CJ Fair to Bypass NBA Draft, Return to Syracuse for Senior Season

Syracuse junior forward C.J. Fair has decided to return to school for his senior season, Busting Brackets has learned. The cool-handed lefty will make his decision official in a press conference sometime during the next two days.

Fair traveled to his Baltimore home over the weekend — his first homecoming since last summer — to discuss his future with his family. There, with the guidance of those close to him, the first-year Orange starter determined the best course of action was to complete his degree, use his senior season on the ACC stage as a high-profile, final audition and in so doing boost his stock for next year’s draft. Syracuse leaves the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer.

A 6-foot-8 combo-forward who possesses one of the best mid-range jumpers in the college game, Fair led the Orange in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) this past season while earning a place on the All-Big East second team. The former Brewster Academy star has become a fixture at the base of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and has made marked improvements in each of his three seasons on the hill.

With the impending graduations of Brandon Triche and James Southerland as well as the early departure of sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams to the draft, Fair will be the showpiece of a Syracuse offense lacking in proven collegiate scorers. The Orange must replace its next three best scorers — 38.8 points per game in all — in large measure with unfulfilled underclassmen, Duke transfer swingman Mike Gbinije and a talented incoming recruiting class.

As reported last week, Fair had not planned to forgo his senior season without a first-round guarantee in this year’s draft. In the NBA, only first rounders earn guaranteed contracts — two-year pacts with third and fourth-year options. Second round picks commonly end up abroad or in the D-League playing for five-figure salaries.

Current evaluations from league scouts and executives have Fair bracketed as an early to mid-second round selection. Fair had received intel from NBA executives by way of the Syracuse coaching staff to assist his decision.

Fair’s return stabilizes a Syracuse frontcourt set to restore four of five rotation players from last year’s Final Four team. Breakout center Baye Keita and rising sophomore forward (now a freshman) Jerami Grant rejoin Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman, a pair of former McDonald’s All-Americans coming off unspectacular sophomore and freshman seasons, respectively.