Melo's Transition Game
Drug bust. Bar fight. Gangster cameo. Benched at the Olympics. Feuds with his coaches. After a season to forget, 21-year-old Carmelo Anthony is an NBA star who’s now learning to live without the ball.
But he gave in to reason. "Oak Hill was the starting point for me. [I realized] the only person I can rely on is myself. I don't know anybody in this school. There was no love. ... I just put myself in a shell." At Oak Hill he had to wake up at 7, follow a dress code, be in his room by 8 that night, lights out at 10. Even his hair had to pass the test-no braids. But then basketball season arrived. He led the Warriors to a 32-1 record, with a No. 3 final national ranking by USA Today. Oak Hill, Anthony says, "humbled me. It calmed me down. It showed me there was a different life."
By the time he landed in Syracuse Anthony was used to walking into a mostly white world where he was expected to work magic with a basketball. But in upstate New York, he had finally found a place he could play basketball and feel at home. Coach Boeheim had a lot to do with it. "The thing I liked about him is that he never talked about basketball," Anthony says, referring to the first time he met Boeheim. "He was just having a general conversation, which really impressed me. He was just talking about his family, my family. I was like, 'A college coach is talking like this?' It really clicked on. I was like, man, I'm coming."
Everything came together at the Syracuse Carrier Dome. "I get there and, man, I'm like the savior of this city. We was like the Beatles up there." The team, ranked 65th at season's start, kept winning. It also became clear to Anthony and to Boeheim that college was going to be a quick stopover for Anthony. "I knew that he was more than ready to play in the NBA," Boeheim says. "But the one thing he did that was great, he said, 'Coach, let's not even think about it till the season's over.' And he did that."
Nineteen-year-old Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to its first ever national championship game. The night of the final Boeheim had eaten something bad and left the pregame meeting early. "Melo was worried about me," Boeheim says. "He thought I was nervous. So he comes over to me, puts his arm around me, and says, 'Don't worry, coach. We got this one.' That's just the way he is." Syracuse defeated Kansas 81-78. That night, Anthony scored 20 points, with 10 rebounds and seven assists.