SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – On Friday, Syracuse basketball hosted its annual media day, which allows a first glance at each player on the team and time to talk to each athlete. This year was very different from any other. With six freshman leading the Orange into head coach Jim Boeheim’s 47th year, only two homegrown seniors remain: Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard.
The latter has been a staple since day one. Girard, who attended high school just three hours away, has started 91 of the 93 career games he has played in. Along with that, the senior guard has a career average of 12 points and nearly four assists per game. But statistics aside, Girard tackles a much more challenging role this season, leading the Orange as their most experienced player. This is the first time in the upperclassman’s career that he entered a season without a more seasoned teammate, but a challenge he cherishes.
“Being an older guy now, it’s all on you,” said Girard. “I mean it’s all on you, whether it’s being vocal or showing them the proper way to do things. I’ve had to make sure that each and everyday in practice, workouts, drills or whatever we’re doing that I’m staying focused and giving it my all to show the guys what it is like.”
But this is nothing new to the New York native, who played during the illustrious careers of other SU basketball leaders, providing him with a great baseline on how to lead a team.
“I had a lot of great leaders. Elijah Hughes, Marek (Dolezaj), Buddy (Boeheim), Bourama (Sidibe), all the guys before me that laid the foundation and the mold,” said Girard. “All the assistant coaches and Coach Boeheim played here and know what it takes, so they’ve all helped me a lot.”
Although the guard credits many of his leadership qualities to former teammates or coaches, his role as a leader is innate.
“It’s something I’ve always had ever since high school,” said Girard. “I was the captain on my football and basketball teams from freshman and sophomore year.”
At Glens Falls, Girard played both football and basketball, amassing accolades left and right, which included averaging over 50 points per game in his senior year on the hardwood. This garnered the now-senior plenty of looks from colleges all across the state but, more importantly, allowed Girard to incorporate being a leader into his talented repertoire. But his involvement at the collegiate level has taken a different route, leading when necessary that often goes unnoticed.
“Well I think the thing with Joe is that he was one of the best point guards the last couple years in the ACC, (but) I don’t think he has been given the credit he is due,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “His shooting percentages were higher than most, his assists were as good or better than most, his turnovers were as good or better than most point guards in the league. He did his job and he got the ball to some really high level shooters.”
From an outside view, Girard’s career is expressed in a mild-mannered way, no fireworks or SportsCenter top ten plays to show for it, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t contributed to other facets that make the Syracuse Basketball program so successful. So the next time the senior takes the court, with more pressure on his shoulders, know that a talented player is exuding leadership above all, because he sure knows how to.
“Like I said, I think I credit the most just going back to high school and being thrown into that position since I was 13, 14 years old,” said Girard.