SU basketball stars Anthony, Grant and Carter-Williams make memorable return to the Dome

The trio journeyed back to Syracuse for an NBA exhibition game between the Knicks and 76ers.

Photo: Luke Rafferty
Syracuse University students and fans cheer on the school's former basketball stars.

Syracuse’s Orange Central festivities may have ended on Sunday, but three prominent Orange basketball stars had their own homecoming Tuesday evening.

Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams and Jerami Grant all returned to the Carrier Dome hardwood as the New York Knicks battled the Philadelphia 76ers in NBA preseason play. An announced crowd of 11,259 fans watched as Anthony’s Knicks posted an 84-77 victory.

Even though Carter-Williams and Grant were unable to play the game for Philadelphia due to injury, all three SU hoopsters enjoyed an exciting day back in Central New York.

“I went to Insomnia and got some cookies,” Carter-Williams said with a smile prior to the game. “I saw people that I haven’t seen in a while, visited friends and saw the (Syracuse) coaching staff.

“Just really happy to be here.”

With the regular season only two weeks away, Tuesday’s contest was another chance for both squads to build cohesion before embarking on a grueling 82-game schedule. However, the presence of Anthony, Grant and Carter-Williams created an almost Circensian atmosphere.

Anthony, who helped lead the Orange to the 2003 national championship, received a huge ovation from the crowd as he emerged from the tunnel for pregame warm-ups.

Once the game started, the 12-year NBA veteran didn’t disappoint. He scored 17 points thanks to a silky-smooth jump shot and pulled down seven rebounds.

“The energy was unbelievable,” Anthony said. “I came back here I think two years ago, and the energy wasn’t like it was today. Any time I get a chance to come back and play in the Dome, it’s always a special moment.”

Carter-Williams remained sidelined as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but that didn’t stop him from mingling with fans and signing a few autographs before the game. Both he and Grant were introduced before the opening tip to thunderous applause.

The latter continues to nurse a bum ankle sustained during the opening days of training camp. He was severely limited during morning practice, and the timetable for his return is uncertain.

It’s certainly not the ideal scenario for an NBA rookie, but Sixers head coach Brett Brown is confident that Grant can catch up to the rest of the team.

“(Grant’s) invested time in his shot, and he’s wide-eyed and a good person,” Brown said. “It is a little bit of a hiccup, but I look forward to bringing him back.”

Grant admitted he misses Syracuse and was happy to return in any capacity. He said walking onto Jim Boeheim Court triggered a lot of flashbacks to his time at SU, especially last season’s legendary showdown with Duke.

“It brought back a lot of memories just going to shoot-around this morning,” Grant said. “It’s great to be in the atmosphere where my old coaches and old teammates are. It’s a great environment.”

While those two are in the infancy stages of their professional career, Anthony is expected to be one of the top scorers in the league this season. Not to mention, he is still chasing an elusive championship ring.

Tuesday night might have provided a small jolt of motivation, but Anthony said the game was just one small step on the path to a bounce-back season for him and the Knicks.

“I’m just trying to take it one game at a time,” Anthony said, “and get this experience down to where it’s great and a fun experience.”

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