Syracuse Basketball: Top 3 shot blockers in Jim Boeheim-era history

Syracuse basketball (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Our hoops guru is delving into the topic of the best shot blockers at Syracuse basketball during the Jim Boeheim era.

Leading up to the 2021-22 Syracuse basketball campaign, it’s a good time for a 10-part series highlighting the best of the Boeheim era (1976-present).

I’ll give my takes, ranking the “Top 3” in many categories, from best free throw shooters to most exciting on a fast break. From top games in the Dome, to top games in the NCAA tourney and everything else in between.

I was 7-years-old in 1976 when Jim Boeheim, who is second all-time in career victories within Division I men’s basketball, became the head coach of the Orange. If I haven’t watched (or listened on the radio) intently to every single Syracuse basketball game since then, then it’s close to 98%.

Statistical facts in each Top 3 are fueled by the awesome web site.

Part 1: Top 3 Triple Doubles.

Part 2: Top 3 Free Throw Shooters.

Part 3: Top 3 Most Exciting on Fast Break.

Part 4: Top 3 Games at the Carrier Dome.

And today, Part 5: My Top 3 Shot Blockers:

First of all, when you start talking about individual blocked shots in the Jim Boeheim era, there is only one that comes immediately to mind. And that block will stand the test of time as the greatest in Syracuse basketball history.

If it was a book, the title would be simply, “The Block.” And, the author would be Hakim Warrick.

The scene was the 2003 NCAA National Championship game, Syracuse vs. Kansas, at the Superdome in New Orleans. Syracuse held an 81-78 lead with just seconds remaining when Kansas got the ball to guard Michael Lee for a wide-open 3-pointer. Lee raised up for the jumper that would have tied the game, but seemingly out of nowhere came the outstretched left arm of Warrick, who had flown to the spot. Warrick swatted the ball away, saved the game, and Syracuse won its first national championship.

The iconic photo of Hakim’s block is framed and mounted on my wall.

But believe it or not, despite Hak’s great length and skill, he wasn’t one of the Orange’s best shot-blockers, statistically. In his four-year career spanning 135 games, Warrick had 128 blocks (16th in Syracuse history) for 0.9 per game (ranking him 25th).

The Jim Boeheim era has seen better enforcers and anchors of its vaunted 2-3 zone, piling up blocked shots that set the tone for most games.

My Top 3 Shot Blockers:

1. Etan Thomas, 1997-2000.

Thomas had 424 career blocked shots, ranked 1st all time. He averaged 3.5 blocks per game, also ranked 1st all-time in Syracuse basketball history.

Etan’s 424 blocks rank him currently as No. 16 in NCAA college basketball history.

His left arm was the long arm of the law. Thomas led the team in blocks all four years of his career, peaking at 138 in the 1997-98 season and averaging a record 4 per game the next year.

Etan, 6-10, was the first Syracuse player to ever be named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and he earned the award twice, his junior and senior seasons.

He was the 12th pick overall in the 2000 NBA Draft and played 10 years in the League where he blocked another 427 shots, mostly with the Washington Wizards.

Today, Thomas is an outspoken author, motivational speaker and podcaster. He’s a great follow on Twitter at @etanthomas36.

Watch how strong, skilled and intimidating Etan was as a shot blocker for Syracuse:

2. Roosevelt Bouie, 1977-1980.

Bouie, a 6-11 center, set the original marks for dominance down low for the Orangemen, with 327 blocked shots, now ranked 2nd all-time, and 2.8 blocks per game, also currently ranked 2nd all-time in Syracuse history.

Roosevelt Bouie was one of Boeheim’s first recruits and part of the famed “Louie and Bouie Show,” which became one of college basketball’s best front-courts. “Louie” of course being forward Louis Orr, Bouie’s classmate and Boeheim’s other key recruit entering his first year as head coach.

In their four years together, Louie and Bouie-led Syracuse had an astounding 100-18 record and ruled at one of the great home-court advantages in college basketball at Manley Field House. Their uniforms were retired together in 2015.

Most kids my age growing up in Central New York had the now-iconic black and white poster of Bouie and Orr running down the court together, ushering in the Jim Boeheim era, which continues on today.

If you’ve still got one of those posters, cherish it.

Bouie, who was first-team All-Conference in the Big East’s inaugural year, went on to become a legend in Italian professional basketball, and remains connected with the Orange program in various ways.

3. Darryl Watkins, 2004-2007.

Watkins, a big, athletic, 6-11 center, finished his Orange career with 263 blocked shots, ranked 5th all-time in program history, and averaged 2.5 blocks per game, ranked 3rd all-time.

In the 2006-07 season, Watkins had 112 blocks for a 3.5 per game average, which trails only Etan Thomas (who averaged more on 3 different occasions), for the best year ever.

Watkins, from New Jersey, wasn’t a huge offensive threat, but he was an enforcer down low, also averaging more than 7 boards a game when he became a starter for his junior and senior seasons. During his career for the Orange, Watkins blocked 8 shots in a game twice.

Watkins went on to play a few games in the NBA and had 6 blocked shots at the highest level. He still plays professionally, including a stint with Boeheim’s Army and most recently in Indonesia.

Of note: Special shout-outs to Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman, two of the greatest players in Syracuse history who ruled the paint and ranked 3rd and 4th respectively in career blocks, teaming up for two years in the 80s to dare anyone to try and score down low.

And I have to mention one block from recent history, by Alan Griffin last year, who raced the court and made a Lebron-like block on the University of Buffalo to save a game. The play happened during the pandemic with no fans in attendance and I only wish the Carrier Dome faithful had been there for Griffin’s block, because the sheer athleticism of it at that critical time in the game would have blown the roof off the place:

Next time: My Top 3 Scorers in the Boeheim era.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Prep power with 4-star Chance Westry stacks roster. dark