MBB : Waiters remains go-to scoring option for Syracuse in tournament play

first_imgBOSTON – It’s a question Dion Waiters has faced time and again this season. So much, in fact, that he felt reporters should know the answer by now.When asked if Waiters thinks he is unguardable, the sophomore guard’s response hasn’t wavered since day one of the 2011-12 season.Friday inside TD Garden on the eve of the Elite Eight was no different.‘You guys ask me that all the time, and you know I’m going to say, ‘Yeah,” Waiters said. ‘I feel like no matter who is in front of me I’m going to get to the bucket, and I’m going to score.’Throughout his career, Waiters has straddled the line between cockiness and self-confidence, leaning a shade toward the former. But a stellar sophomore season has justified, to a degree, his brutally honest and elevated opinions of himself.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWaiters enters Saturday’s Elite Eight matchup with Ohio State as Syracuse’s most prolific offensive weapon. He won the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year award, averaging 12.7 points per game. And over the course of the last seven games, he has poured in 14.6 per game.It’s prompted point guard Scoop Jardine to anoint Waiters as the team’s principal scoring option.‘When our best scorer is coming off the bench and accepting his role and leaving his ego at the door for the team to be great, you can’t ask for nothing else and ask for a player to do more,’ Jardine said.The ego, though, hasn’t entirely been checked at the door. Rather, it’s been controlled to an extent.His temper tantrums and lack of defensive commitment from a season ago are gone, but his inflated opinion of himself remains.Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said he tried to explain to Waiters last season that he couldn’t show his displeasure. If he is going to be upset, fine. But Boeheim told the then-freshman that he had to keep it to himself.He couldn’t get through, and Waiters debated transferring in the offseason.But he has since reworked his attitude and invested himself defensively. Boeheim went so far as to say Waiters was the team’s best defensive player at times this season.He has channeled his emotions to find a medium that best suits this Syracuse team on both ends of the floor.‘There’s a difference between cockiness and self-confidence,’ SU assistant coach Gerry McNamara said. ‘And I think Dion has a little bit of a combination of both, and I think that’s great. I think when you play with a chip on your shoulder and truly think you’re the best player on the court, you play that way.’It sets up a fascinating matchup between arguably one of the best offensive players in the country in Waiters against one of the best defensive players in Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.OSU head coach Thad Matta said on Friday that Craft, the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, will spend time guarding all three of SU’s perimeter players.It’s an idea that has Waiters oozing with excitement.‘These are the type of games I get up for especially,’ Waiters said. ‘It brings that much more out of me. At the end of the day, he’s a great defensive player, and I’m a good offensive player.’Boeheim preached on Friday that defense can win games and win championships. Good defense over good offense.Waiters spews a different message. He’ll take the good offense every time.‘Yeah, all day,’ Waiters said. ‘You see a guy like Kobe, who some people play the best defense on him, but he still makes those shots. And that’s just him having faith in like, ‘This guy can’t guard me.’ And that’s like how I am. I feel as though if it’s man to man, mano e mano, I’m going to get the best of you.’With a laugh, Boeheim says that’s why reporters shouldn’t listen to players – they don’t know what they’re talking about.But he follows up by explaining that a good team needs both.Still, the 2011-12 version of Waiters has taken on a new look. He has been seen cheering on teammates while on the sideline and hasn’t complained about playing time once.It’s a mentality that Matta said can be compared to some of his players who were big-time scorers in high school. By adjusting to the system and buying in, their teams will have greater success.‘He’s like my guys. They all want to score 25 points every night,’ Matta said. ‘But putting winning first and what he brings when he comes into the basketball game is just a tremendous boost to what they’re doing.’[email protected] Comments Published on March 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more