Syracuse Basketball: Devo’s transformation as leader back on full display

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

It was no surprise that former Syracuse basketball star Eric Devendorf’s name was on the list when Boeheim’s Army unveiled its roster of players for this summer’s TBT. As we’ve grown accustomed, the captain will be the emotional leader on and off the court for this coming Saturday’s first game in Illinois that starts at noon ET on ESPN.

Devo, the Syracuse University guard from 2005-09, has been the heart and soul of the team predominantly composed of Orange hoops alumni, which is going into its 7th year competing for the winner-take-all $1 million prize.

What has been a pleasant surprise to most fans is Devendorf’s emergence as an MVP-like representative of the Syracuse basketball program in all walks of life. A string of selfless and positive acts involving charities, coaching and social media have improved his public persona and revealed a strength in character that casual observers might not have seen coming.

During Devendorf’s playing days with the Orange, he was one of the top scorers in program history, with a flair for the dramatic. But his on-court demeanor, best described as the player opposing teams loved to hate, and his unceremonious exit from SU with eligibility remaining made it feel like the prized recruit played out an unfulfilled career. His most famous shot seemed to capture the essence of his time at Syracuse: It was Devendorf’s three at the buzzer that would have won the 2009 Big East Tournament game vs. UConn and sent him soaring to the top of the scorer’s table at MSG in wild celebration, only for it to be waved off because it came just after time ran out.

‘Cuse did go on to win that one in an unforgettable 6 OTs, perhaps foreshadowing Devo’s ability to grind out a fresh public face in the long game of life. After leaving SU, he pursued a pro basketball career for several years. Then, Devendorf came back into our hearts and it has been thrilling to watch.

Former Syracuse basketball player Eric Devendorf is leading by example.

Along with giving Orange fans bonus action every summer as the clear team leader on Boeheim’s Army, Devo’s been busy the past few years and particularly in the face of the pandemic, being positive. Some highlights:

* Orange head coach Jim Boeheim brought Devendorf back to the Melo Center in 2016 as the team’s strength and conditioning coach. You could sense the energy he brought to the club during his tenure, including the team’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2018.

* He started and hosts a podcast on The Field of 68 network, named The Scorer’s Table. While the interviews he conducts with Syracuse hoops legends are all insightful and revealing, it is Devendorf’s winning personality that shines through as a man who bleeds Orange and has earned a high level of trust and respect from his peers.

* Devendorf created a fundraising effort during the pandemic to help small businesses in Syracuse through the force of his personality, and had collected $50,000 within seven days.

* He works with kids of all ages and his rapidly growing ED23 Hoops basketball camps are widely praised for his unique ways of reaching and impacting young players.

* On Twitter, besides always supporting Syracuse basketball with entertaining and insightful commentary, his free video demonstrations of dribbling skills and training techniques are helping youth learn to love the game. He also has the ability to be sincere in offering inspiration. Just a sample, recently Devendorf tweeted out: “Life (is) too short to be unhappy… let that go!!! And continue on…”

The TBT has become a right of summer for Orange fans. The single-elimination games feel like the NCAA tournament, with the faces you cheered for during their college days back fighting to survive and advance.

Other players also on the Boeheim’s Army list for the 2021 squad include Tyler Lydon, Chris McCullough, CJ Fair, Malachi Richardson, Andrew White and Paschal Chukwu.

When the initial 2021 roster was posted, Devo immediately tweeted out, “We got three more,” and then, “Oh boy these three special…”

Devendorf knew past TBT legends for Overseas Elite (Deandre Kane and DJ Kennedy) would be among those bolstering the 2021 Boeheim’s Army roster. After all, Devo is the team’s top recruiter along with GM Kevin Belbey.

The players join because of who Devo is both on and off the court. With a basketball in his hands fearless, aggressive, all heart, never say die and one of the best left-handed drives to the basket you’ll ever see. But mostly because of who he is and has become off the court. Sincere, caring, giving and flat out cool.

Best of all for Syracuse fans who might not have been sold back when his college playing days ended, we know he truly bleeds Orange, just like we do.

And whether this year’s TBT run is Devendorf’s last as he’s threatened a few times, we know he’ll always be repping, and we’ll always love having him on our side.

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