No Hummer, he's driving Big East

Carmelo Anthony: The `other' NBA-bound prodigy, he's acing his probable only year at Syracuse.

College Basketball

February 08, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Carmelo Anthonyby the numbers:

20.7 points per game

9.3 rebounds per game

45.6 Total field-goal percentage

36.5 Three-point percentage

35.3 Minutes per game

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The mind and body that once caused Carmelo Anthony so much grief will make him very rich very soon. In the interim, America's other 6-foot-8, 18-year-old basketball prodigy is getting kicks that beat driving a $50,000 SUV.

How peculiar, that while the hoops world turns on the status of his Hummer-driving, throwback jersey-wearing buddy, LeBron James, Anthony has found a cocoon in the Carrier Dome, home of the world's largest regular-season crowds.

Considering the baggage-free zone at Syracuse University where Anthony resides, is there an NBA team that might pass on James, this decade's version of the greatest high school player ever, and instead make the No. 1 pick in next June's draft a freshman forward who's two years removed from Towson Catholic High?

Exactly how big is Anthony's upside?

As wide as his considerable backside and as vast as the floor game that has sent opponents scurrying for defensive stoppers.

"His age is what makes him so intriguing," said an NBA scout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We would all feel less excited if he was 22, but we see him at 18, and wonder, with normal progress, what will he be like in a few years? What we know is that he can shoot, put the ball on the floor and that he plays within himself. He's got a great basketball IQ."

Anthony absorbs the comparisons to the talent of Tracy McGrady and savvy of stars of an earlier vintage, like Magic Johnson. He hears the praise for his physique and smarts, and can't help but laugh as he recalls his rocky entry into high school.

Anthony was academically ineligible at the start of his freshman and sophomore seasons at TC, and in between he was reduced to tears by the growing pains that stretched him from 6 feet to 6-6.

"Those struggles? I can laugh about them now," Anthony said, "I'm enjoying life right now."

Sprawled in a couch after a light session of lifting weights, Anthony asked if he could turn on a TV. It was the day that Ohio high school officials suspended James, and Anthony was searching for news the old-fashioned way, checking CNN and ESPN. It would be hard to get through to his contemporary's cell phone, not that chatting up the best players in the world is ever a problem for Anthony.

Steve Francis and Baron Davis are among the acquaintances who regularly check in, to ask Anthony if he's eating properly and how many points he had last night.

"It seems like every time I have a bad night, get only 14 or 15, Steve has a bad night and gets only 16 or 17," Anthony said. "Whenever I say, `Man, these double-teams are getting on my nerves,' Steve says, `You're going to face that all your life.' I don't know. I think they lifted [allowed] the zone rule to stop Shaq [O'Neal], but the NBA is still a one-on-one game."

Francis was among the crowd who made misleading statements about how long he would stay in college, but Anthony has made no disingenuous guarantees and it seems taken for granted here that he will be one and done. Asked if his mother will accompany him to what would be his fourth address in as many winters, Anthony said, "if I go to Miami or Atlanta, she would go, but she wants to move back home to New York."

A boost from Boeheim

Jim Boeheim took a team to the NCAA final in each of the past two decades. He is in his 27th season as the coach at his alma mater and knows that Anthony is the one who could finally get him a title, but Boeheim understands the deal, embraces it in fact.

"A lot of one-year guys, whether it was Stephon [Marbury] at Georgia Tech or Tim Thomas [at Villanova], they killed programs," Boeheim said. "Carmelo has helped our program tremendously. I'm not talking about wins. I'm talking about attitude, recruiting. We haven't had a guy like him in a long time, an outgoing guy who doesn't look at himself as a big deal."

It wasn't that long ago that Anthony was hanging at the Mount Royal Recreation Center, quarterbacking football teams in the fall and playing baseball in the spring. He wanted to go to Dunbar, and be a two-sport star like St. Louis Rams linebacker Tommy Polley, but Mary Anthony ordered her son to Towson Catholic.

He went from little notice as a sophomore to The Sun's Player of the Year as a junior, in 2000-01. One of Mike Daniel's assistant coaches caught the movie Get Shorty and stuck the nickname on Anthony. In times of distress, "Find Shorty" became the Owls' mantra.

Boeheim does not have a good track record with Baltimore players. Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried helped his first Final Four team, but Mike Brown, Rodney Walker and Michael Lloyd had short stays here. That was of no relevance to Troy Weaver, an Orange assistant who in the mid-1990s ran the DC Assault program that dominated the local AAU circuit.

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