Syracuse, N.Y. – On Thursday night, Syracuse basketball’s past was on display at the Carrier Dome as Syracuse’s present watched.
The university’s Coming Back Together weekend kicked off with a celebrity basketball game that featured some of the most legendary names in Orange history.
Lawrence Moten and John Wallace were among those former Syracuse players who took part in the game, while legends Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens served as coaches.
Meanwhile, the current members of the Syracuse basketball team — none of whom were yet born when Moten was setting a scoring record that still stands or Wallace was leading SU to the NCAA championship game — took it all in.
After the game, the Orange past and present mingled on the Carrier Dome court.
Coming Back Together, which is part of SU’s Black and Latino Alumni Reunion, focuses on helping minority students with workshops, panels and networking opportunities. The organization also raises money to fund scholarships for minority students.
However, the CBT’s celebrity basketball game offers a chance for different generations of Syracuse players to interact with each other.
“They need to see the history and the pride we take in our Orange,’’ Billy Owens said. “They see us come back for things like this. Why? We don’t have to do this. We do this because we love Syracuse and we’re family.’’
Syracuse junior Symir Torrence grew up in Syracuse. He spent his first two years of college at Marquette before transferring to Syracuse last spring. The Syracuse native knows several of the former SU players who live in the area, but he still appreciated how many former players were part of Thursday’s event.
“It shows that our players love to be here and want to give back,’’ Torrence said. He looked across the court at Moten. “That’s my guy. He has always been a big brother to me. Lazarus Sims and Eric Devendorf are always around. It means a lot. They’re here to support the people that’s next.’’
Owens’ White team defeated Coleman’s Blue squad 66-65. The win was payback for Owens’ loss to Coleman in the first CBT Celebrity game back in 2017.
Owens rode the hot-shooting of former player and current graduate assistant Demetris Nichols, who finished with 30 points.
In addition to the former basketball players, SU’s football team had its representation with Duke Pettijohn. Al Wooten was an assistant coach for Owens. Robert Drummond was in attendance. Former SU women’s players Erica Morrow and Iasia Hemingway played in the game, while Sue Ludwig served as an assistant to Coleman. Felisha Leggette-Jack was also at the game, at one point taking a seat courtside next to Jim Boeheim.
Midway through the second half, several members of the famed Syracuse 8 were recognized. The Syracuse 8 was a group of nine football players who in 1970 staged a boycott to protest the lack of Black assistant coaches among other issues. They missed the entire 1970 season. Only two ever played at Syracuse again. Later, a university report vindicated the players, stating the “Athletic Department showed an unwarranted insensitivity to attempts by black players to question (offensive) treatment.”
When the members of the Syracuse 8 were introduced to the crowd, the game’s participants walked over to shake their hands. Eventually, both teams and the Syracuse 8 posed for a group photo at midcourt.
Later in the game, Jim Boeheim hopped on the PA for some in-game commentary.
“Derrick’s yelling more at his team than I did at him,’’ Boeheim joked.
It took a while for some old joints to loosen up. There were more than a few wild shots. But eventually, the competitive juices were flowing. Hemingway took a charge from Wallace. Devendorf jawed at his former teammate Nichols. Mookie Jones hoisted up 3-pointers at every chance.
Following the game, the current and former players gathered together for a big family photo.
“I love it,’’ Adrian Autry, who played at SU from 1991 to 1994 and is now the associate head coach, said. “I love when these guys come back and get a chance to share their stories and talk to the current players about their experience. It’s important to get that connection.’’
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Original posted at www.syracuse.com