By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
Brian Coyle kept in contact with high school teammate Gerry McNamara.
Paddy Casey stayed in touch with Coyle, his AAU basketball coach for three years.
Those relationships, combined with Casey’s performance in three years as a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II player, led to the chance for Casey to use his final year of eligibility as a walk-on at Syracuse University.
McNamara, an assistant coach at Syracuse where he helped the Orange win the 2003 national title, delivered the news to Casey in May that he was being offered one of the walk-on spots.
“Growing up in Green Ridge, Gerry McNamara was about as big a star as you could get,” Casey said. “We all idolized him.”
Casey will report to Syracuse this month to begin work on his Master’s in Marketing. He has spent the summer getting ready for his next basketball opportunity.
“I’m really just so appreciative of everyone who made this happen, especially coach McNamara and coach Coyle,” Casey said. “I really cannot wait.
“I have to almost pinch myself that this is actually happening.”
Coyle played with McNamara at Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton where McNamara led the Golden Lancers to a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state title as a senior in 2002.
Casey was the starting point guard on JB Hoops AAU teams coached by Coyle following his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons at Scranton Prep where he became a second-team, all-stater as a senior.
Coyle is still coaching at Riverfront Sports in Scranton where he leads the NEPA Elite Coyle 17U boys team, the AAU club’s top team and an entrant in the Hoop Group Showcase League.
Casey has a year of eligibility remaining after his senior season at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia was canceled because of the pandemic. He graduated in May with a degree in Pharmaceutical and Health Care Business.
In his three seasons at University of the Sciences, Casey played in 80 games and made 74 starts. He shot 40.0 percent from the floor, 36.4 percent on 3-pointers and 76.2 percent on free throws.
Casey averaged 11.3 person on a winning team as a freshman in 2017-18. His best season came when he averaged 12.9 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals as a sophomore.
For his Division II career, Casey wound up with 836 points, 291 rebounds, 271 assists, 122 made 3-pointers and 104 steals.
The Devils, however, endured two straight losing seasons before not playing at all a year ago. Late in his last active season there, Casey played in a game with an official home attendance of 50.
At Syracuse, Casey is joining a program that led the nation in home attendance at close to 22,000 on average in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons before the pandemic altered crowd sizes in the 2020-21 season.
“I’ve been the small college route,” Casey said. “ … This is the complete opposite of that, playing at the Carrier Dome.”
Syracuse has posted 51 straight winning seasons, including 45 under coach Jim Boeheim.
Casey knows that his role as a one-year, walk-on in such an established program, largely could be about helping the scholarship athletes prepare.
“I just want to find a way to add some type of value to the team – whether that’s rebounding for guys who want to get shots up or holding pads during drills or scrimmaging with them, I just want to get up there and work hard and add value in any way I can,” he said.
Casey is trying to be ready for that task.
“I’ve been working really hard this offseason to get into real good shape and make sure my game is in the right place,” he said.