Monday, April 28, 2003
He's leaving just 17 days after leading the Orangemen to the national title.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- For once, Carmelo Anthony wasn't smiling, and that said it all.
Moments after walking into the news conference he called Thursday afternoon, the Syracuse freshman uttered the words nobody around here wanted to hear.
"I'm here in front of you today to announce that I will not be coming back next year," the star forward said with tears in his eyes and a trembling voice. "I will be moving on, moving on to the pros."
The news of Anthony's decision to enter the NBA draft came just 17 days after he led the Orangemen to their first national championship. All those pleas for him to stay "One more year!" were quickly lost in a sea of emotion.
"This is a very happy day for Syracuse basketball, and a sad one, too," coach Jim Boeheim said, his voice cracking with emotion. "The guy sitting here has done more for Syracuse basketball than any player we've ever recruited or that's ever played here.
"To lead his team to a national championship as a freshman is truly a historic moment in college basketball. I'm very thankful that he was here with us."
So, too, were the long-suffering Syracuse fans, who endured national championship game losses to Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. They did their best to convince Anthony to stay. In the Orangemen's regular-season finale against Rutgers, an NCAA on-campus-record crowd of 33,071 came out to make one last personal plea, repeatedly chanting "One more year!" as time wound down.
Anthony had delayed making his decision until after the season, preferring to focus on winning. He led the Orangemen during the regular season with 22 points and 10 rebounds per game and broke Lawrence Moten's freshman scoring records and Derrick Coleman's freshman rebounding mark.
At the Final Four in New Orleans, Anthony scored a career-best 33 points and also had 14 rebounds in Syracuse's semifinal win over Texas. He then put up 20 points in the championship game victory over Kansas and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four -- just the third freshman to earn that honor.
"I've got to move on," said Anthony, who will turn 19 in May. "We won the national championship, I brought Coach Boeheim what he was waiting for, for 27 years. I don't want to make it sound bad, but there's really nothing more that I could get out of college. And I'm going to get my degree -- you can quote me on that."
Despite all his success and the NBA riches that await, it was evident the decision was heart-wrenching. Anthony said he made up his mind after discussing his situation with his mother, Mary, over Easter weekend, and his coaches.
"I really don't want to leave, to be honest. My teammates, I'm going to miss them so much," said Anthony, who was raised by his mom in a tough Baltimore neighborhood. "But moving on is an opportunity to take care of my family. It's something I always wanted to do, and now I've got the opportunity to do that."