C.J. Fair returns to Syracuse

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
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On Wednesday morning, in a column detailing his and a score of other decisions still in flux before Sunday's final NBA draft decision deadline, I wrote the following about Syracuse forward C.J. Fair:
The good news for those Syracuse fans afflicted is that if Fair does leave, the Orange will still be the Orange, which means they'll still be coached by Jim Boeheim, which means they'll still have a hearty group of versatile forwards Baye Keita, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas, as well as freshman Tyler Roberson to throw at the vacancy. Fair's ability to catch-and-shoot and drive at the rim from the midrange, baseline corner and wings would be missed, no doubt, but let's be real: Syracuse will be fine either way.

Here's some other, better news: Syracuse doesn't even have to worry about it, because Fair is coming back after all.

That was the announcement, via release, out of upstate New York today, where Fair said he wanted to get better and get a degree:
"After talking it over with my family and my coaches, I decided another year at Syracuse was best for me," said Fair. "I'm excited about working hard with my teammates to put together another great season and graduating has also been a goal of mine."

So, what does it mean for Syracuse? When I wrote that the Orange would be fine without Fair, it wasn't to diminish his abilities so much as remind everyone just how good and how deep the Orange's frontcourt really is. That is only more obvious with Fair in the fold. The 6-foot-8 wing was arguably Syracuse's best player last season. At the very least, he was the gluiest -- the guy whose offensive skill set sits directly between perimeter and interior, who can make midrange jumpers and attack the rim in equal measure, who blocks shots and doesn't commit fouls, who adds a devastating wing component to Boeheim's 2-3 zone. It's a cliche, but it's true: Fair didn't do any one thing spectacularly in 2012-13, but he did a lot of things very well.

We can expect that performance as a baseline in 2013-14, but I'm interested to see, now that Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland are gone, whether or not Fair can make good on the hints at his perimeter skill set and expand them enough to become a legitimate 6-foot-8 small forward, if not a shooting guard. Ballhandling is probably the biggest hurdle, but he's not that far off as it is. And what faster way to prove your NBA bonafides, right?

Anyway, Syracuse fans seemed to treat Fair's decision with a huge amount of suspense, and I suppose that makes sense; he is a good player with the chance to be great. But while the Orange's Final Four chances surely increase with the news, unlike many draft decisions, Fair's return was hardly make or break. Syracuse was going to be good either way. With Fair, they'll undoubtedly be better.

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