Jimmy Boeheim has seen his father develop the legendary Syracuse 2-3 zone his entire life. Now, as Cornell men’s basketball is set to take on the upstate powerhouse Friday night, he gets to play against it in his college debut.
“I’ve definitely said a few things here and there,” Jimmy told The Sun on how he’s helped his teammates approach the Orange’s notoriously staunch defense. “They knew a lot playing against it the last few years, especially the older guys.”
Even as Jimmy committed to Cornell earlier this year, he had known that he would inevitably be facing off against his father Jim Boeheim, the legendary Hall-of-Fame coach who has racked up the second-most wins in Division I men’s basketball history, in the annual matchup between the Red and Orange. What he didn’t know was that the highly-anticipated matchup would come during his college debut.
“[My dad has] provided me with a great knowledge of the game to get me to this point,” the younger Boeheim said, adding to The Post-Standard that: “It’ll definitely be a little weird, just seeing him on the sidelines instead of in the stands cheering for me.”
Of course, with all the anticipation surrounding the storied matchup, there is a certain unavoidable pressure. The elder Boeheim previously told the Associated Press that while he wanted his son to play well, a victory for the Orange would be his first priority. The son echoes his father’s sentiments for a victory on his own side and has been preparing for the game with a mindset that it will be just another day of basketball.
“I try not to think about the pressure,” Jimmy said. “I’m trying just to separate that out and just to go out there and play basketball.”
While the Red’s season opener will be on the road, it will serve as a homecoming for Jimmy. When asked about playing in Syracuse’s iconic Carrier Dome, a dojo of basketball excellence and success throughout the years, Jimmy cannot help but express a bit of excitement.
“It’ll be awesome to play in the Dome,” he said. “It’s a great place to play and I’ve experienced it all my life.”
While Cornell head coach Brian Earl acknowledge the novelty of the situation, he instead emphasized Jimmy’s strengths and what he will be able to contribute against Syracuse.
“[Jimmy] works hard [and is a] smart player who is multifaceted,” Earl said. “He can dribble, pass and shoot, all at 6-8. He’s supposed to check into the game and play as hard as he can, and we’ll deal with all of the other stuff after the fact.”
It would be fair to say that at this point, Jimmy is simply looking to escape the shadow of his father and find his place in a new culture on a new team.
Even with all the lessons that he has taken from his father, Jimmy said there is still some work to be done with his mother. After failing to convince his mother to sit behind the Cornell bench during his opener, the young forward will have to settle for his mom wearing a special shirt for the occasion: one that has Boeheim vs. Boeheim on the front, Big Red down one sleeve and Orange down the other, and ”I can’t lose” inscribed on the back, according to the Associated Press.
Naturally, it also doesn’t help his case that his younger brother, Buddy, recently committed to Syracuse as well.
“She’s split down the middle,” Jimmy said when asked about who his mom would be supporting during the Cornell-Syracuse matchup. “I can’t get her to go fully Cornell, but she’ll definitely be cheering for both sides.”
Jimmy will travel to Syracuse with the rest of the team this Friday to kick off the season at 7 p.m. from the Carrier Dome.