Durant was the consensus national player of the year after averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game during a brilliant 2006-07 season, but the Longhorns lost 10 games and failed to even reach the Sweet 16 during his only year on campus.
It's understandable some fans questioned Durant's jersey-retiring credentials, but there should be no debate over the second one-and-done to receive the same honor. Syracuse announced Thursday it will hang Carmelo Anthony's No. 15 jersey from the Carrier Dome rafters at halftime of its Feb. 23 game against Georgetown, and if ever a player who spent one year on campus deserved that honor, it's him.
In his lone season at Syracuse, Anthony averaged 22.2 points and 10.0 rebounds and led the Orange to a 30-5 season and the 2003 national title – the only championship Jim Boeheim has won. Anthony earned the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player Award after scoring a combined 53 points in victories over Texas and Kansas.
Though Anthony was relegated to second-team All-American status because voters were more apt to reward veteran players at that time, Boeheim scoffed at that slight after his team won the championship.
"Carmelo Anthony was the player of the year in college basketball last year in my mind and anybody that knows anything about basketball’s mind," Boeheim said before the start of the 2003-04 season.
"There’s really virtually few, if any players I’ve ever seen in college basketball who have been able to shoot the three and rebound as well. He could pass the ball probably as well as any forward who’s ever played college basketball. He could handle the ball, make plays as well as any forward that we’ve ever had and any that I’ve ever seen. ... He was, by far, the best player in college basketball. It wasn’t even close."
What makes Anthony an even more natural fit to have his jersey retired is he has remained visible at his former school in a way few one-and-done players have. Anthony's passion and seven-figure donations helped spearhead the construction of youth basketball courts in the community and the 'Melo Center as a practice facility for his alma mater's men's and women's basketball programs.
It will be interesting to see in the next few years if other schools opt to retire the jerseys of any of their famous one-and-dones.
Kentucky could certainly justify honoring Anthony Davis after he won national player of the year last season and led the Wildcats to a championship. So could Memphis for Derrick Rose, though the NCAA's decision to force the school to vacate Rose's lone season as a result of concerns over his SAT scores.
Beyond that, however, there aren't many other candidates. And that reinforces how memorable Anthony's lone season at Syracuse truly was.
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