first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Kris Joseph was startled by being a focal point.In the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year was no longer coming off the bench. Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku was out with a knee injury and Butler game-planned against Joseph in the SU starting lineup.‘They were kind of giving me the ‘Rondo treatment,” Joseph said, referring to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, ‘where they were playing me in the key and forcing me to shoot.’Joseph shot just 3-of-8 from the field for six points, missing his only 3-point attempt, and the top-seeded Orange fell to fifth-seeded Butler in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Joseph, then a sophomore, called the game a wake-up call that showed him just how much he needed to develop his all-around game. The Bulldogs played Joseph as a driving forward, daring him to shoot, and he couldn’t capitalize.Just more than two weeks later, Syracuse’s shining star, Wes Johnson, declared for the NBA Draft. The Big East Player of the Year was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fourth pick overall.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJoseph assumed his position as small forward of the Orange. With it came expectations, presumptions that Joseph would be what Johnson was — the star. They were the same height and Joseph weighed two more pounds. Joseph averaged double digits off the bench in 2009-10. He had to be great.In the two seasons since, Joseph has assumed a role as team leader. He hasn’t been Johnson, a player who captivated the Syracuse fans during one remarkable season on the court. But the senior from Montreal has found his niche as an unselfish, consistent player on the wing for Syracuse. And he is the Orange’s go-to player.Joseph will leave Syracuse as the all-time winningest player in Orange history —something he accomplished against Louisville on March 3. It has not been flashy, but he leads the team with 14.1 points per game and has scored in double digits in all but five games of his senior season.When all is said and done, he’s next in the line of talented swingmen to develop a legacy at Syracuse.‘He’s very talented, he’s very chill,’ SU guard Brandon Triche said. ‘He’s a guy you want to be around, and he’s getting his degree as well. Guys that stay four years really help the team out.’Joseph said the expectations entering the 2010-11 season, his junior year, did not bother him. He set high expectations for himself entering the year as well.Still, Joseph acknowledged the media hype surrounding him was that he was going to burst into the starting lineup and be the next star for the Orange. He chose to ignore it.‘I wasn’t thinking about whose shoes I had to fill because I don’t think that would necessarily help out the team,’ Joseph said.Joseph referred to himself as a facilitator. But he can score, too.He was a scorer for Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington D.C., the high school that bred SU’s all-time leading scorer, Lawrence Moten. And Joseph was a scorer off the bench as a sophomore at Syracuse.At Archbishop Carroll, though, he was one of the bigger and more athletic players on the court. He was relatively unknown heading into his sophomore year at SU.Now, he deals with the brunt of the opposing team’s defensive game plan. So he has no problem moving the ball to someone with an easier path to the basket.‘If you need him to score, he’ll score. That’s the thing about him,’ Johnson said. ‘If you need him to have a big night, he’ll have a big night for you. But he’ll really just try to get everyone else involved and score when he needs to score.’Moten is close with the player who shares both his high school and college alma maters. He said he remembers hearing about Joseph being a top talent in high school.  Like Johnson, Joseph possesses a similar game to Moten, too. The long-armed, slash-and-shoot wing players who have become staples of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and are dynamic on offense.‘It’s a gift of having a knack for the ball and knowing where to be in particular positions in the right place at the right time,’ Moten said. ‘And I see that in him.’Joseph’s junior season didn’t live up to the expectations that were in place for him. He averaged 14.3 points per game, but he did not do what Johnson did. He was steady, less exciting.Moten described Joseph’s style as ‘low-key.’ There is a lot of hard work behind the scenes. He is quiet and humble on the court.But at times, he is still able to step up. That’s been especially evident in his senior season, a full year after Johnson left SU.‘I think a lot of people were sort of hyping the situation more than they should have,’ Johnson said. ‘Just not letting Kris be Kris and putting a lot of stuff on him. But I think this year it’s working out for him, and I think the team is showing that, too.’The 2011-12 season can be Joseph’s legacy. Though Dion Waiters has been flashy, C.J. Fair has produced some highlight-reel dunks and Fab Melo is the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year, Joseph is still the player Syracuse can trust most with the game on the line.He knocked down a long jumper over Stanford guard Jarrett Mann to put the Orange up one with three minutes left in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game Nov. 25. Against Georgetown on Feb. 8, Joseph got open for 3 from the left corner to provide the clinching points in a 64-61 overtime victory. Joseph said that game is one of his favorite moments of his career.Joseph might have missed those clutch 3-pointers if he was the player of two years ago. He might not have taken them. But he developed that shot into a reliable tool to keep defenses honest. Joseph said he feels he’s more comparable to Johnson this year because of his shooting ability.And with the Orange heading into postseason play on fire, he still has a chance to do something that would make Johnson incomparable to him — lead SU to a national championship.He’ll want the ball in his hands for a shot in that game. Something that helps him fit right in with the other historic wings in SU history.‘When it comes down to it, I’ve been here four years. I’m one of the veterans on this team,’ Joseph said. ‘And I would trust myself with the ball in my hands in the dying seconds of a tie game. Whether I make or miss the shot, I’d rather have the ball in my hands.’[email protected] Commentscenter_img Published on March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjrlast_img read more