
But believe it or not, despite Hak’s great length and skill, he wasn’t statistically one of Orange’s best shot blockers. During his four-year career spanning 135 games, Warrick managed 128 blocks (16th in Syracuse history) for 0.9 per game (ranking him 25th).
The Jim Boeheim era saw better runners and anchors from his much-vaunted 2-3 zone, racking up blocked shots that set the tone for most games.
My 3 best shot blockers:
1. Etan Thomas, 1997-2000.
Thomas has had 424 career blocked shots, ranked 1st all-time. He averages 3.5 blocks per game, also ranked 1st all-time in Syracuse basketball history.
Etan’s 424 blocks currently rank him 16th in NCAA college basketball history.
His left arm was the long arm of the law. Thomas led the team in blocks over the four years of his career, peaking at 138 in the 1997-98 season and averaging a record 4 per game the following year.
Etan, 6-10, was the first Syracuse player to be named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s won the award twice, his junior and senior seasons.
He was the 12th pick overall in the 2000 NBA Draft and played 10 years in the league where he blocked another 427 shots, mostly with the Washington Wizards.
Today Thomas is an outspoken author, motivational speaker and podcaster. He’s a great follow on Twitter at @ etanthomas36.
Watch how strong, skillful and intimidating Etan was as a shot blocker for Syracuse:
2. Roosevelt Bouié, 1977-1980.
Bouie, a 6-11 center, placed the original marks of domination down for the Orangemen, with 327 shots blocked, now ranked 2nd all-time, and 2.8 blocks per game, also currently ranked 2nd all-time. time in the history of Syracuse.
Roosevelt Bouie was one of Boeheim’s first recruits and was part of the famous “Louie and Bouie Show”, which became one of the best front courts in college basketball. “Louie” being of course forward Louis Orr, Bouie’s classmate and Boeheim’s other key rookie entering his first year as head coach.
In their four years together, Syracuse, led by Louie and Bouie, had an incredible 100-18 record and reigned over one of college basketball’s great home advantages at Manley Field House. Their uniforms were retired together in 2015.
Most kids my age who grew up in central New York City had the now iconic black and white poster of Bouie and Orr running around the field together, ushering in the Jim Boeheim era, which continues today.
If you still have one of these posters, cherish it.
Bouie, who was part of the first All-Conference team in the Big East’s inaugural year, has become a legend in Italian professional basketball and remains linked to the Orange program in various ways.
3. Darryl Watkins, 2004-2007.
Watkins, a leading athletic center, 6-11, ended his Orange career with 263 blocked shots, placed 5th all-time in program history, and averaged 2.5 blocks per game, ranked 3rd all time.
In the 2006-07 season, Watkins had 112 blocks for an average of 3.5 per game, which is behind Etan Thomas (who averaged more on 3 different occasions), for the best year ever. .
Watkins of New Jersey wasn’t a huge offensive threat, but he was a bottom-up runner, also averaging over 7 boards per game when he became a starter for his junior and senior seasons. During his career for the Orange, Watkins blocked 8 shots in one game on two occasions.
Watkins then played a few games in the NBA and had 6 blocked shots at the highest level. He still plays professionally, including a stint with the Boeheim army and more recently in Indonesia.
To note : Special thanks to Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman, two of the greatest players in Syracuse history who dominated paint and placed 3rd and 4th respectively in career blocks, teaming up for two years in the 80s to challenge anyone trying to score low.
And I have to mention a block in recent history, by Alan Griffin last year, who ran on the field and did a Lebron-type block on the University of Buffalo to save a game. The play took place during the pandemic in the absence of fans and I only wish the Carrier Dome loyalists were there for Griffin’s block as his sheer athleticism at this critical moment in the game would have blown the roof off. of the place :
Next time: My top 3 scorers at the time of Boeheim.