SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim takes pride in finding diamonds in the rough. He found one in Hakim Warrick, and all it took to pique Boeheim’s interest was one play at a high school camp in Indianapolis.
Naturally, it was a dunk.
“I was sitting two courts away at a workout,” Boeheim said. “Usually, you don’t even go to workouts, you go to games. I looked over and saw this skinny kid just going up way over the basket and dunking, and I said, ‘I’ve got to find out who that is.’ I just saw that one play, and he was explosive. I liked him from the beginning.”
“He saw something in me,” said Warrick, who grew up in Philadelphia and averaged 15.6 points, 13 rebounds and 4.8 blocks to lead Friends Central High School to a league title his senior year. “I’m glad he saw whatever he saw.”
At the time, Syracuse had only one scholarship to offer and Boeheim was in a bind. The Orange had been trying for three years to land Julius Hodge of New York.
But when Hodge finally committed to North Carolina State, Syracuse went for Warrick, beating out Big East foe Providence — with a little help from Warrick’s mother.
“She loved the atmosphere here. She definitely wanted me to wear orange,” Warrick said. “It was kind of tough waiting. I didn’t want to miss a scholarship at another school. My mom told me to go out there and be patient.”
“In the end, we got the right player,” Boeheim said. “Sometimes in recruiting things work out for everybody, and it’s certainly worked out for us and Hakim.”
Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli can only lament Syracuse’s good fortune. Martelli tried to recruit Warrick, to no avail.
“We were very aware of him,” Martelli said. “We made a couple of calls, but there was no reciprocal interest, to be honest.”
As a raw freshman forward, Warrick started 19 games and averaged 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. He blossomed as a sophomore and was selected as the Big East’s most improved player after more than doubling his scoring average (14.8 ppg), increasing his rebound average by 3.7 per game (8.5), and throwing down 80 dunks.
With his 7-foot arm span, the 6-foot-8 Warrick also posted 44 blocks that season, the last one placing his name in NCAA tournament lore. He swatted away Michael Lee’s last-second 3-point attempt to preserve the Orange’s 81-78 triumph over Kansas for the 2003 national championship.
Just the thought of that makes Martelli ponder what might have happened last spring if he had Warrick teaming with backcourt stars Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. Only one rung from the Final Four, the Hawks lost to Oklahoma State, 64-62, in a regional final.
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