Ten years ago, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters used to sit in the stands and wait for Allen Iverson to come running through the tunnel.
In 2001, when Iverson was leading the Sixers to the NBA Finals, Jardine and Waiters were two of his biggest fans.
Who knew that 10 years later, this duo would be shining on the very same court.
Jardine and Waiters led No. 1 Syracuse into Philadelphia last Wednesday for a 79-66 victory over Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center. The Orange are 18-0 and, thanks to a pair of Philly kids, Syracuse just might win its second national championship.
“I loved watching A.I. play and I couldn’t wait to see him run through the tunnel,” said Jardine, a fifth-year senior who once starred at Neumann-Goretti. “I was a huge Sixers fan and still am. If I could high-five the players, it made my day. A.I. was unbelievable and I just loved how he played hard every night. To have multiple chances to play on this court is really special to me. I dreamed about it then. It’s cool to be happening.”
Waiters starred at Burlington Life Academy Center (N.J.), but was raised in Philadelphia. He scored a game-high 20 points against the Wildcats, one of his best games this season.
“I’m a big Sixers fan, too, and watching A.I. was amazing,” Waiters said. “I have so many friends here in Philly, but I always wanted to go play for Syracuse in the Carrier Dome with all those thousands of people watching. I verbally committed early, around the ninth grade. I love Philly hoops, but playing for Syracuse is something I wanted. It’s working out very well. I’m very excited about our chances this season.”
The Orange last won a national title in 2003 led by Carmelo Anthony.
This year’s version doesn’t feature one specific superstar. In fact, entering the game against Villanova, no Syracuse player was ranked in the top 250 in the country in scoring.
Syracuse is winning the old-fashioned way, much like the Sixers these days, with teamwork and defense.
“We have 10 players who can all explode on any given night,” Jardine said. “We feed off each other. We play for the team here. You could see in the summer that it was going to be a special ride for us. I liked what we had coming back. We have no egos here and we’re all focused on playing as a team and doing all those little things you need to win.”
Waiters was the leading scorer against Villanova. It could have been anyone.
“As long as we win,” Waiters said. “Really, that’s all that matters to me. I just want to win and get hot in March. I’m excited about how we’re playing, but at the same time, we’re focusing on the big picture.”