Philly Favorite Son — Syracuse basketball guard Scoop Jardine

For Antonio “Scoop” Jardine, basketball was the road out of South Philly. The road that took him away from what could have been a life of drugs. The road that took him away from the gang violence that claimed the lives of seven friends before the start of 8th grade. It’s the road that’s taken him to starting point guard for the Syracuse University basketball team and a major contributor on two Orange squads that have held the No. 1 spot in the nation. It’s the road that’s taken him to a Sixth Man of the Year Award, the 2011 USA World University Games and USA Select Team. Syracuse G Scoop Jardine has seen a lot in his lifetime. “South Philly isn’t the biggest part of Philly, but it’s the worst part,” Jardine reflected in a nearly darkened Carrier Dome following practice. “In my 8th grade class, there were probably 16 boys in my actual homeroom class, seven of them were gone by then, all due to what you would call gang violence. Growing up I saw a lot of guys pass away really early and not even make it to high school. I saw people killed and I’ve seen people get shot right in front of my face. I saw a lot of things growing up. If you lived past 18 you made it growing up in Philly. “There were drugs, a lot of people doing negative things and it was easy to go that route. There were a lot of people who played basketball but who never made it where they should in terms of their talent level and what they could do. I noticed that,” continued Jardine, who’s already achieved a degree in child and family studies and is on target to earn a second degree, in sociology. “Where I grew up there were a lot of has-beens. I tried to pride myself on being one of the guys who made it out and I really worked hard.” Despite the harsh realities of that environment, Scoop said South Philly shaped him. Surprisingly, he even went on to say it was “the best thing.” “It teaches you a lot about everything,” he said. “You get the bad and the good. When you’re growing up you want to be able to make decisions. You fall on your face sometimes in life. It can help you and shape you for what you’re going to be in the future.” » Related: The odd legacy of Scoop Jardine The son of Angie Richards and Antonio Jardine, Scoop was given his nickname by his grandmother who thought his head looked like a scoop of ice cream when he was born. One of 10 siblings, Scoop was fortunate to have a “great supporting cast” that helped put him and keep him on the right road. “I had my family to always push me, knowing what happened to the guys before me who could play basketball but didn’t make it out. My family was a big part of me, staying on me, keeping me motivated and keeping things positive so I could make it out of Philly. I surrounded myself with the right people.” “Me, his mom, and our family in general, steered him on the right path,” his dad said after the same practice. “We had him young. Everybody helped raising my kids. He could’ve gone down the wrong path. It would’ve been easy, you know. But he didn’t. He chose basketball. He chose to go down another road.” A star at Neumann-Goretti, the same high school that produced former Orange star Rick Jackson, Scoop benefited greatly by playing AAU basketball. Not only was that a positive development on the court that led to him being selected to Team USA in 2006, but it also kept him off the rough and tumble streets of South Philly. “Playing AAU and Sonny Hill basketball (named after the Philadelphia hoops legend) really helped me a lot because I was really never home. I was always at an AAU tournament–Vegas, Chicago, you name it. My family was with me and it gave us a different outlook on where basketball could take you. I was able to get away from the violence,” Scoop said. “Playing against great talent it made you want to become the best at what you do. That’s what kept me really grounded.” Named to the Philadelphia Daily News All-City Second Team and All-Catholic First Team as a senior, ranked Scoop the 51st overall recruit in the class of 2007. Recruited heavily by in-city Villanova, Scoop opted to leave home for Syracuse. While the transition to the SU campus was smooth, the transition to Division 1 basketball and the many ancillary issues associated with that was not. “Coach (Mike) Hopkins did a great job recruiting me through the whole process,” Scoop said. ”I felt real comfortable coming to Syracuse. I wasn’t that far from home but it was still away from home. It wouldn’t have been a good idea to stay in Philly.” What wasn’t comfortable, though, was finding himself on a team with superior talent and playing for a Hall of Fame head coach in Jim Boeheim who didn’t give him the free rein he enjoyed in high school under coach Carl Arrigale. “It was hard playing with people who were better than you, coming from being a star high school player, which I was,” Scoop said without a hint of arrogance. “I just wasn’t good enough. I belonged here, but I just wasn’t good enough at the time. As a freshman, you don’t know that because you’ve never been in that situation so I had a tough time, and I was also coming from a coach who let me do everything to coach Boeheim who wouldn’t let me do anything at all. That was the toughest adjustment for me. There were also two freshmen starting at the time, Jonny (Flynn) and Donte (Greene), who I played against them in HS. I actually felt like I belonged with them.” Scoop was also overweight and played much of his first year with a painful stress fracture