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Last Sunday a friend of mine loaned me a video. It’s titled Orange Glory – The 20 Greatest Moments In Syracuse Basketball. Being a big Syracuse basketball fan, I couldn’t wait to get home to watch it.

Talk about a great history. I knew about 15 of the 20 events, but some of the older footage pre-dated me, and not being from Syracuse originally, other than Dave Bing and the present coach, Jim Boeheim, I knew nothing about anyone from years earlier.

But I did know about Carmelo Anthony, the All-Star guard for the New York Knicks, 2-time Olympic gold medal winner, and the architect and leader of the team that won the 2003 NCAA National Championship. It was the #1 moment on the DVD, which makes sense as it’s the only national basketball championship the team has ever won.

It’s interesting to remember how things were at that time. Syracuse had come off a 20-win season the year before but, stunningly, hadn’t been selected for the NCAA tournament, the first time a 20-win team from the Big East hadn’t been selected. Syracuse made the final four of that tournament, but we had a bad taste in our mouth locally, and were losing a few seniors from a team we knew was talented.

In came not one, but two freshmen. Carmelo Anthony was one, the other was Gerry McNamara. We’d heard the tales about Anthony, but literally knew nothing about McNamara. We learned quickly that Anthony was a special talent, and McNamara was a 3-point specialist. Starting two freshman was way different than the norm for Syracuse, and even with the talent most experts thought it would be two years of training before this team was ready to challenge for anything. Not only that, but the first man off the bench was another freshman, and there was only one senior on the team.

Of course the experts were proven wrong. Syracuse made the NCAA tournament, and were the underdog in every game except the first game, which they barely won. Carmelo Anthony had promised that if the team earned at least a 3 seed that he’d carry the team to a national championship; unprecedented for a freshman to say, but he said it, and he did it.

Most of the time people believe that true leadership takes years to learn, and that most people would rather follow someone with experience that’s shown they know how to get things done and won’t crack under pressure. However, people misinterpret the word “experience” for “age”. What will age do for experience if a person has never had to deal with certain issues that someone else has? Does a different type of experience trump one based on age?

Of course it does. What Anthony had was true life experience. Growing up in a neighborhood that was dangerous, where people got not only seriously hurt but killed, and having a drive to get into college when people doubted it was going to happen, he had experiences that many people never have to deal with. That he was able to manifest that experience into something that carried him and the Syracuse team to a national championship as a freshman was something else. He made everyone around him that much better, good enough to get it done, and confident enough to believe.

Yeah, I’m a “homer” when it comes to rooting for my team. I’m also someone who tries to see how leadership means different things in different environments and at different times. The next time you’re looking for a leader to follow, consider that the leader could possibly be someone younger, or with a much different experience than what’s considered traditional. These aren’t diamonds in the rough; they’re diamonds laying around looking like glass to the untrained eye.
 

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