Anthony trades Orange for green

Local Syracuse freshman decides to turn pro after rapid rise to top in college

Baltimorean: `I have to move on'

Boeheim, coaches here back decision expected from Final Four's MVP

April 25, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

After needing only one season to showcase his prodigious talent and take his school where it never had gone before, Melo officially is moving on.

Syracuse University freshman forward Carmelo Anthony, who led the Orangemen to their first NCAA men's basketball championship 18 days ago, made his much-anticipated decision a formality yesterday by announcing he would skip his final three years of school to enter the NBA draft on June 26.

Anthony, who grew up in West Baltimore, attended Towson Catholic High School and is known as Melo to his friends, exits the collegiate game after taking it by storm and earning a bag of accolades along the way. Anthony wound up his one-year tour as the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA tournament's Final Four, which culminated with Syracuse beating Kansas, 81-78.

The Orangemen finished with a 30-5 record. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tasted his first national title in 27 years at the school. And so much of it was due to the versatile, 6-foot-8, 220-pound kid with the sweet shot, power post moves and nasty crossover dribble.

Since late in the season, Anthony has been projected as a likely top three pick in the pro draft. After being named a second-team All-American and the sport's top freshman, he is headed for the big time and the big money.

"Moving on is the opportunity to take care of my family, something I've always wanted to do. Now, I have the opportunity to do that. It was a big decision for me," said Anthony, who drove home last weekend to talk about his decision with his mother.

"Basically, I really don't want to leave, to be honest with you. I have to move on. I don't want to make it sound bad, but there's really nothing more I could get out of college," he added. "I came here for a year, and I'm still going to get my degree. We won a national championship. I won Rookie of the Year for the Big East and the nation. So there really isn't much more left."

Boeheim sat with Anthony throughout a news conference at Syracuse yesterday.

Boeheim saluted Anthony's ability and touched on the freshman's leadership and unselfishness, which made Anthony even more popular among his teammates. Those qualities were fully on display in the title game, when he scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out a career-high seven assists.

He led the Orangemen in scoring (22.2) and rebounding (10.0) and scored at least 27 points on eight occasions. Anthony capped his meteoric rise with 53 points and 24 rebounds at the Final Four.

"[Anthony] has proven it on the court as much as any player we've ever had. Off the court, he is as good an ambassador for the game of college basketball as anyone could hope to be," Boeheim said.

"He has done more for Syracuse basketball than any player we've ever recruited and has ever played here. It's a happy day for Syracuse basketball, but a sad one, too. In my mind, this is the right decision."

Mike Daniel, who coached Anthony for three years at Towson Catholic before he transferred to Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, said he saw the makings of a pro in those high school days.

"I've been singing his praises for a long time. [Anthony] has the mentality for the pro game," Daniel said. "He'll take 200 or 300 jump shots to get better. He'll work on his rebounding. He'll work on his weights. He was never a ball hog. He was always trying to make his teammates better. He's willing to work hard."

Darrell Corbett still runs the basketball program at Mount Royal Elementary-Middle School, where Anthony blossomed as a young teenager. He recalled the days when Anthony was not the smooth player who made the game look so easy.

"When he was growing up, people said he wasn't tough enough and he couldn't handle the pressure," Corbett said. "He'd get poked in the side bringing the ball up the floor. He'd get punched in the face running down the court. He paid his dues.

"He wasn't the biggest or the strongest, but he kept working and he's come out on top. I love his maturity. He's proven himself. Timing has always been everything with that kid. He's done everything he could do."

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