Joe Girard made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament during his sophomore season at Syracuse, and now he wants one more deep run in the tourney, and he believes Clemson is the place to make that happen. Girard, who spent four seasons at Syracuse but has an extra year due to COVID, announced Sunday morning that he will transfer to Clemson and play for head coach Brad Brownell in his final season.
As a junior, he shot a career-best 40.3% from outside, scoring nearly 13 points per game while averaging 4.2 assists. Girard played point guard for his first three seasons at Syracuse but moved over to the off-ball position his senior year, where he led Syracuse in scoring, averaging a career-high 16.4 points per game.
Following the Orange’s ouster from the ACC Tournament, it was announced that long-time head coach Jim Boeheim was stepping down, prompting Girard to look for a new home.
“With Coach Boeheim leaving, it made sense for me to explore another option,” Girard explained. “I came to play for Coach Boeheim, but obviously love the assistants, love Coach Red (Adrian Autry) and everything, but it just allowed me to think about going and seeing all the options that I had, and ultimately led me to Clemson, and I’m very thankful for that. But I had a great four years in Syracuse and couldn’t be happier about anything.”
Girard arrived at Syracuse as New York State’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball after scoring 4,763 points at Glens Falls HS. After earning the starting point guard role just two games into his freshman season, he never came off the bench again. He was a four-year starter for Boeheim.
When he announced he was transferring, Girard immediately received interest from dozens of schools.
“When I entered the portal, I let everybody come to me, and I didn’t really know what to expect when going into it and just went into it with an open mind,” he said. “Coach (Billy) Donlon (the associate head coach) had reached out, and from there, the relationship just progressed with the whole staff, Coach Brownell, and just kept on going and going.”
Girard made a visit to Clemson and discovered a place he knew he could call home.
“Yeah, it’s a whole new lifestyle, and that’s what I was also looking for, it allows me to grow as a person,” Girard discussed. “I’ve been in New York for 22 years and being in this portal just allowed me to go somewhere else and start a new life, new world, and experience what the world’s also like. So, Clemson was awesome, it’s a whole family atmosphere, which I’m looking forward to. Everybody’s nice there, great people, and they have a lot of college sports fans in general, which I also am and can fit right in with.”
Where does he think he will fit in with Brownell’s scheme?
“Just be a basketball player, just like everybody is. And Coach Brownell does a good job of using guys in certain situations, has a lot of X’s and O’s, and the staff does a great job of game planning, which is going to be awesome,” raved Girard. “They’re also very good defensive-minded coaches, which will help me on that end, seeing as I played zone for four years, and I’m looking forward to doing it and showing people that I can compete on that end. But I’m sure I’ll trust the coaches a lot and just see wherever he wants me to go. I’ll do it to the best of my ability and just try to help the team win.”
Girard averaged double-figure scoring each year at Syracuse except for the 2020-21 season, during which he battled COVID-19, leading to a sophomore slump. After turning it on down the stretch, he helped Syracuse advance to the Sweet 16. Now he wants to make another run in the NCAA Tournament.
“Going into the portal, that’s what I was looking for. I wanted to go somewhere I knew we’d win, be able to make “March Madness,” and make a deep run, and Clemson’s team made the perfect fit for that,” Girard noted. “They have great players returning, they also have a good transfer class coming in, so it just made sense, and that’s the biggest thing for me is I want to win. I made the Sweet 16 my sophomore year and haven’t been able to get back but have been itching to, and that was ultimately one of the reasons I wanted to get in this portal and see where I could go, where I could solidify myself as a key player, but also know that I was going to make the tournament.”