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Scoop is bad news for opponents

, so here's the scoop. The nickname doesn't come from basketball, as many people have been led to believe. Antonio Stephen Jardine was born with a head that his maternal grandmother joked was shaped like an ice cream scoop. He has been known as "Scoop" Jardine ever since.

He brought Scoop to basketball, not the other way around, but it's easy to understand why the story behind the moniker has been inside out for 21 years. The Syracuse guard has been turning defenders inside out and twisting them into knots since he started driving to the hoop on the playgrounds of Philadelphia.

Jardine plays like someone who should be named Scoop. The move he made Friday night, when he faked Vermont guard Nick Vier into mid-April with a crippling crossover dribble in the first half, was no coincidence. Scoop finished the play with a terrific scoop shot that added to his growing legend with the Orange.

"I wish people would stop talking about it," Jardine said Saturday.

Actually, that was yet another fake.

Jardine was joking when he suggested he was growing tired of all the questions about the play. He had a blast in his first NCAA Tournament game, a 79-56 rout in HSBC Arena. It was an opportunity to showcase his game before a national television audience and prove he could play on the big stage. He gets another chance today against Gonzaga.

"It is fun," he said. "That's the thing with basketball, the creativity. That's what I try to pride myself on, just being creative out there by making a play for myself or for other guys. I was just creative at that time, and it worked. I did enjoy it. I was happy to make the shot. You can make the move, but you have to make the shot."

You hear coaches talk about it every March. The Big Dance is about two things, matchups and making shots. Vermont couldn't match up against Jardine, and he made shots look easy after coming off the bench. He scored 11 points in a seven-minute stretch in the first half with five layups, including the three-point play, while slicing to the bucket. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes.

Jardine's performance, while impressive, hardly enlightened 'Cuse power forward Rick Jackson. They were raised in the same South Philly neighborhood and attended Neumann-Goretti High School. When they were freshmen, they vowed to play together in college. Now, both have big roles on one of the best teams in the country.

"I've been watching that since we were growing up," Jackson said. "That's nothing new to me. He does a lot of things like that. The more comfortable he gets, the better he does. He does a lot of great things out there. That's just his game."

Syracuse is a long way from winning its first national championship since 2003, but it's a good sign when the backup point guard can dominate the way Jardine did Friday. He might as well be their starter. He played more minutes than starting point guard Brandon Triche, bringing a dimension of electricity when he's on the floor.

"He gives us a real spark off the bench," swingman Wes Johnson said. "You can feel the energy pick up when he steps in the court."

Watch out for Jardine, who could come of age in this tournament. He's almost unstoppable off the dribble, much like Jonny Flynn before him. He's as good as anyone in the Big East when it comes to creating his own shots and getting into the lane. The redshirt sophomore sat out last season with a fractured shin, returned this year 20 pounds lighter and emerged as a leader after Flynn left for the NBA.

The chore for 'Cuse coach Jim Boeheim has been getting Jardine to maintain his creativity without losing control. The knock on him was that he tried doing too much, which resulted in poor decisions and bad shots. Jardine harnessed his style and had 16 fewer assists than leader Andy Rautins despite playing 10 fewer minutes per game.

Now, it has reached a point where SU fans have come to expect something special from him. He was greeted with a heavy chorus of "Scoooop" when he entered the game Friday. His teammates and coaches sit back and enjoy when he prepares to drive to the hole.

"His eyes light up," said Gerry McNamara, who led SU to the NCAA title in '03 and is now a graduate assistant. "Scoop is as good with the ball as I've seen. He can make other players around him better. He has that ability and he can score. Once he puts those two together, he's going to be tough to deal with."

Yes, the kid is making a name for himself.

Here's another scoop. Jardine has never been called by his given name by anyone, not his family or his teachers or his coaches. Not surprising, he's planning a change in direction after his career is over. The way things are going, it could be a long time.

"When I'm done playing basketball, I'm going to go by Antonio," he said. "It's more businesslike. Right now, I'm just Scoop."

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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