A scrawny white kid with a big cross tattooed on his arm sauntered down the floor, slowly crossed-over right-to-left a zipped a no-look pass inside for a bucket. He jogged back on defense, nodding his head and smiling.
And with that my friend and I had discovered Eric Devendorf.
Three years later, with seemingly all of the world watching, he and Jonny Flynn led an improbable Syracuse run to the title game in the Big East tournament. The big stage provided a shining example of Devendorf’s sizable talent and over-inflated ego.
There is nothing he can’t do – in his mind at least. He drives to the basket with reckless abandon, launches shots with defenders all over him, and whips no-look passes all around the court. He also cherry-picks, loafs on defense, and almost never gets a rebound.
He plays like a NBA player – a slow, unathletic NBA player. His blackcent and streetball tendencies further enhance his charm.
Eric Devendorf was born in Bay City, Michigan, the birthplace of Madonna and not exactly a basketball mecca. He initially committed to Michigan State, but chose to play at Syracuse after spending a year in prep school at the famed Oak Hill Academy.
His career has been filled with highs and lows.
Devendorf suffered a knee injury last season and played in just 10 games. Earlier this season, he was suspended after allegedly punching a female student in the face. He also lost a close friend in a shooting death two years ago.
He set the Big East tournament scoring record during last week’s tournament. With another year of eligibility remaining, Eric Devendorf has a chance to be among the best guards to ever play for Syracuse.
Last week when he briefly appeared to have beaten UConn with his 3-pointer at the buzzer, I called my friend and yelled “Devendorf!!!”
Then we watched as replays showed him jumping on the press table, pounding his chest, and of course, yelling.
Too bad the shot didn’t count.
Devendorf was granted a medical redshirt last year by the NCAA, giving him an additional season of eligibility. I just hope he doesn’t test the NBA waters after the season.
Don’t push your luck, Eric.