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When huge effort yields huge results

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Gerry McNamara will be remembered for the will to win that propelled him through injury and low expectations to help his team defend its Big East Conference basketball title this spring in a four-day run of extremely tight games.

The Syracuse University senior guard made the difference in clutch situations. In the first round against the University of Cincinnati, McNamara scored the winning points with 0.5 seconds left in the game. In the quarterfinal against the top-ranked University of Connecticut, his three-point shot tied the score with 5.6 seconds left, setting up Syracuse to win the game in overtime.

In the semifinal against Georgetown University, his furious run brought the team back from a 15-point deficit. And after McNamara’s three-pointer in the second half against the University of Pittsburgh, his team again rallied and won.

Although each win belonged to the team, each one depended on McNamara.

The deciding factors:
  • The team comes first. Hampered by nagging injuries, McNamara refused to sit out the Georgetown game.

    “I saw the scoreboard at halftime and we were down 15,” he says, “so how I was feeling didn’t matter. It was time to play.”

  • He sucks energy from his opponents and gives it to his team. Georgetown coach John Thompson III tried to focus his players on stopping McNamara, but it didn’t matter. The guard galvanized his teammates.

    “He put them on his back and willed them to win,” Thompson said.

  • He gives everything. McNamara’s grit defined his game as each victory surpassed the last. His injuries exhausted him against Georgetown and left him so dead on his feet after the title win that he seemed almost unable to claim his trophy.

    But claim it, he did.
—Adapted from “Syracuse’s McNamara Carries On,” Camille Powell, Michael Wilbon, The Washington Post, and “From on the Bubble to Floating on Air,” Pete Thamel, The New York Times.

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