Boeheim has given multiple chances
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- No one associated with the Syracuse program will project Billy Edelin's future with the Orange next season.
They don't want to go there, at least not yet.
"At the end of the year, we'll sit down and see what is the best course for Billy," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
"I just want to finish out this year strong and win a championship," Edelin said.
"Hopefully we'll have him for the rest of the season," Syracuse senior forward Hakim Warrick said.
Why would Warrick question whether or not his teammate would finish this season?
There's plenty of evidence.
Edelin hasn't shown that he can complete a full season, playing in 62 of a possible 89 games in three seasons, including Saturday night's game against Notre Dame.
That doesn't include his first season in Syracuse after he was dismissed from school for the year for a violation of the student code of conduct.
Edelin missed the first 12 games of what became of his freshman season in 2002-03 for playing in a men's league in Syracuse, an NCAA violation that was ridiculed by the Orange. He then led the Orange to the national title at the point.
Edelin started last season fine, but lasted only 17 games before abruptly leaving the team on Feb. 10 for "personal reasons." He didn't return, withdrew from school but stayed in Syracuse.
Academics became the issue to get back for his junior season because he didn't receive any credits in the second semester of last season. On Oct. 18, the NCAA granted Edelin a waiver to play this season after the school had filed a waiver on Edelin's request on his degree progress. But Boeheim waited until Dec. 1 to play Edelin, missing the first five games of the season. Boeheim wanted to make sure Edelin's academics were in order before playing him.
"There's always that question in the back of your mind," Boeheim said of whether or not Edelin can finish a season. "We're all very worried that Billy can get through everything. We're all pulling very hard for him. We all realize that it's an ongoing struggle for him."
The reason for the struggle is still taboo. It is a private matter that is only being described as a personal issue that Edelin has to deal with on a daily basis. Boeheim has said it has nothing to do with anything illegal.
"I was told not to comment on it," Edelin said. "Sometimes you need a break for family or personal issues and people just want to know what it is. I'm moving forward, though."
Where was Edelin last winter? Apparently, he was in Syracuse, despite rumors that he had fled the area.
"I was up here most of the time," Edelin said. "Everyone said I was missing, but I was in my dorm. My teammates knew where I was and they gave me the proper respect."
Edelin wasn't so sure he would make it back on the team. Warrick wondered the same thing when his classmate was first suspended. Then he wondered again the second time he missed games and again last winter.
"I thought he wasn't coming back," Warrick said. "But we're really happy he stuck around. The whole team is. I don't know how he does it. He really handles it well. It's been really an up and down career for him."
So, why did Syracuse stick by Edelin the past three years?
Edelin said it's because of Boeheim's power in Syracuse.
"He has credibility and obviously everyone listens to him," Edelin said.
Why did Boeheim back him?
"He doesn't have a bad bone in his body," Boeheim said. "He didn't do anything he shouldn't have done. He just had internal issues he needed to work through every day.
"I love Billy," Boeheim said. "I'm hoping he can get through this. In coaching, nobody said everybody was perfect. At Syracuse, I've been exposed to more than one guy that has needed extra attention. That's part of the job. Billy Edelin is a tremendous kid and a kid worth battling for. Some people will say I just want a good basketball player. There's no question that I want to win games, but it's gone beyond that."
Boeheim said the Orange won without Edelin last season and could win without him this season. But for Edelin, and for the program, they need him to get through this season.
Edelin's importance grows with each game. His minutes fluctuate (14.7 mpg), and that's because Boeheim said it took the player a month to get into shape. The coach also goes by feel with Edelin to get him into the game. Edelin doesn't fight it because he said it's not about getting him into the game. It's about winning.
Edelin has been a winner when he plays. He had 26 assists prior to Saturday's game with 13 turnovers, averaging 4.2 points and 14 total steals in 15 games.
"He's an old-school player, the kind of guy who gets into the lane and makes ugly shots," Boeheim said. "He understands the game of basketball better than any player I've coached. He understands how to use his game and stay within the concept of what we're trying to do."
Edelin said he uses lots of spin moves, instead of a cross-over to blow by a defender.
"He makes the whole team better and that's what makes Billy such a good player," Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara said. McNamara is the Orange lead guard and plays both positions when Edelin is available.
"The last couple of years haven't gone the way I envisioned it," Edelin said of his life, not just his career. "Last year was the only time I left for me, the others were out of my control and weren't my choice. Look what I've gone through. I obviously want to be here. I wouldn't mind getting that feeling again [of winning a championship].
"I haven't had a full season so I know I could do even more once I get my rhythm back," Edelin said. "If I did [come back for a full season in 2005-06] it would speak volumes right there."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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