That's because Waiters, perhaps the most talented and surely the most self-assured member of the No. 1-ranked Orange, carries what he calls his "Philadelphia confidence" with him everywhere he goes.
"They know where I'm from,'' Waiters said. "I'm a Philadelphia kid, and that's where I get my confidence from.
"Toughness, confidence, heart. You need all the above in Philly,'' Waiters added. "It's just confidence, and the swagger comes along.''
Waiters and the undefeated Orange (17-0, 4-0 Big East) have swaggered into Philadelphia for tonight's 7 o'clock game against Villanova (8-8, 1-3) at the Wells Fargo Center. Waiters, who comes off the bench, is one of three Syracuse players from Philly. The other two are starters: senior point guard Scoop Jardine, who is Waiters' cousin, and freshman power forward Rakeem Christmas.
Jardine, Christmas and Waiters continue the Philadelphia-to-Syracuse pipeline that also has included Hakim Warrick (with the Phoenix Suns) and Rick Jackson, one of the Big East's top players last season who is now playing professionally in France. The Philadelphia connections at SU have helped ramp up the rivalry between two of the Big East's traditional powers.
"I can't wait,'' Christmas said. "I have a lot of family and friends out there, and that's where I started playing [in eighth grade]. I just want to go out there and play against my friends from 'Nova.''
While this will be Christmas' first game against the Wildcats and Jardine's last (unless SU and Villanova meet in the Big East Tournament), Waiters is the Philadelphia native who figures to leave the biggest imprint on tonight's game. After playing sporadically as a freshman, Waiters has emerged as the Orange's most dynamic player and a leading candidate to follow in Jardine's footsteps from 2009-10 and win The Sporting News' national Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Waiters, who attended Burlington Life Center Academy in New Jersey, ranks second on the Orange in scoring (12.5 points per game), first in steals (2.2) and third in assists (3.0) in 22.1 minutes per game. From his team-high 22 points in a road win at North Carolina State on Dec. 17 to his key block against Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom to help seal last Saturday's win, the powerful, 6-4 Waiters has been on the floor during most of SU's key moments this season.
Although Christmas has started all 17 games this season, he's experiencing the same growing pains that Waiters suffered last season. Christmas starts each half, but plays only a few minutes before retreating to the bench for the rest of the half.
Christmas, who attended Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn after transferring from North Catholic, is averaging 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game. Earlier this season, Boeheim said Christmas was "too nice" and needs to get more physical with his 6-9, 230-pound body.
"He's got to be a warrior down there and right now he's a nice kid,'' Boeheim said. "He has to be able to go on the court and be a warrior and he isn't right now.
"It takes time,'' Boeheim continued. "I've seen almost no big guys come in and be physical. Hakim Warrick has played in the NBA 6 or 7 years and his freshman year he couldn't even play in this league. He got better. [Christmas will] get better."
Jardine, who along with Jackson attended Neumann-Goretti, was a diehard Wildcats fan who regularly attended Villanova's camps and was heavily recruited by Jay Wright. But Jardine and Jackson had decided in high school that they would play together in college, and Jardine chose Syracuse when Villanova did not recruit the late-blooming Jackson.
Jardine is a fifth-year senior who redshirted after his freshman year to recover from a stress fracture in his left shin. The Orange is 3-5 against Villanova during Jardine's 5-year career at SU, and Jardine wants to finish on a high note against his hometown team.
"We've got to go down to Philly and get a win over Villanova,'' Jardine said. "We just have to keep proving people wrong.''