He misses going to class.
And, yes, a smiling Joseph Girard III confirmed, he’s surprised about that “first” he’s experienced this academic year.
But everything was so different for much of 2020, and that’s carried into 2021. Girard III, who starred at Glens Falls High School in basketball and football before heading to Syracuse University to join Jim Boeheim’s men’s basketball program, said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters that it hasn’t been easy to try to go about the college basketball season as disruptions and pauses have become the norm.
While classes shifting online helped him focus more on his schoolwork, Girard III said the daily interactions of the classroom are something he’s looking forward to returning to his life. While he described himself as “lucky” and “fortunate” to be able to play college basketball this season, he also noted that it’s been “draining” to compete in a season played as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every facet of his life.
“I think anybody would be lying if they said that this feels normal,” said Girard III, whose Syracuse team plays today against Pittsburgh — the Orange’s first game since Dec. 19, which came days before the program started its third pandemic-related pause since the preseason opened.
Girard III, who scored more points — 4,763 of them — than any other player in New York high school basketball history, struggled in Syracuse’s last game. During Syracuse’s 6-1 start to the season, Girard III averaged 11.1 points per game, but the 6-foot-1 guard is coming off a game against Buffalo during which he scored two points on 1 of 6 shooting. On the season, Girard III is shooting 31.6%.
Girard III did what he could to stay in shape and fine-tune his jumper during Syracuse’s pause. In the ample free time he had, he watched plenty of TV and played plenty of Xbox — and, at one point, even gave putting together a puzzle a try.
“I had one of those, but didn’t get much through it,” Girard III said. “It bored me.”
So he’s looking forward to playing against Pittsburgh. When he’s on the court in a game, Girard III said it’s “refreshing” to take a break from the daily realities of life amid a pandemic.
“You never really know when you’re going to be on pause. You never really know when anything like [that] could happen,” Girard III said. “I think at the end of the day, you’ve just got to realize and accept that it could happen to anybody, at any time, any team. Everybody’s got to deal with it, and you’ve just got to get through it — somehow.”
After playing Pittsburgh, Syracuse is scheduled to play Georgetown on Saturday before returning to ACC play next Tuesday against Clemson. Girard III said the Orange expect to compete at a high level.
“We look ready to go,” he said.
BROWN SHINES IN MILESTONE WIN
Former Shenendehowa High School girls’ basketball star Sydney Brown led the UC San Diego women’s basketball program to its first-ever Division I victory last Saturday.
Brown, a 6-foot-0 junior, registered 31 points and 14 rebounds as the first-year Division I program scored a 74-63 win over Cal Poly.
“It definitely meant a lot,” Brown said during a post-game interview posted on UC San Diego’s team website. “I feel like this is really going to give us the confidence . . . that we belong in this conference and can do it.”
UC San Diego is a member of the Big West Conference, and is 1-1 on the season.
The team’s first game this season, a Dec. 21 matchup with California Baptist University, was halted at halftime “due to COVID testing concerns involving the California Baptist program.”
NUMBERS TO KNOW
Days between wins against Vermont for the UAlbany men’s basketball program prior to last Saturday’s comeback win. Before erasing a 16-point halftime lead to win 63-62 Saturday in Burlington, UAlbany had last defeated Vermont on Feb. 6, 2016. In between those wins, Vermont defeated UAlbany nine consecutive times. After UAlbany snapped that losing streak, Vermont topped the Great Danes the next day to split the season series between the programs.
Games played earlier this week at SEFCU Arena that didn’t involve either UAlbany team. With the UAlbany women’s team unable to play because of a pandemic-related pause and the men’s team on the road at Vermont, the America East Conference scheduled women’s basketball games Sunday and Monday between UMBC and Vermont to take place at UAlbany, a decision made in the interest of creating shorter travel for UMBC.
Games played during the Siena women’s basketball team’s recent trip to Buffalo. The team’s Sunday and Monday games against Canisius were postponed because of pandemic-related reasons involving the Canisius program, but after Siena had made the trip to western New York.