Long before Carmello Anthony become one of the most premier small forwards in the game of basketball the 6’8″ young man who goes by the nickname “Melo” led Syracuse University to its first national championship in 2003.
Melo, born in Brooklyn, spent most of his formative years growing up in Baltimore, Maryland after the untimely death of his father who passed away from cancer when Carmelo was only two years old. Anthony would go on to be named the Baltimore County high school Basketball Player of the Year before heading to college and moving to upstate New York where he would strongly contribute to an extremely successful basketball season for the Syracuse Orange.
Even though Carmelo Anthony only spent one year in college before leaving for the NBA as a first round draft pick by the Denver Nuggets he left a historic impression on the basketball history of the college he briefly attended. While Syracuse University (SU for short) has a respectable basketball program that consistently is among the top teams in the highly competitive Big East Conference the 2002-2003 season with freshmen Carmelo Anthony is the only national championship in the more than one hundred year history of the program.
During his one season playing for the Syracuse Orange Melo tallied impressive statistics as he averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game in a season in which the squad had a rare 30 win season where the group finished with an impressive record of 30 wins and 5 losses. Even more astounding than the regular season stats that Anthony put up as a freshman in the Big East Conference was his performance on the national stage as he led his underdog Syracuse University team through the March Madness bracket to the Final Four. Among his captivating tournament performances were successive stellar showings against Big 12 Conference opponents in the Final Four. In the semi-finals Carmelo Anthony set a NCAA Tournament record for points by a freshman by putting up 33 against the University of Texas before following up that performance with 20 points and 10 boards in a win over the KU Jayhawks in the championship game.
Ultimately Melo received the award for being the most outstanding player of the tournament as he achieved in one season what no other Syracuse University player in history had been able to accomplish. Despite being named the most valuable player of the NCAA Tournament and considered by some to be the very best college basketball player (included amongst those advocates was his vocal coach Jim Boeheim) Carmelo Anthony was ultimately selected as a Second Team All-American which left some doubters scratching their heads about the politics behind that decision.
Interestingly it was the success Carmelo Anthony experienced so early in his college career that played a significant role in cutting it so short. Upon declaring his intentions to leave school after only one year to enter the NBA draft Melo stated that he had originally intended on staying in college for two or three years but now felt comfortable leaving earlier than initially planned because he had accomplished everything he set out to do.