|Thursday, April 24
Updated: April 28, 2:09 PM ET
Anthony leaving Syracuse after one season
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- With tears in his eyes and his voice trembling, Carmelo Anthony delivered the news most Syracuse fans were expecting but none wanted to hear.
"I'm here in front of you today to announce that I will not be coming back next year," Syracuse's standout freshman forward said Thursday, just 17 days after he led the Orangemen to their first national championship. "I will be moving on, moving on to the pros."
And just like that, all those pleas for Anthony to stay "One More Year!" were forgotten.
"This is a very happy day for Syracuse basketball, and a sad one, too," head coach Jim Boeheim said, his voice cracking with emotion, too. "The guy sitting here has done more for Syracuse basketball than any player we've ever recruited or that's ever played here. To lead his team to a national championship as a freshman is truly a historic moment in college basketball. I'm very thankful that he was here with us."
Anthony had delayed making the decision until after the season, preferring to focus on winning. He led the Orangemen during the regular season with 22 points and 10 rebounds per game and broke Lawrence Moten's freshman scoring records and Derrick Coleman's freshman rebounding mark.
At the Final Four in New Orleans, Anthony had a career-best 33 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in Syracuse's semifinal win over Texas. He then put up 20 points in the championship game victory over Kansas and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four -- just the third freshman to earn that honor, and the first since Louisville's Pervis Ellison in 1986.
"I've got to move on," said Anthony, who will turn 19 in May. "We won the national championship, I brought Coach Boeheim what he was waiting for for 27 years. I don't want to make it sound bad, but there's really nothing more that I could get out of college. And I'm going to get my degree -- you can quote me on that."
In contrast to all his success on the court, it was evident Anthony struggled mightily with the decision, which hovered over him almost from the start of the season. He said he made up his mind after discussing his situation with his mother, Mary, over Easter weekend, and his coaches.
"It was a tough decision for me to make," said Anthony, who was raised by his mom in a tough Baltimore neighborhood. "I really don't want to leave, to be honest. My teammates, I'm going to miss them so much, but moving on is an opportunity to take care of my family. It's something I always wanted to do, and now I've got the opportunity to do that."
Boeheim did not question the move.
"In my mind, this is the right decision for Carmelo, as much as we would like to have him here," Boeheim said. "He's ready to play at the next level. College is to prepare you for what you're going to do in your life, and if it takes one year, then so be it."
Anthony's decision came sooner than expected -- underclassmen have until May 12 to make themselves eligible for the NBA draft -- and left the Orangemen with mixed emotions.
"I'm disappointed because he's such a great person," freshman guard Gerry McNamara said. "That's what people admire about him -- how good a person he is and what he's done for this area and this community.
"That's the toughest part, but Carmelo's just left us in a great position. Even though we're going to lose our main guy, we still feel real confident. He left us the right way, and we all believe it was the right decision for him to go."
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 26, and Anthony is expected to be a lottery pick. The draft lottery will be held May 22.
Anthony is the first Syracuse underclassman to leave early for the NBA since Billy Owens opted not to return for his senior season in 1991. Owens was the No. 3 pick that year. All-America guard Pearl Washington jumped to the NBA after his junior season in 1986 and was the No. 13 pick.
"You're happy for him because that's what everyone wants to do when you play sports -- reach the ultimate level," said freshman point guard Billy Edelin, who roomed with Anthony. "When you have a friend reach it and the way he did it, you can't be upset."