WBB : Men’s team has plenty of respect for No. 24 SU
Less than 10 days ago, Nicole Michael played the biggest game of her career against No. 1 Connecticut. Michael went into the game feeling weaker than usual due to a nagging illness.
As the Syracuse sophomore ran down the court in the second half, it was obvious the illness may be getting the best of her. Then she heard a voice call out: ‘Suck it up! We need you!’
It wasn’t her coach or her teammates. The encouraging words came from Donte Greene of the men’s basketball team.
‘They’ve definitely taken a personal interest in our team,’ No. 24 Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. ‘And they’re a big part of our success. They’ve been coming to our games from day one. It’s exciting having Paul (Harris), Jonny (Flynn), Donte and those guys there. It’s been huge.’
The men attend just about every game they can. Usually they sit behind the basket within shouting distance of the court and the bench because they are not just spectators, but want to help, too.
‘I’ve heard Paul before. Paul’s like a brother to me,’ Michael said. ‘He always tells me ‘You’ve got to score! What are you doing?’ It’s great. It’s great to have them.’
The relationship between the men’s and women’s teams goes beyond just going to each others games. The two teams don’t view themselves as two separate entities, but as one collective family.
‘We call each other brothers and sisters,’ freshman Erica Morrow said. ‘I call Paul my big brother. And Donte and Jonny of course too, we are like a big family. That’s a really good analogy.’
Hillsman and men’s head coach Jim Boeheim are understandably a part of the family as well. Boeheim has gone to a number of women’s games, and Hillsman says he never misses a men’s game when he’s in town.
Hillsman might also be considered a big brother by Flynn. The coach, a former point guard in college, likes talking basketball with the current point guard. Hillsman credits Flynn as one of the best guards in the nation, just not as good as he once was.
‘I always tell Jonny that he’s me without a jump shot; I always tease him,’ Hillsman said. ‘I always tell him I’d shoot him out of the gym. He and I have a little fun together.’
Hillsman and Flynn are not the only ones having fun. The teams do a lot together away from basketball. They go to the movies together, play cards and just hang out. In some circumstances it’s easy to get together because they live close to each other.
Flynn and Harris live above Morrow and Tasha Harris on South Campus. Whether it’s Paul Harris asking for pans from Morrow or Morrow asking Harris to cook her something, they are always around each other. Sometimes the players will even do laundry together, too.
Cards, movies and laundry are activities they enjoy together now, but basketball began it all. Every day during summer workouts, both teams worked together fine-tuning their skills.
‘All summer I worked out with Paul and Eric (Devendorf),’ Morrow said. ‘Almost everyday we worked out, early, late nights, playing in the gym.’
Tasha Harris and Morrow, who are both freshmen, can remember in high school when the boys and girls team did their own things. If there was continuity between the two teams, it was nothing like this.
Even Hillsman has never seen a connection like this in his 12 years of coaching.
‘This is definitely different,’ Hillsman said. ‘And it’s very special because night in and night out they support us.’
Much needed rest
When Syracuse finished its game against Villanova on Saturday, it was the ninth game the team has played in the previous 31 days. For the well-traveled team, the lack of a midweek game this week provided some time to re-energize.
‘I think the one thing that we don’t value enough is coaches and as players is having time off and having time to rest and to heal up a little bit,’ Hillsman said.
Forward Fantasia Goodwin said after taking two days off, the team came back to practice yesterday with strong energy, partially because of the team’s first-ever national ranking in the national polls this week.
Hillsman said his team has had a chance to get back into the weight room this week and do some rehab.
‘It’s been a good week for us to just kind of get ourselves back together,’ Hillsman said.
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