Scoop Jardine leads Syracuse against Michigan basketball team in matchup of unbeatens
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Scoop Jardine ran into Denver Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups this summer and point guard-to-point guard, the NBA All-Star gave the Syracuse junior some advice.
“He told me to lead by example,” Jardine said. “Whatever I practice, whatever I preach, I have to do the same thing. If I’m working hard, the team will work hard. If I lax, they are going to lax.
“Just being the person that brings it every day on and off the court.”
Syracuse needs Jardine to be the leader. The Orange lost NBA lottery pick Wesley Johnson, second-round pick Andy Rautins and senior center Arinze Onuaku off a team that some considered the best in the country last year.
So it’s a younger Syracuse (4-0) that will face Michigan (3-0) tonight in the semifinals of the Legends Classic (8 p.m., HDNet) in Atlantic City, N.J. Jardine averages 12.8 points and 7.25 assists a game.
“He’s definitely the leader of the team,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s taken over in the locker room, on the court, in practice. He’s been very aggressive. He has to continue to do that, and we need some other people to step up, particularly on the offensive end.
“He’s definitely taken it on his own. We’ve talked about it, but he’s ready. He wants to do that.”
Jardine said he worked out twice a day in the off-season to improve his jump shot in order to keep defenses honest and from sagging on him when he drove the lane.
He texted teammates to organize pickup games, team meals and nights at the movies. He organized workout sessions and made sure everyone was in the weight room.
Part of his willingness to lead come from his familiarity with teammates. Jardine is one of three Syracuse players from Philadelphia - Rick Jackson and Dion Waiters are the others - and the other part is just his natural way.
He’s always had a good personality. For example, he has been part of a Webcast show the past two seasons on the Syracuse.com Web site first with Johnson and now with Kris Joseph.
“Scoop had it in him,” Joseph said. “First being a point guard you have to have some of that (leadership), because you’re the one leading the team, directing us, leading us on offense and defense. This summer you can tell he matured over the span of two months.”
Like Michigan, Syracuse has four freshmen in somewhat key roles - and Jardine has become the steadying force for a team still expected to contend for the Big East title.
“I just try to go out and make the right plays and get the team in the right spots,” Jardine said. “That’s my same mantra going into this year. If they need assists or go out and score points, that’s what I’ll try to do. That’s what I did last year.
“I keep that same mindset, because I don’t want to put no pressure on myself. I just want to go out there and have fun.”