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College Basketball

The bitter end

Former Ms. New York Basketball ends career at Syracuse

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Posted: Tuesday March 02, 1999 01:50 AM


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- It wasn't supposed to end this way for Caryn Schoff.

In the final home game of her college basketball career last week, the senior captain of the Syracuse Orangewomen played just 10 minutes, grabbed one rebound and did not score in a humbling 105-43 loss to sixth-ranked Connecticut.

Then, in the Big East tournament Saturday, Schoff had three rebounds but again failed to score as Syracuse ended its season on a sour note, losing by 17 points to St. John's.

What had begun with such promise in 1995 had ended in so much despair for Schoff. A high school phenom, she was hampered by injuries in her first two seasons at Syracuse and never emerged as the star she had dreamed of becoming. Her career numbers read: 583 points, 429 rebounds, 106 assists, and 81 steals in 106 games.

The loss to UConn was the most lopsided Big East loss in school history, and it hurt just like all the others. In her four years, Syracuse lost twice as often as it won, going 36-73.

"I've gone home many times and just started beating on my bed," said the 6-foot Schoff. "I take it to heart, which is something I don't think athletes can do. But at least I know I care. If I didn't take it to heart, if I didn't get upset about a loss, then I'd start to worry."

There were no worries and no injuries in high school. Schoff towered over everyone she played against. She scored an incredible 3,548 points -- still the state record -- and grabbed 1,926 rebounds for St. Johnsville Central High School, located in a tiny town hard by the old Erie Canal in upstate New York.

Schoff was so dominant that at times it almost seemed unfair. She once scored the first 17 points of a game in the semifinals of the state tournament and finished with 51. The only time she finished second, it seemed, was in the classroom -- she was salutatorian of her graduating class of 25 at St. Johnsville.

She was so good that after the 1994-95 season she shared the title of Ms. New York State Basketball. But when college powerhouses like Connecticut, fresh from a national championship, came calling, she chose her father's alma mater. Phil Schoff had played with Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim on the men's team back in the 1960s. She would help build the women's program.

Those dreams quickly disappeared with the injuries. The knee brace she had to wear took a mental toll, reminding her that it could happen again and sapping her confidence. She never settled into a comfortable role, rotating between guard and forward, and that made matters worse.

Suddenly, she was just another player. And yet despite the obvious disappointment she's endured, she hasn't lapsed into self-pity.

"You definitely learn from losing," said Schoff, 21. "If you don't learn anything from losing, if you just gave up, you'd be a quitter and you wouldn't get anything out of it.

"In life, you're going to go through the same thing -- ups and downs -- all the time. To be able to rebuild from a down is what life is all about."

That's exactly what Schoff did this season. She was an all-tournament selection in Syracuse's annual Carrier Classic and ranked among the Big East leaders in rebounding and free-throw percentage until the tail end of the season.

"She's been the most consistent of everybody this year and she's still a top-quality player," coach Marianna Freeman said. "She took the role of leader and has helped the freshmen. She's just taken it upon herself to try to teach them how to be an Orangewoman, and I'll be forever grateful for that because nobody will ever see that on the floor.

"It's just unfortunate that she's going to be the foundation of our success. But as the years go by and we become more successful, she's got to know that it happened because she came here."

The girl Schoff shared the honor of the best female player in New York state with was Chamique Holdsclaw, who went from Christ the King High School in New York City to Tennessee. Holdsclaw has become the best women's player in the country with three national championships and a pro career beckoning.

It was probably the only time the two were mentioned in the same breath, but Schoff still hopes it might happen again. She plans to take a shot at playing pro basketball in Europe, maybe Spain or Germany, after graduating in a couple of months with a degree in health and exercise science.

"Who knows? Maybe the WNBA will be bigger," she said. "I think there are tradeoffs in life. I think I had probably the best high school career I could have ever asked for -- and I would say the best is yet to come."

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