On Saturday, the high school career of Joseph Girard III officially ends with his graduation from Glens Falls.
The next day, JG3 is on to his next step — off to Syracuse University as a freshman on the men’s basketball team. He’s on the verge of a whirlwind summer that few incoming college students ever experience.
“Right when I get there, we go right to work, get ready for the team and the season,” Girard said last week.
For Girard — who will major in communications at Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Public Communications — college starts right away: he has two summer classes that begin Monday.
His summer will include team workouts in the mornings — coaches are allowed only a certain number of hours per week with the team in the offseason — and a team trip to Italy from Aug. 10-20. The overseas trip allows the Orange to have 10 extra official practices.
“We’re going to be playing four exhibition games in Italy, in four different cities,” said Girard, who hopes to become a sportscaster whenever his playing days are through. “We’re going to Rome and Venice, I’m not sure where else.”
And even though Syracuse’s first game on Nov. 6 will be against the defending national champion, Virginia, you can hear in Girard’s voice how much he’s looking forward to the upcoming season.
“I played a lot of people in AAU that I’m going to be playing against (in college), but this is a whole different world,” Girard said. “I’m very prepared — it’s been my dream my whole life.”
It certainly won’t be easy. The 6-foot-2 combo guard will be making the leap from Class B high school boys basketball in New York state to NCAA Division I men’s college hoops. The Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke. North Carolina. Virginia. Serious basketball.
His father, Joe Girard Jr., said Joseph sees things in terms of a challenge to meet, another step to reach.
“Mentally and physically, he’s ready,” Joe Girard Jr. said. “He’s very driven. It’s another challenge for him and he’s always risen to each new challenge.
“We’ve always preached the three H’s — stay humble, stay healthy and stay hungry,” Joe Jr. added. “So far, he’s been able to do that.”
Joseph is part of a five-member recruiting class that will play on the youngest Syracuse team — no seniors — to take the floor in many years, hoping to build on a 20-14 season that saw the Orange make a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.
He’ll also get to test out the new Division I 3-point line, which moves back from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1 3/4. That’s still within JG3’s seemingly unlimited range.
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“Backing up the line works in my favor,” he said. “We’re going to play like they did when Coach Mac (assistant coach Gerry McNamara) was playing — we’ll run up and down and shoot a lot of 3’s. We’ve got a lot of pieces. We’re young, but we’ll be really good.”
He also knows that, no matter how exceptional the recruit, playing time must be earned in the gym.
“I think he’ll be impactful and see quality minutes,” Joe Jr. said. “With his leadership and intangibles I think he’ll get good quality time.”
Girard III already knows some of his new teammates, including head coach Jim Boeheim’s son Buddy, a sophomore guard.
“Buddy Boeheim and I played on the same AAU team (Albany City Rocks) for three years,” he said. “I’ve gotten close to (junior) Elijah Hughes over the last year, and I roomed with (fellow freshman) Brycen Goodine at the 3-point and dunk competition and the Capital Classic.”
Girard III is already 2-0 in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse’s home basketball arena. An electrifying athlete at quarterback and safety, he led Glens Falls to state football championship victories in the Dome in 2016 and 2018.
“I miss football — it’s the biggest thing I’ve had to give up,” he said. “We had (Glens Falls) team camp (a couple of weeks ago) and it’s the first time in four or five years I wasn’t involved in it.”
Joseph Girard III leaves a lasting legacy in Glens Falls in both sports. His name is etched in Section II, state and probably even national record books.
In both sports, he had an admirable supporting cast, many of them standouts in their own right. An only child, Joseph has dozens of “brothers” — cousins and friends with whom he played since their pee-wee days — fiery competitors from the fields and gyms of Glens Falls.
Girard’s five-year varsity basketball career saw him score an unprecedented 4,763 points, averaging nearly 50 points per game over his last two seasons. The New York State Mr. Basketball award recipient highlighted his senior year with a last-second, game-winning shot in overtime of the state public high school championship game for Glens Falls’ first-ever state basketball title. One week later, in front of a roaring home crowd at Cool Insuring Arena, he led the 29-1 Indians to the Federation crown.
Finally, in April, Girard III capped off his high school career with 17 points and the MVP for the U.S. team in the Capital Classic tournament in Washington, D.C. He was recently named MaxPreps’ Male Athlete of the Year.
“It was amazing to go through it. You have to live in the moment, help your brothers out,” Joseph Girard III said. “It’s been a fun journey. It was the best I could have imagined for a high school career.”
“He’s had a fairytale career, he’s done everything he could possibly do at the high school level,” Joe Girard Jr. said. “He’s ready to do that again at the next level.”