GLENS FALLS — New York's all-time basketball scoring leader is staying home.
Joseph Girard III, the Glens Falls sharpshooter whose scholastic career has been marked by one big scoring outburst after another, verbally committed to Syracuse University Sunday evening before a large crowd of friends, family, teammates and media at the Queensbury Hotel.
"It was the hardest decision I've made in my life," the senior guard said after his announcement to play for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange. "What put it over was being comfortable."
Girard III said he did not inform Boeheim of his decision prior to Sunday's much-anticipated press conference, rather, letting the Orange coach and everyone else know after a short video that recapped his career from a youngster to a national name.
"Yesterday he made the final decision," said the senior's dad, Joe Girard, Jr. "He may have known in his heart for a few days."
Girard III had narrowed his list of schools down to Syracuse, Duke, Boston College, Penn State, Michigan and Notre Dame. Ohio State, Oklahoma, Washington, Rutgers, Albany, Siena and BYU — which former Glens Falls star Jimmer Fredette attended — were among the 25 Division I schools that offered basketball scholarships.
"All six schools were great," Girard III said. "It came down to wearing orange. I'm excited. Really excited."
"There was no choice that was bad," said Glens Falls basketball coach Rob Girard, the three-time Daily Gazette first-team All-Area selection's second cousin. "For us, that's [Syracuse] the best choice, from a selfish mode because he will be so close."
Girard III's father said Syracuse being so close was factor in his decision to play for the Atlantic Coast Conference program.
"Proximity was a big part," Girard Jr. said. "He's a community kid. He wants everyone to come see him. Why not do it two hours away?"
Girard III was recruited heavily by Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara, who played for the Orange from 2002-06 and helped the team win the NCAA title in 2003. McNamara and Boeheim, the Syracuse head coach since 1976 with over 900 wins, came to Glens Falls and visited with the Girard family earlier this month.
"There's nothing like playing in the [Carrier] Dome in front of [30,000]," said Girard III, recalling some of the last things Boeheim and he spoke about. "'This team has a great tradition. This team has a great tradition of lead guards.'"
Girard III averaged 50 points, seven rebounds and six assists as a junior in leading Glens Falls to a 20-3 record.
"Coach Boeheim looked right at him and said, 'I know you better than anybody,'" Girard, Jr. said. "Meaning, I will know how to use you in the best way and I will know how to develop you."
Girard III is hoping to see plenty of action during his freshman year at Syracuse.
"They can't guarantee anything," the 6-foot-2, 185-pound all-star said. "You've got to perform and do the right things. If you go in and work hard, it should work."
"Playing time was a factor, but at the end of the day, he wants to win," Girard Jr. said. "That was one of the things."
Girard III will enter his senior season with 3,306 career points, and is the only player in New York to surpass 3,000. He scored 1,149 points as a junior and nailed 179 3-point baskets, setting state records in both categories for one season. He led the Indians to the Section II Class B semifinals before a loss to Schalmont, when he scored 56 points. His high for the season was 60 points, twice, and he also had outings with 59, 58 and 57.
"Section II and the surrounding area should be proud that another quality student-athlete is going on to play major college basketball," Glens Falls athletic director Chip Corlew said.
Girard III was named the Gatorade New York Basketball Player of the Year after the 2017-18 season, like Albany Academy's Hamier Wright was following the 2016-17 season, and like Kevin Huerter of Shenendehowa was after the 2015-16 campaign. Girard III was also tabbed the All-USA Today Player of the Year for New York, and was a MaxPreps first-team junior All-American. Additionally he was selected by the state sportswriter's as the best Class B player in New York after making the all-state first team as a sophomore and freshman.
Girard III led Glens Falls to the Section II Class B basketball title his sophomore year, after quarterbacking the Indians' run to the state football championship. Tulane and Massachusetts both offered Girard III a combo basketball/football scholarship. He is the Glens Falls football teams' all-time leader in passing yards, pass completions and touchdown passes.
"He's been recruited since the eighth grade," Girard, Jr. said. "We've been to all the schools. We uncovered every rock. We would dissect things. It was a tough decision. I mean, how do you say no to Oklahoma and Rutgers? Those are dream schools. I told him, go with your gut."