This is Part III of a 9-day extravaganza that takes a look at each expected rotation player for Syracuse’s 2012-2013 season. I’ll discuss some of their career in Orange up to this point, and what I feel needs to happen with that player for Syracuse to make a Final Four run.
We continue our coverage with my a Syracuse fan favorite and someone who we are expecting big things from in the year to come, CJ Fair. Huge thanks to Orangehoops.org for all of the valuable research material.
CJ Fair, Junior
Role: Starter, #2 option
Best Case Improvement: Dribbling, continue improvement with jumper
Ah yes, my favorite Syracuse player for two years running now, Mr. CJ Fair. From day one I liked something about the way CJ always played hard, always seemed to care, yet never said a word. He was Josh Pace mixed with Hakim Warrick from day one (I swear I said this during the opening exhibition game vs. Kutztown in 2010). What is my wish for CJ during the 2012-2013 season? It’s not as much of a wish as it is a prediction: this is the year CJ will make “the leap.”
Players generally make a huge jump in production from their Freshman to Sophomore seasons for a variety of seasons. Looking at recent SU basketball history, however, the same can be said about going from your Sophomore to Junior season. Let’s begin with the two guys I just compared CJ to, Hakim Warrick and Josh Pace. Hakim increased his scoring average five points between those years, while Pace bumped his by over five. Kueth Duany increased his output by nearly 7 points, while recent grad Kris Joseph boosted his by almost 4.
Last season, CJ averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds, all while having less plays run for him than you can count on one hand. We all know how CJ scores: putbacks, dish-offs in the lane, and transition buckets. He also averaged 26 minutes per game. This season, you know that number will increase, probably by at least 6 or 7 minutes. Let’s put him at 33 minutes per game. Is anyone arguing that 13 points and 7 boards is out of the realm of possibility for him? And that’s being generous.
Fair will be a starter from day one on next year’s squad, which was a role last year that caused a sudden and inexplicable six-game drop off (UConn 2/25 to K-State 3/17) in his production. Maybe he was far more comfortable in his role coming off the bench, or maybe he just had an uncharacteristic slump, but for some reason, it took CJ a few games to really find himself as a starter. He picked it up with a spectacular 15-point, 7 rebound, 4 steal effort against Wisconsin, then finished the year with a solid 8 point, 4 rebound game against Ohio State (I’m refusing to acknowledge his four fouls as a knock on him since we all know about the refs that game).
I believe that coming into this next year, his hunger to improve and clear-cut role as a starter will contribute to a breakthrough year for CJ. He spent last summer improving his jumper and confidence to perform in college. I suspect this summer he will continue to improve the jumper and come back with some new moves to the basket. Oh, and I also expect a lot of the same from the previous two years as well.
If CJ can make the leap that I’m expecting, don’t be surprised if the upcoming season is the last we see him suit up for the Orange.
– Kevin Cartini