SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – C.J. Fair basked in the applause from the crowd, and then put on a show.
The senior forward scored 16 points in Syracuse’s intrasquad scrimmage during Orange Madness on Friday, showing why he was voted the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
“Orange Madness is always fun, just letting you know the season’s here,” said Fair, who received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was introduced at the Carrier Dome. “It’s go-time now.”
Trevor Cooney made five 3s in the scrimmage, one of the highlights of the annual event marking the beginning of the college basketball season. Orange Madness also included player and coach introductions, a dunk contest and a scrimmage for the women’s team.
Despite being projected as a late first-round pick in the NBA draft, Fair decided instead to return to Syracuse for his senior season and the program’s first year in the ACC.
“Just knowing that we’re going into a new conference is a lot of excitement, something I wanted to be a part of,” Fair said.
In the dunk contest, swingman Michael Gbinije triumphed over power forward Rakeem Christmas with a windmill jam after throwing the ball ahead to himself. Freshmen Ron Patterson and B.J. Johnson also participated.
Syracuse is coming off another terrific season, winning 30 games and making it all the way to the Final Four before a five-point loss to Michigan. Michael Carter-Williams, who was a lottery pick in the NBA draft, James Southerland and Brandon Triche are gone, but there is plenty of remaining talent on coach Jim Boeheim’s team.
“One thing that I can say for everybody on the team is that I think everybody has improved and put in the work this offseason,” Boeheim said. “There has been improvement from every position.”
Boeheim said he thinks the physicality of the Big East – Syracuse’s old conference – will make for a smooth transition to the ACC. He also pointed to Fair and senior center Baye Moussa Keita as the veteran leaders of the team.
“They’ve played in the tournament, big games for their whole careers,” Boeheim said. “That’s something the younger players can look to what those guys have done. We have a good mix of veteran guys and young players.”
The men’s team opens at home against Cornell on Nov. 8, and the women’s team is at Washington State for its first game on Nov. 10.