that most people didn’t know about. Off the court things were worse. Scoop and two other SU players were accused of sexually harassing a female student. Later that year, his uncle was found to have used a meal card stolen from another Syracuse student. “When Scoop came in he was like any freshman. He had a swagger to play but didn’t really understand what this whole thing was about,” said Hopkins who recruited Scoop since the 9th grade and has since become a father figure. “It’s a lot harder than they understand. He didn’t play a lot of minutes. He ran into some problems that he dealt with. He wasn’t mean to people but he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world either. He was frustrated on the court. He was playing on a leg that could’ve been close to broken or broken at any time. In general, for most of these kids, their entire life is basketball so now that basketball isn’t working out, now what? Birthday: 8/9/88 NBA Position: Point Guard Class: Senior Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200 Hometown: Philadelphia, PA High School: Neumann-Goretti Team Site Profile Statistics » More SU Hoops: Counting down the top 15 players of all time “We knew from recruiting Scoop that he had a huge heart and was a great kid. And you knew he had a big heart as a player that was defined by him playing on that leg.” He didn’t know where he wanted to go, but Scoop seriously considered transferring after just one year on The Hill. His friends back home were no longer calling. He heard all the whispers. “I was thinking of transferring every day. I was thinking about leaving because I didn’t feel like I was getting a fair opportunity,” Scoop said. “People stopped calling me. People were saying I was getting kicked out of Syracuse. The stuff being said about me back home was not good. They were saying, ‘Scoop went up to Syracuse and messed up a great opportunity.’ They said I was just a street kid.’” But his mom and dad stuck with him, coming to every game and supporting him every step of the way. Scoop’s dad was determined his son “stick it out” at SU. “I told him not to give up. He wanted to come home because he thought it would make him feel better. It was a tough situation but he finally figured it out that this was the best situation for him,” the senior Antonio Jardine said. “We told him, ‘Work hard, get better and don’t run away from a situation you created.’” Scoop had surgery on his leg, sat out the 2008-2009 season and dedicated himself to becoming a better player, student and person. “The pressure was off for basketball,” Hopkins said. “He could get in shape. He could get his leg better. He started making significant gains academically. He started being happy with his life. You could just see him growing. My dad used to always tell me, ‘There are no shortcuts in life.’ As a coach you always pass along those things. He was one of those guys who bought in. “He put both feet in. He went to work. That’s the bottom line. The kid went to work. He got in great shape. People started talking about what a great kid he was and the impact he was making and ‘Gosh, he’s so great to be around,’” added Hopkins, who’s been Scoop’s position coach since Day One. “His life changed.” Scoop also benefited by watching point guard Flynn from his vantage point on the SU bench–“breaking him down and seeing why he was so good.” Sitting on the pine also gave him an opportunity to learn from Boeheim and he came to understand why Boeheim “is such a great coach.” He came to practice early, stayed late, and did everything he could to prepare for the 2009-2010 season. “I wanted to be a great player at Syracuse.” When it became evident that Flynn would declare early for the NBA, Scoop further cleared his head following a heart-to-heart talk with Hopkins during which Scoop asked his coach if he had a real future as a member of the Orange. “I said, ‘Be honest. We’re close enough where you can be honest with me and my family,’” Scoop recalled. He said, ‘We feel like you can play with the best in the country. It has nothing to do with you on the court. It’s all about your work ethic and changing your life.’ At first, I didn’t get what he meant about changing my life. It meant changing my diet, sacrificing things to become a better player as far as taking responsibility and growing up. I said ‘Wow.’” Scoop stopped eating after 9 at night, ran non-stop and started treating people better. “All those changes made me feel better about myself. It was a 180-degree change.” Scoop came back, “mentally prepared,” and was a major contributor on the 2009-10 team that climbed to No. 1 in the national rankings. Led by seniors Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins and transfer Wes Johnson, Scoop came off the bench to average 9.1 points and amass 151 assists, second best on the team. The Sporting News named him the national Sixth Man of the Year. “I was a piece of a great team and I became a great player coming off the bench,” Scoop said. “It was all because of how I changed my life in the off-season.” Already possessing the gifts of a leader, Scoop honed those skills learning from Rautins, Johnson and Onuaku. “Those guys were great leaders. I watched them closely.” Last season was Scoop’s first as a starter. Although his high school buddy Jackson was the lone senior, Scoop was the team’s de facto leader, inspiring, exhorting and cajoling teammates. Though he led the BIG EAST in assists with 205, had an impressive assist/turnover ratio of better than 2 to 1, and