Syracuse men’s basketball: Joe Girard’s complicated tenure with the Orange

Mar 28, 2023 - 3:00 PM
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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

How would you describe Joe Girard’s career with the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team?

Underwhelming or underappreciated? It’s not an easy answer by any means.

For better or worse, it appears that Girard is moving on. He announced on Friday that he would be declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft while adding his name to this year’s transfer portal. Girard said he was keeping an option open to return to Syracuse, but he’s moving on to meetings with three schools so it seems as though his time with the Orange has ended.

That begs the question: how should we remember Girard’s time with the Orange?

Most of the Orange fanbase can agree that the initial hype preceding Girard’s rookie season in 2019-2020 never quite panned out in the final product. For the most part, that’s what paved the way for such a back-and-forth. unclear debate around Girard. Was he supposed to be the next Gerry McNamara? If you look at the career per-40 minutes numbers, there isn’t a big difference statistically.

So what makes Girard such a divisive player among the Syracuse fanbase?

Part of it stems from his shift in roles over his career. Back in October, I went on the record to defend Girard’s productive 21-22 season, while also acknowledging my skepticism for his ability to increase his offensive workload. Outside of Jesse Edwards, I believed he was Syracuse’s second-most irreplaceable player.

This is where the conversation get interesting. While he did average career-highs in points per game and field goal percentage this past season while, he still struggled at inopportune times for a team that needed his veteran leadership. After a stellar 31-point outing against Richmond, Girard shot 2-25 in the next three games, all losses for the Orange. That stretch put Syracuse in a tough spot early in the season, one from which they never recovered.

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The last shot against the Wake Forest game was the microcosm of Girard’s legacy: he was never meant to be a primary creator. He wasn’t really meant to be a point guard and he wasn’t really a fit for the 2-3 zone. Still he found a way to impact games and make some tough shots.

It’s disappointing to see how his career ended up. Look at his improvement offensively over his four years and you’ll see that he did grow as a player. Ideally, he would’ve been more successful had he played his natural position sooner in his Syracuse career, but the extra year of eligibility gives Girard an opportunity at a clean slate.

His Syracuse legacy is complicated but in time he’ll likely become more appreciated as so many Orange players before him have experienced.

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