You can tell it’s early October when we’re using any excuse to start talking about Syracuse basketball, and today that excuse is the fact that the jersey numbers for Kaleb Joseph, Chris McCullough, and a bunch of walk-ons whose names you’d forget by the time the next paragraph gets here so why even bother, have been revealed. McCullough, as expected, will wear 5. Joseph, somewhat surprisingly since we kind of expected him to grab 1, will instead wear 14. So where will he rank among the all-time 14’s?
Let’s just get this out of the way: there’s not a lot of competition when it comes to the number 14, all apologies to Matt Lyde-Cajuste. In fact it seems that for most of the history of Syracuse basketball the number, which has only been worn by 17 people before Joseph, has gone to walk-ons. So basically what we’re saying is, the bar is set pretty low. With that said, let’s dive right into our ranking of the five best players to ever wear the number 14 for the Syracuse basketball program, 60% of whom played well before we were actually born and two of which didn’t finish their careers at Syracuse. Special thanks to orangehoops.org for having such a comprehensive history of Syracuse basketball, by the way, to help us make this list.
5. Bob Shaddock
By today’s standards, Bob Shaddock was a tremendously undersized forward at 6-foot-1, but fortunately for him he played when the nation was collectively a lot shorter. Specifically, he played for Lou Andreas for three seasons from 1940-1943, barely getting on the court as a sophomore before developing into a scrappy contributor for his final two seasons. In fact, as a senior Shaddock was the team’s second leading scorer, behind only Billy Gabor.
There are two things that stand out with Shaddock, the first being that he was the first Orangeman to ever score more than 30 points in a game, which he did against Colgate in 1943. The second is that he didn’t finish his senior season, because he decided to go and join something called “the War effort.” Tip of the cap to Mr. Shaddock, who played briefly for the Syracuse Nationals upon returning home from World War II.
4. Earl Duncan
Earl Duncan no doubt could have ended up higher on this list except for two things: he only played one season for the Orangemen, and he transferred to and finished his career at Rutgers. Revolting.
Anyway, Duncan was a big-time recruit out of the Los Angeles area, but he got tired of playing behind guys like Sherman Douglas and Stevie Thompson, so after first sitting a year due to not qualifying academically and averaging 6.4 points in his lone season with Syracuse, he decided that Rutgers was more appealing. Hey, we mentioned the academic struggles the dude had, so what do you expect? Duncan finished his career at Rutgers averaging 14.6 points and played briefly in the CBA.
3. Carl Vernick
Another player from days long gone is Carl Vernick, a guard from Philadelphia who played f or the Orangemen from 1961-1964 and was a star player for his first two seasons before being turned into a reserve player as a senior. So what happened? Why did he go from averaging 16.5 points as a sophomore to 2.7 points as a senior? Some guy named Dave Bing came along and took his spot, that’s what happened.
Vernick topped 30 points twice during his sophomore season, though he was also part of a Syracuse team that lost 27 straight games, which at the time was an NCAA record. Sure, he fizzled as a senior but let’s be honest, pretty much anyone is going to look pretty shabby next to Dave Bing. So we choose to remember the glory days for old Carl, when he was padding the stat sheets on an historically bad team. Way to go, Carl!
2. Ed Stickel
A four year player from 1945-1949, Ed Stickel was a set shot machine, pumping in buckets and tallying more than 1,000 points in his career for the Orangemen. He was actually just the second player to ever top 1,000 points at Syracuse, and in 1949 set what was then a program record by scoring 38 points in a win over Canisius.
One of the things that stands out about Stickel – or as we like to call him, “Sticky Fingaz” because we just imagine he was probably a gangster rap fan – was that despite averaging double-digits for his four year career and finishing with 1,096 points, he never actually led Syracuse in scoring for a season. Still, he kept plugging along, making things happen and filling up that stat sheet with what we’re going to go ahead and call “Stickel-tuitiveness.”
1. Billy Edelin
Billy Edelin had a rocky time at Syracuse, to say the least, but he was also an integral part of Jim Boeheim’s only national championship so far, and maybe more importantly, he absolutely loved to abuse former Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas every time the two teams played and we absolutely adored him for that. And yeah, okay, we adored how he helped us win a national championship and saved our skin against Oklahoma State early in the tournament, but it’s mainly the “making Chris Thomas his bitch” thing that we loved about Billy.
Edelin had an old man’s game, in that he wasn’t the quickest or most athletic guy on the court, and he certainly wasn’t the best shooter, but he could somehow get where he wanted and finish in the lane. He also had some of the best court vision of any player to ever pass through the Syracuse program, and his passing was on par with anyone save for maybe Sherman Douglas in the annals of Orangeman history. Obviously, Billy had some troubles in his time at Syracuse and didn’t end up finishing at the school, but we love him anyway, and put him as the benchmark for the #14 jersey at Syracuse.
Narrowly missing the cut on this list was Alton “Slim” Elliott, who only scored 307 career points back in the early 1930’s but, seriously, the guy’s nickname was Slim. That’s got to count for something.