McNamara Facing Biggest Test Yet

The shots fell through the net with ease. One after another, the ball barely touched the net. With stakes this high, how could the shooter be so clutch? After all, he was only a freshman. But clutch play has never been a problem for Gerry McNamara.

Not as a high school basketball standout at Scranton, not through his freshman year at Syracuse, and certainly not in the 2003 National Championship game against Kansas.

It was that day where "G-Mac" made his legacy. His six three pointers in the first half gave the Orange a comfortable 11 point halftime lead over Kansas. Thanks to a fantastic performance by Carmelo Anthony and a game saving block by Hakim Warrick, the Orange hung on to a thrilling 81-78 victory over the Jayhawks.

It was the first championship for Coach Jim Boeheim and the first installment of McNamara's memorable four-year run in central New York.

His performance in New Orleans would set the tone for what was one of the most productive four year careers the Big East has ever seen.

Following Anthony's departure to the NBA, McNamara led Syracuse to the Sweet 16 before falling to Alabama.

While there was no repeat title for the Orange, the 6 foot, 180 pound McNamara gave college basketball fans an outing they will talking about for years.

In the opening round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament, McNamara made 9-of-13 three pointers, finishing with 43 points and leading Syracuse to a thrilling 80-75 victory over BYU.

Running in, through, and around screens, "G-Mac", as he is often referred to, put the Orange on his back while they rallied from an 11 point first half deficit.' "Gerry had as a performance as I've good ever seen in college basketball," Boeheim said after the game.

An early round shocker to Vermont and Warrick's departure to the NBA left McNamara all alone in the Carrier Dome for his senior year.

Also gone were Josh Pace and Craig Forth, two key veteran contributors from the 2003 National Championship team.

Boeheim predicted his young team would struggle and they did mightily, entering the Big East tournament with a 20-11 record, (7-9 in the conference).

What transpired from there was pure magic; an a little bit of a luck.

McNamara would go on one of the greatest four day runs in the tournament's history, leading the Orange to four wins in four days and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

But then things started to head south. Literally.

A trip to Jacksonville and a matchup with Texas A & M was the end of the Syracuse's Cinderella run. The 66-58 loss to the Aggies was the final game of McNamara's career, one that so him only score 2 points while battling a painful groin injury.

The injury lingered on until months after the season, causing McNamara to turn down an opportunity to play in the USBL. He was selected as the No. 1 pick by the franchise that resides in his hometown of Scranton.

"It's like a stress fracture," McNamara told espn.com about the injury. "I couldn't do anything".

He will have to do something; if he wants to play in the NBA.

And that is far from a guarantee.

While he's kept opposing Big East coaches sleepless over the last four years, he's now facing a new challenge.

Lacking the foot speed to defend opposing guards and not having the comfort of the 2-3 zone, McNamara will have not even have the opportunity for pre draft workouts. His ongoing groin injury has forced him to miss part of the Orlando pre-draft camp, a showcase for players not likely to be drafted in the first round.

An already below average athlete, McNamara is a lock not to be taken in round one and a question mark to be even drafted at all.

Darius Washington, Dee Brown, and Allan Ray are just a handful of guards that could selected over McNamara in the second round.

It's a hard thing for "G-Mac" to deal with, as he often had an answer every time he needed to over the last four years.

When Syracuse was down by double figures to Oklahoma State in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, it was McNamara who hit a clutch three pointer to ignite a Syracuse run.

And when last season hinged on a final possession against Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East tournament, No. 3 was responsible for single handedly breaking the Bearcat pressure and hitting an off balance runner to send the Orange into the next round.

But this is different. He can't run off picks and find seams in this type of matchup.

For four years, McNamara has had the ability to dramatically change things with the flick of his wrist.

Now his fate remains up in the air. It will be that way until late next Tuesday night.

The result will either bring vindication or devastation.

There is no in between.


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