Jardine savors role as mentor at Syracuse

Syracuse's Scoop Jardine (11) says he is happy to be playing basketball with freshman Dion Waiters, who lived with Jardine in South Philadelphia.
Syracuse's Scoop Jardine (11) says he is happy to be playing basketball with freshman Dion Waiters, who lived with Jardine in South Philadelphia.
Posted: October 21, 2010

NEW YORK - Syracuse's Scoop Jardine has come full circle, the older teammate now helping a freshman cope with the demands of being a college student as well as a potential star basketball player.

But this is a special freshman to Jardine. This is Dion Waiters, who lived with Jardine and his grandmother in South Philadelphia from seventh grade until the time the older player headed for Syracuse.

Jardine, the 6-foot-2 former Neumann-Goretti star, said Waiters' mother gave her blessing to the living arrangement so that he would be around basketball players, not out on the streets.

"We've always been together," Jardine said Wednesday during Big East media day. "I'm just happy to play with him this year. It means a lot to both of our families to see us play together. He's a talented freshman, and he's going to do a lot of great things here at Syracuse."

Waiters, a 6-3 guard who played his final two seasons at Life Center Academy in Burlington, made headlines when he committed to Syracuse as a high school freshman. Jardine said Waiters wanted to follow him to play for the Orange, or anywhere he chose.

"If I went to Villanova," Jardine said, "he would have been there, too.

"He was a guy that looked up to me. I was like a role model and I am still a role model to him at Syracuse, teaching him how to be a college student. It's great that I can also teach a young kid like that who's talented and I can help him get to where he wants to be, and that's also one of my plans."

Jardine said an older teammate, Arinze Onuaku, taught him how to be a college student. But Onuaku's help almost came too late.

As a freshman, Jardine was suspended for two games after being linked to the use of a stolen student ID card. At one point during that year, he feared he would be kicked out of school.

"My back was up against the ropes," he said. "I never expected that. It made me see what it really was, how you can make one mistake and everything goes down the drain. I took things for granted. Then I started cherishing everything I was given being a college student."

Jardine sat out his second season at Syracuse while recovering from a stress fracture in his left leg. He was restricted from going home to Philadelphia to visit. He couldn't work out with the team for a long time because of the injury.

That's when, he said, his life turned around. He said he came back "a totally different person, and player" with the help of Onuaku, coach Jim Boeheim, and assistant Mike Hopkins.

"I don't know if [Onuaku] knows it or not, but I followed his lead," said Jardine, who has junior eligibility. "He's a great student, and I'm talking about off the court. He helped me be the man I am.

"Coach Boeheim stayed on me, disciplined me. Coach Hop is my father figure at Syracuse. Those guys helped me. I came in as a boy and now I'm a man. I can teach the same thing to Dion."

Preseason picks. Rick Jackson, Jardine's former high school and current college teammate, earned honorable mention on the all-Big East team. Georgetown's Austin Freeman was voted preseason player of the year by the league's coaches and headed the six-man all-conference team, which included Villanova's Corey Fisher.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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