Brittney Sykes thrives atop Syracuse’s press

first_imgAs the front line of Syracuse’s press, Brittney Sykes stood her guard. She stared down Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen just behind half court, using the full breadth of her 5-foot-9 frame to stall her.In a brief moment of panic, Allen slung the ball cross-court to Michaela Mabrey. Sykes followed. She double-teamed Mabrey with Cornelia Fondren, forcing a quick pass back to Allen. Sykes followed. She stood at the top of the key as the UND guard dished it down low to Brianna Turner, boxed in by four SU defenders. Sykes stopped.She didn’t follow the ball. Instead she backed away, standing slightly outside the open passing lane from Turner to Mabrey. Sykes pounced the instant Turner let go of the ball, and punctuated the disorderly possession with a steal using her outstretched left arm.Mission accomplished.“My purpose at the top of the press is to disrupt,” Sykes said. “If I’m not doing that, then what am I there at the top for?AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I just think in my head: ‘Make sure you get a deflection. Disrupt the pass. Blur the vision of the ball handler.’”In that 12-second span against the No. 2 Fighting Irish on Sunday, Sykes did all three. Being “long and lanky” is the first thing friends on other teams tell her about her scouting report. But finally she’s using it to her advantage, blossoming into a focal point of No. 14 Syracuse’s (25-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) defense that could face some of nation’s best offenses next week in the NCAA tournament.Her 66 takeaways is a new career high, and Sykes’ 2.2 steals per game is sixth-most in the conference to round out a top 10 that features four other Orange teammates. Sykes admits she’s only one piece of SU’s elaborate defensive puzzle, but she’s emerged as an active force atop Syracuse’s press.It’s a spot she could be doubted to perform in with a twice-torn right ACL, but is deftly navigating the open space up top in the eyes of her head coach.“(Sykes) is a little more confident in her slides,” head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She has a little more freedom at the top of our press, and I think she’s taking advantage of it.”The medical report on Sykes is no secret, and the bulky, black brace enclosing her right knee is an ever-present reminder. Hillsman pesters Sykes to stay active on defense, warning that upcoming opponents will target her if she appears stagnate on film.Nagging reminders turned to Hillsman screaming in the opening minutes of the Orange’s game against Georgia Tech on Feb. 7. Sykes was attacked. The Yellow Jackets repeatedly drove past her on the left, forcing Sykes to drop back on her fragile right knee.The same drives played out for six and a half minutes, before Hillsman summoned his veteran guard to the bench as Georgia Tech snatched an early lead. The head coach quipped to Sykes that the other team could see her frustration, and she was going to keep getting tested.“I just toughened up,” Sykes said. “You don’t ever want to make someone think you’re weak because they can build off of it.“Just (like) our press, if we think you’re a weak ball handler … we’re going to hone in on your weakness. You just have to toughen up.”She finished the contest with four steals, building off the prior three games in which she notched nine total takeaways. And the next game against Virginia, Sykes stole the ball a season-best five times to cap off one of the best defensive stretches of her career.She used to get bogged down and frustrated by the volume of deflections and near-steals. Now she’s grabbing the ball more frequently than ever. She used to wonder how her compromised right knee would respond to quick cuts. Now, her calling card on defense is movement.Sykes isn’t playing defense like she used to. She’s playing free, with as good a hold on her defensive abilities — and the ball — as ever. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm Contact Connor: cgrossma@syr.edu | @connorgrossmanlast_img read more

Now a member of Boeheim’s Army, Hakim Warrick’s still remembered for ‘The Block’

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ NEW YORK — Take away the new outfit and Hakim Warrick looked about the same last weekend as he did 15 years ago. He plays for Boeheim’s Army these days, not the 2003 Syracuse team that won the national championship. But with his length inside (6-foot-9) on the defensive end and his highlight-reel dunk on Saturday, Warrick channeled his former self.Early on Saturday night, in BA’s first win of The Basketball Tournament, Warrick took flight in a familiar way. He needed only one dribble to drive from the corner all of the way to the rim. The result was a one-handed slam. It was a display of hops, the kind that former NBA players like Warrick can offer. It was also a display of air time offering a reminder of Warrick’s block just over 15 years ago.The Block, as it’s become known to SU fans. The one that secured Syracuse’s 81-78 national title victory over Kansas, giving SU its lone national championship. The one that left Kansas shocked and heartbroken. Its fans were still bitter 15 years later at an Omaha, Nebraska, hotel in March. The one that gave Warrick an unforgettable name in Syracuse lore.Kansas had a chance to tie after Warrick missed a pair of free throws, and the Jayhawks needed a 3-pointer to force overtime.But Warrick blocked Michael Lee’s shot with 0.7 seconds remaining on the game clock, and Syracuse avenged a second-round loss to Kansas two years earlier.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text With time, Warrick grew to be a National Player of the Year candidate as a senior after deciding to forgo the 2004 NBA Draft. He was the Big East Player of the Year as a senior in 2005. He spent eight years in the NBA with six teams, including his most recent NBA stint, with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2013.Warrick is now playing pro ball in Israel and said he plans to retire in a few years. He wants a job, probably in the Washington, D.C., area, as long as it’s not an office job.He doesn’t stay in touch with many members of the 2003 team, with Anthony being an exception. He hasn’t spoken with Boeheim in a year or so, but his legacy in central New York — cemented in that singular block — lives on.“I haven’t seen G-Mac in a while,” Warrick said. “But when we talk about old stories like the 2003 title, we don’t skip a beat.”center_img Published on July 26, 2018 at 8:47 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 After a one-year hiatus, Warrick, 36, is back for Boeheim’s Army as the oldest player on the roster. Although he helped start the team in 2015, he has occupied a diminished role. He doesn’t start and played only sparingly this weekend. He does not have the same responsibility he once held: As a sophomore power forward for the Orange, he averaged 14.8 points per game on the 2002-03 title team, second only to Carmelo Anthony.For Warrick, The Block pops up in his head every month or so. He has no choice. When he’s playing overseas, coaches recognize his name and link him to the 2003 title game, Warrick said. They think of the tall, thin sophomore for the Orange who helped SU win its only national title. They ask him about Anthony, Syracuse, Boeheim, and of course The Block itself.Every March, when the NCAA Tournament is on TV, Warrick said he replays the block in his mind. Over and over, he visualizes the dying seconds of the 2003 title game.“It seems like it was yesterday,” Warrick said last weekend. “It’s something you always want to be a part of. Whenever I see a Kansas fan, they hate me … I was playing center, didn’t think I was going to get out there, so I just wanted to contest and try not to get the foul.”He arrived to SU as the lowest-rated out of the five incoming freshmen. He was shy and quiet. His mom often begged him to speak more and explain how he was liking SU. He rarely elaborated, but he became known for his ear-to-ear smile on the court. He hid behind his close friend, Anthony, the superstar freshman on the title team.“Warrick weighed 160 pounds when he came in here as a freshman and he was pretty good,” Boeheim said last fall, comparing then-freshman Marek Dolezaj’s frame to that of Warrick. “He never weighed more than 180.”last_img read more