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No. 15 shows allegiance to school that started it all

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SYRACUSE — Carmelo Anthony knew he was destined to wear Orange when he came home from school one day during his junior year in Baltimore, and saw Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim sitting on his front step.

“Before that day, I thought there was no way I was going to Syracuse,” Anthony said Saturday after having his No. 15 jersey retired at halftime of the SU-Georgetown game in the Carrier Dome. “But after coach Boeheim sat on my couch and we talked about what we could accomplish at Syracuse, I started to bleed Orange and haven’t stopped.”

Anthony, now starring for the New York Knicks in the NBA, returned to Central New York some 10 years after helping lead the Orange to its one and only national championship in 2003. He said the cycle is now complete.

“I can’t put into the right words what this means to me and my family,” Anthony said. “The Syracuse community took a young kid from Baltimore into their arms and made me feel welcome from the first day I stepped on the campus until the day I left. If not for them, and my coaches and teammates, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Among his former SU teammates returning for the ceremony was Watertown’s Matt Gorman, Josh Pace and Craig Forth. Anthony gave them credit for “making my dream and the team’s dreams come true. Without them, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”

SU went 30-5 in Anthony’s lone season in Central New York. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds a game in leading the Orange to a 13-3 Big East record and was named a first-team all-conference first-team pick and conference rookie of the year.

He was also Final Four MVP after leading the Orange past Texas in the semifinals and Kansas in the national championship game.

Following the season, he was chosen first team All-American by the Sporting News, and second team by the Associated Press and several other publications.

After entering his name in the NBA Draft, he was chosen as the second pick overall by the Denver Nuggets. During the 2010-11 campaign he was traded to the New York Knicks.

He has been a member of three U.S. Olympic teams and was a key performer as the U.S. won gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

“To be able to accomplish things after I left Syracuse was all because of what I learned here,” he said. “Not only as a player, but as a man and a husband and father.”

Anthony also made the lead gift, reported to be $2.5 million, toward the construction of SU’s new practice facility, which was named the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.

“It was easy for me to say I was part of the Syracuse community, and then walk away for good,” Anthony said. “But I was determined to keep my word and give back to this school what I thought they needed. Now the teams have a real home to call their own.”

Anthony’s jersey joins that of Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Billy Gabor, Vic Hanson, Billy Owens, Wilmeth Sadat Singh, Rony Seikaly and Dwayne “Pearl’’ Washington, which have been previously honored.

SU coach Jim Boeheim said Anthony “was one of the most important players and people we’ve ever had at Syracuse. The center named after him is such a tremendous asset to the entire community. I’m sure glad I made that trip to Baltimore and perched on his stoop waiting for him to get back from school.”

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