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Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair keeps climbing NCAA scoring list, elevating team in ACC standings

Syracuse coach Felisha Legette-Jack encouraged star Dyaisha Fair to explore other basketball options for her graduate year this season.

She didn’t want one of the top scorers in NCAA history to go, but felt that Fair deserved a chance to play at the highest level possible for her fifth year. She visited some of the top schools in the country, but decided to stay with the only coach she’s played for in college at both Buffalo and Syracuse.

“She went to South Carolina, went to Miami, went to Arizona and Baylor, she had a chance,” Legette-Jack recalled. “I wanted her to find her wings, that’s my job. You’ll fly away sometime, but you’ll always have a sisterhood here. Sometimes those wings will make you fly back home.”

When Fair came back to Syracuse after visiting those schools, she had a little fun with her coach, telling her she wanted to meet her in the office to discuss her decision.

“She said, ‘You did everything you could to get me to this point,’” Legette-Jack said. “I thought this kid was leaving. I told her she had me for life. She took off her jacket and had a Syracuse shirt on. ‘I’m going to stay with you.’”

Legette-Jack said they hugged and cried.

“A lot went into that decision,” Fair said. “We weren’t finished after the year we had. It was the first year in the ACC together. We had more work to do.”

The pair have led No. 17 Syracuse to a great season so far. After a defeat to unranked Duke on Thursday night, the Orange (22-5) sit in second place in the conference, two losses behind No. 8 Virginia Tech. Syracuse won 20 games last season and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.

Fair has been a huge reason for this season’s success. She’s been a phenomenal scorer since she joined Legette-Jack at Buffalo before they came to Syracuse last year.

She currently sits in sixth place on the NCAA career scoring list — four points behind former Baylor star Brittney Griner with 3,279. She’s 123 points behind Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell for third place all-time and should move up that far if the Orange can win games in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.

Fair, who is averaging 21.8 points this season, hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who became the NCAA’s Division I women’s all-time scoring leader this month. That’s just fine with her.

“Every game our media people talk about it a little bit, but I don’t keep up with it on my own,” Fair said. “I keep focused on what needs to be done. I set a goal of 3,000 points. If I land higher, that’s extra.”

What makes her accomplishments even more astounding is her height — standing just 5-foot-5.

That might be why she wasn’t highly recruited out of college. Legette-Jack remembers seeing her play at an AAU tournament. Fair’s team was on the first court by the entrance and coach after coach walked right on by. Legette-Jack was the only one watching her play.

“I thought it would be a fight going into her senior year, but me and my assistants were the only ones sitting there,” she said. “We went to another big tournament in Atlanta and nobody came to her courts.”

Legette-Jack said Fair is excelling in the ACC, but hasn’t gotten much WNBA interest so far.

“I think she’s under the radar still,” she said. “Not because they don’t know her, they don’t want to know about her. My phone should be ringing off the hook. I’ve not had one WNBA coach in my gym. Not one.”

Mitchell is 5-8 and entering her seventh season with the Indiana Fever. Current Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon, at 5-6, had a successful WNBA career. Fair knows she can play at the next level.

“I feel like I can play with anyone in the country,” she said. “I know I’m capable of playing in that league or anywhere in the world. It’s just who’s going to be willing to take that chance on me?”

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

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