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Andy Rautins has made name for himself at Syracuse

Syracuse's Andy Rautins gets a hug from coach

Syracuse's Andy Rautins gets a hug from coach Jim Boeheim after leaving the NCAA college basketball game against St. John's. (March 2, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

If there were ever a doubt that Andy Rautins was going to play basketball at Syracuse, it ended one night 14 years ago when Kentucky beat the Orangemen in the 1996 NCAA title game.

Rautins, then 9, was crushed by the loss. His father, Leo, had been a star for the Orangemen in the early 1980s, and the Rautins family lived in Jamesville, just outside of Syracuse.

"I was out of town for work and on the phone with Andy and he was just in tears," Leo recalled recently. Leo remembered talking to his son for more than an hour trying to calm him down.

"It didn't seem like there was anything I could say to him to make him feel better," Rautins said. "Finally, I remember saying, 'You want to fix this? You fix it. They're waiting for you.' "

If the stars and moons align, Rautins could get a chance to avenge that loss in this year's NCAA championship game. Syracuse and Kentucky both are No. 1 seeds in this year's tournament. The Orange open tournament play Friday night against Vermont, and the former crying 9-year-old boy now is the team's senior leader.

"Playing at Syracuse, I've just been living my dream," Andy said at the Big East Tournament. "This is always what I've wanted to do."

How many guys can say they played for the same college coach that Dad played for? Yes, there were some Syracuse fans who thought Jim Boeheim was doing one of his former players a favor when he offered Andy a scholarship. But no one is saying that now. Since coming back from a knee injury he suffered while playing for the Canadian National Team the summer after his sophomore year, the 6-5 shooting guard has taken his game to another level.

A deadly outside shooter, Rautins enters the tournament averaging 11.7 points and 5.0 assists for a 28-4 team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing its last two games.

While forward Wesley Johnson, the Big East Player of the Year, is the top NBA prospect on the team, Rautins draws a lot of defensive attention because he is not only a good shooter but - as his father was - a deft passer.

Leo, a first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983, had a brief NBA career before playing in Europe. For the past 14 years, he has been an announcer for the Toronto Raptors. He said he never tried to push his son into following in his footsteps. Then again, he never had to.

"Put it this way," Leo said. "When everybody's watching 'Sesame Street' and your kid's watching 'Red on Roundball' over and over and over again, you've got to figure there's something in there."

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