averaged 12.5 points per game on a team that went 27-8, Scoop also became the player Orange fans loved to hate. Some of that had to do with what was perceived as questionable decision making at times, turnovers that seemed to come at crucial moments, and the fact that Scoop cherished the ball at crunch time. While perhaps underappreciated by SU fans, he is respected by his teammates for wanting to be THE man down the stretch. “It’s a sign of a great player when you want the ball,” senior forward Kris Joseph said. “Guys like Kobe (Bryant) want the ball in crunch time. Michael Jordan wanted the ball in crunch time and that’s a great quality to have. He wants to make the play whether it’s making the right pass or shooting, and that’s a great thing. As far as the love-hate thing, I think it’s going to be like that wherever you go. Unfortunately, at Syracuse University, Scoop Jardine happens to be that guy.” “A lot of people talk about his decision making but honestly I don’t know why because he’s producing. I love the way he plays, and we trust him to make the big plays,” added backcourt mate Brandon Triche. Hopkins said Jardine simply “loves the pressure.” “He’s a Showtime kind of guy. He loves it. He loves the big moment and he has the guts for that big moment,” Hopkins said. “With the responsibility of wanting to take the last shot or make that great pass you’re going to have people taking shots at you because you’re not going to make all the plays every time. You have to be thick-skinned and be self confident, which he is.” Scoop says his mindset is to make something happen when given the opportunity. “You’ve got to be able to take chances in life. You have to be confident. I want to be great. I can live with the criticism,” he said. “But I love the fans. We have the best fans in the country. They know at the end of the day that I just want to win every game and I’ll leave everything on the floor to do that. I can definitely live with that.” » A look back at the most recent Syracuse NBA draft picks Following a summer as a member of the USA Men’s World University Games team, Scoop has emerged as the undisputed leader of the 2011-2012 team. Joseph, the other senior, is mostly a leader by example. Scoop’s cousin, guard Dion Waiters, may be the most dynamic. Center Fab Melo is the King of Swat. But when it comes to THE leader, there’s no doubt, it’s Scoop. “He’s our leader and like I said we know we can trust him. That’s one of the biggest qualities he has as a leader,” Triche said. “He’s really matured and knows how to talk to guys. He adjusts the way he speaks to people because not everybody reacts the same way. He’s a guy who’s not going to bring you down but is going to pick you up and bring more fire.” Added Joseph: “He has a great way of talking to us. He grabs everybody’s attention and the young guys really look up to him.” If Scoop feels he’s offended a teammate he will often talk to the player later the same day to clear the air, another stellar quality. His teammates and coaches look up to him not just for what he is and has become, but because of what’s taken to get to this point: from the depths as a freshman and the days thinking of transferring, to a senior season during which he has led the Orange, again, to the top spot in the nation. It’s been an unbelievable ride. “I love him. I love him. I feel like a proud dad,” Hopkins said. “To see where he was as a freshman, to see where he is now, is one of the greatest turnarounds/success stories I’ve ever been around. He’s taken a lot of punches. He really has. You read every self-help book and it’s always about how you handle adversity. Scoop Jardine could be successful in life if he decided to quit basketball tomorrow. But with that being said he’s turned into a tremendous player. He’s been a great leader. It’s all about winning to him. He’ll play his professional basketball for 8-10 years and then he’ll be successful in life and always revert back to his experience here at Syracuse. He’ll be able to look back and say ‘I went through a tough time and I did it, I beat it, I conquered it.’” “Early on in his career there were a few things that got him into trouble but he grew up, he grew up fast,” Joseph said. Antonio Jardine is proud of what his son has grown up to be. “I told him, ‘There’s something different out there. Be better than me. There are other things out there,’ and he’s taken advantage of it. I’m very proud of him, more so getting two degrees from Syracuse than the basketball. “He came here as an 18-year-old kid and grew up to become a 22-year-old adult. He got some bumps and bruises along the way but I think it helped him mature as a person and gave him a great outlook on life. It was tough at the beginning but I’m glad he got through it. He’s grown as a man. Things have worked out for him.” As he gets ready for the next chapter of his life, Scoop said he’ll cherish many things from his five years on The Hill: his two degrees, “a lot of wins as a starting point guard,” scoring more than 1,000 points, being a member of two No. 1 teams, Sixth Man of the Year, and on and on. And, he’ll leave with a lot of perspective. “I’ve had a great career,” Scoop said with humility, “especially when you look at where I was freshman year. I could never have imagined all this looking back. I could never have imagined it. When you see me smiling on the bench and cheering everybody on it’s because I know what I’ve been through and what it’s taken.” And all because Scoop Jardine took the road less traveled.