Williams earned Most Valuable Player honors at the Preseason NIT in New York City last week. On Tuesday, he sat clad in a blue Syracuse warmup suit, cheering on his teammates just like the other 16,966 people in the Carrier Dome.
The junior shooting guard was charged with Driving Under the Influence, and speculation surfaced about a possible suspension before the season started. Williams will miss three consecutive games - Tuesday's, Thursday against Colgate and Sunday against Albany - before returning for the Orangemen.
At times Tuesday, Syracuse looked lost without Williams' presence. Noted since he arrived on campus for his shooting, Williams has become a defensive catalyst this season and his passing has improved. Much of the SU offense runs through Williams, guard Kueth Duany said.
"He's such a big part of our offense," Duany said. "It was weird not having him out there. DeShaun can do so many things - he can create, he can finish, he can score. We'll be glad when he comes back."
SU players said they'd known about Williams impending suspension for over a week, although the information was not released until after Tuesday's game, when it was obvious to everyone in attendance that Williams did not play.
When asked about how long the suspension was, Boeheim first responded, "We'll have to see, I guess."
Later in the press conference he addressed the issue directly.
"Any student that that has a problem is dealt with by judicial affiair," he said. "But then the athletic department adds on a game penalty. I've been against it since we started the penalty system. Game penalties hurt the team and the fans as well as the program. If you have the need, if you want an extra punishment, I'm not one of those people, but some people do, then it should be something that punishes the athlete and not the team and the fans. That's the problem I have with the system. I don't like, the system, I never have. I've been against it since Day 1. But no one seems to listen to coach's opinions."
In Williams absence, Duany carried the Orangemen in the first half, tallying 17 points and eight rebounds. Preston Shumpert chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. And Syracuse's remaining three freshmen - Hakim Warrick, Josh Pace and Craig Forth - combined for 23 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks.
Syracuse also set the school block record with 16. Forth led with seven swats, while backup center Jeremy McNeil chipped in four and Duany registered three.
Still, the Orangemen struggled offensively in the first half, at one point falling behind 16-15 to an overmatched Colgate squad. Williams absence was the difference there.
"Without DeShaun we're not the same kind of offensive team," Boeheim said. "Offensively, we were missing our first or second option."