The Basketball Tournament

Eric Devendorf’s scoring outburst this summer on full display in Boeheim’s Army loss to Overseas Elite

Sabrina Koenig | Asst. Photo Editor

Eric Devendorf commanded the floor via quick-burst drives, injecting life in a stagnated BA offense. He shot 8-of-12 from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.

BALTIMORE — Every day this summer, Eric Devendorf slides into the Carmelo K. Anthony Center around 10 a.m. He works with Syracuse basketball’s newest additions, both in the weight room and on the court. For Devendorf, it’s a chance to mold Jim Boeheim’s incoming freshmen, helping turn them from stand-out high schoolers into college athletes at an ACC power.

The former Syracuse guard (2005-09) also gets his own time in the gym. Devendorf doesn’t leave until around 7 p.m., after he lifts and shoots. In the summer months, he uses the time as a way to keep fresh the skills that made him a standout at perennial powerhouse Oak Hill (Virginia) Academy and freshman starter at Syracuse. Throughout Boeheim’s Army’s run in the The Basketball Tournament over the past few weeks, he was the first to arrive at workouts in the Melo Center.

“That’s my home, man,” Devendorf said.

The 6-foot-3 guard went undrafted in 2009 before several years playing professionally overseas. He hasn’t played competitively in over a year, yet he shined Tuesday night in The Basketball Tournament’s Final Four on a court of almost all active pros. Across 27 minutes, Devendorf finished with a game-high 24 points.

He commanded the floor via quick-burst drives, injecting life in a stagnated BA offense. He shot 8-of-12 from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line in No. 3 Boeheim’s Army’s 81-77 loss to two-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Overseas Elite. While the loss drops BA to 9-3 over three summers in TBT, Devendorf stated with a drive-first mentality that he can still play.

“I’ve got my competitive juices flowing from this tournament,” Devendorf said. “I might go and play again professionally somewhere. I need the right situation and the right price.”

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Daily Orange File Photo

For now, the father of two is comfortable on the staff at SU as an assistant strength coach. He has fulfilled his late father’s wish. The G-League isn’t an option. “Six figures, overseas,” he said.

Like that of his teammates, Devendorf’s goal was to have fun with Boeheim’s Army. This was Devendorf’s third go with BA. Another dream was to make some money, as the winner of TBT is awarded a $2 million grand prize.

With that now out of the picture and a year on the SU staff under his belt, Devendorf won’t rule out another stint overseas. He starred Tuesday night at Coppin State University against Overseas Elite, which is 18-0, on national television, no less. That exposure may put him back on a pro roster. He said if the right team calls with an offer, he will at least give it a hard look.

Devendorf scored the SU’s alumni team’s first bucket, sparking an early 6-1 run. Fellow guard Brandon Triche smiled at him after the backcourt duo led a two-on-one game in transition. Devendorf, his typical stoic self, hustled back to his spot atop the 2-3 zone.

“The toughest player we’ve got,” said Triche, who finished with 12 points and six assists. “He has the knack to score, jump shoot, get to the basket. Scoring is easy for him.”

In the first four games of the tournament, Devendorf ran some point. He anchored the defense as vocal leader and trash-talker. During some spurts, he stretched the floor as a 3-point threat.

He found plenty of other ways to score. Pinned in the corner in front of the Overseas Elite bench, Devendorf faked right and drove hard baseline with his left, going up against two bigs and drawing a foul. Then he made an acrobatic right-handed layup across the lane, absorbing contact and begging for an and-one call that he didn’t get. With 4:40 remaining, he drove down the lane, paused in midair and dropped a floater to make it a four-point game.

“That’s what I do: I get to the basket,” Devendorf said. “I find my angles, little crevices in the defense. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. It’s special.”

Devendorf, 30, entered the Final Four averaging 18 points per game, tops on Boeheim’s Army. Twenty-four points against one of the top teams in TBT cemented him as BA’s best player, even though he’s the oldest on the team.

For two hours on Tuesday night, he reminded onlookers of the talent he still possesses. Most of all, he reminded himself.

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