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C.J. Fair staying at Syracuse

C.J. Fair announced that he will return to Syracuse for his senior season, claiming he made his decision not based just on what people told him but on what he believed.

"I appreciated everybody that gave me advice, but there was a lot of mixed feelings from a lot of different people," Fair told ESPN.com. "I just had to think for myself what was best for me."

And returning to Syracuse, Fair decided, was best.

A role player for much of his first two seasons, Fair blossomed in his junior season, leading the Orange in both scoring and rebounding. He averaged 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds, coming on especially strong during Syracuse's Final Four run, averaging 15.4 points. Fair scored 22 against Michigan in the national semifinal.

But Fair wasn't considered a guaranteed first-round pick, and the uncertainty of his draft position plus the potential to improve his game sent him back to central New York.

"It's definitely a tough decision," he said. "Growing up, the NBA always was my goal. So to see it right there and have your first real chance of getting there, it's hard for me to reconsider and wait another year. You get really excited when it's this close but you also have to come back to reality."

Fair said he believes he can become a better overall player and also needs, he said, to work on his ballhandling skills.

Fair's return is a big boost for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse as it embarks on its first season in the ACC. The Orange already will be without seniors Brandon Triche and James Southerland, as well as sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who announced his decision to enter the NBA draft.

Losing Fair would have been a huge blow, but the Orange instead have a cornerstone to build on, plus pieces to surround him with including DaJuan Coleman, Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas.

"The last couple of years since I've been at Syracuse, I haven't really been the face of Syracuse," Fair said. "I'm not saying I'm the face of Syracuse now, but I'm definitely in the front of it. This is a big challenge for me to be that guy."

Though the lure of playing in the ACC didn't factor in to his decision, Fair said that there is appeal in playing in the new conference. And he's already set one lofty goal for himself.

"It's the first year in the ACC for Syracuse, and I'm on the team," Fair said. "You always want to start the first year off with a bang. I think it's something that can really help me blossom a lot. There are a lot of challenges, but I think I can make a strong case to be the ACC player of the year."