Lydon Leaves Small Town to Pursue Big Dreams

Orange basketball recruit works hard to make the team

The Carrier Dome will be the future home of Tyler Lydon. ©AP Images/Kevin Rivoli

©AP Images/Kevin Rivoli

By Alex Kline SYRACUSE (NCC News) – A year can make a world of difference in the life of a teenager. Whether it be academically, socially or extracurricularly, something is bound to change for whatever reason. For Tyler Lydon, it was his future in the sports of basketball, which will help a good chunk of his life going forward.

Unknown by most people last year, Lydon was a 6-foot-9 basketball player from Pine Plains High School in Upstate New York. A junior at the time, he was very skilled but lacked the exposure to receive attention to play at the next level being in such a small town.

“There’s only one stoplight in the town of our school and our school is actually the biggest school district in New York State,” Lydon told NCC. “It’s all farmland so there’s maybe sixty, seventy kids in a grade now. It’s a different place. You’d expect to be going to a place that’s a lot bigger and especially when you play with a team like the one I was on we averaged a height an inch below the starting lineup of the (NBA’s Brooklyn) Nets. Everyone thought we were a school from a city, and then you go out there and there’s just woods everywhere and you’re outside and there’s just a lot of wildlife.”

The Decision

Because it was so improbable to get the attention most felt he deserved, Lydon decided to make a major transition. He left Pine Plains for New Hampton School, a prep school about 250 miles away, and decided to take an extra year of high school. Currently a senior, he will take a postgrad year next year, but is considered a junior by some.

As National Signing Week in High School Basketball came and went, Lydon heard and witnessed many friends and teammates in the class he used to be sign with schools, while he waited for his moment which will come next year.

“Watching all these other kids sign and everything, it made me almost jealous in a way, but it also made me want to work even harder because that’s a very important day obviously and seeing everybody do it just makes me want to go out and work harder than I am,” Lydon said. “It’s something that I’m really looking forward to and I mean I wish I could have obviously signed but it’s good because I get an extra year just to work on my game so I’m definitely looking forward to it though.”

Paying Dividends

Regardless, Lydon’s move has paid dividends as he is now ranked in the top-100 nationally, according to ESPN, and received dozens of college scholarship offers from schools around the nation in Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Florida, Virginia and others. Humbled by the opportunites ahead of him, the Pine Plains native realized he wanted to return home.

He ended up returning home after all by making his decision to play his college basketball an hour away for head coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse University, Lydon’s dream school growing up.

To Lydon, it has been a tough experience four months in. It has taken him away from frienda and family, but he isn’t complaining. In fact, he likes it there and realizes that it is the best situation for him afterall.

Listen to the story here: Lydon’s New Life

50th Anniversary of NBA Team Leaving Syracuse

The Nats left Syracuse for Philadelphia half a century ago but left a love of Basketball in the City

Dolph Schayes All-NBA 1st Team Trophy in his living room. Schayes still resides in Syracuse, NY (C) Jay Alter 2013

Dolph Schayes All-NBA 1st Team Trophy in his living room. Schayes still resides in Syracuse, NY (C) Jay Alter 2013

By Jay Alter SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS) – Syracuse is a basketball-first city. This is evidenced by the support Jim Boeheim’s Orange has every season. SU currently holds the NCAA attendance record and always finishes top five in attendance in the country.

This love of basketball was in the City long before Jim Boeheim was here.  It was born in the War Memorial in downtown Syracuse with the Nationals – an NBA team that called Syracuse home from 1949-1963. So as of this year, it has been 50 years since Syracuse was home to an NBA team and most Central New Yorkers probably don’t even know that the Salt City had a professional basketball team.

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Syracuse was a big industrial city comprised of mostly blue-collar workers and the Nationals took this persona on, as writer, Sean Kirst, says, “the guys were a lunch bucket team and it fit the city.”

This gritty, hardworking style of play was working for the Nationals. The team was extremely successful in the 1950’s despite it being a small city compared to the other teams in the league. The Nats did have one of the NBA’s biggest stars, Dolph Schayes, despite being small and the Hall-of-Famer says the team embraced this underdog role, ““Syracuse was like the Green Bay of the NBA. Like the David v. Goliath. Little town vs. Big City guys. We won against the New Yorks, Philadelphia’s, and the Bostons.”

Schayes went onto say that the team was successful because of the mentality the team had,”We were the old cliché, never say die. We would be behind 10 going into last quarter and we would catch up. We were a young team who played great basketball, great eastern style basketball…and in the 50’s we were one of the better teams in the NBA.”

In fact in 1955, the Nationals actually won the NBA Championship in an exciting 92-91 Game 7 win at the War Memorial and David Ramsey, author of the book “The Nats”, says it was quite the scene, “Somebody was walking around downtown Syracuse two blocks away from War Memorial on Easter Sunday 1955 and this person got very scared, he was terrified because he thought the world was coming to an end but what really happened is the Nats just beat the Fort Wayne Pistons for the NBA title and you could hear it from two blocks away.”

The team was sold eight years after that NBA Championship and it took many people by surprise, including their star player, “I got a call – Hey the team was sold – I had no idea the team was even on the block,” Schayes recalled.

It was disappointing for not only Schayes and the team, but also the fans that packed the War Memorial as lifelong Syracuse native Ron Kellish says, “You hate to see them go…It was the draw in Syracuse…especially loving the team and loving basketball it was a big loss to me personally.”

So although the Nationals moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and became the 76ers, they left a love of basketball in the Salt City that Kirst thinks transferred to Syracuse University, “If you wanna look at it chronologically in 1963 SU Basketball had been really down and almost simultaneous with the Nats leaving, Bing comes in and there’s that massive sense of affection that switches and goes over to Manley Field House and its continued over.”

Listen to Jay’s piece on the Nationals here:


Knockout game: a Disturbing Trend

“Game” leads to deaths in CNY and elsewhere



By Daniel Bayliss SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS) – It’s happened here, on a busy road. It’s happened along alley ways and even right outside of convenience stores. It’s the Knockout game, a problematic trend that is certainly more gruesome than game.

“This kind of violence directed against people in the absence of a desire to rob them or anything else is actually fairly new,” said Dr. Bruce Carter, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Child & Family Studies at Syracuse University.

While the thrill of knocking someone unconscious seems to be the appeal for participating in the game, Dr. Carter thinks that positive reinforcement plays a big part as well.

“There is a change in the biochemistry of the brain which actually reinforces that when we’re successful in those kinds of activities,” said Dr. Carter.

The Syracuse Police Department says that there have been six cases of “Knockout game”-related assaults over the past year in Syracuse, and that two of these incidents have resulted in the deaths of the victims. So we can see that this isn’t — and shouldn’t be — a promoted form of entertainment.

“I think the first problem that we have is considering that it’s a game,” said Dr. Carter. “While it’s been labeled as a game by the media, it’s not so much a game as an activity.”

Dr. Carter’s research has led him to believe that acts of violents like those associated with the Knockout game stem from the disconnect that the assailants have with the victims.

“I think part of the problem is likely to be the fact that these folks are attacking people that they don’t know. There’s a fairly large amount of literature that shows that our aggressive actions tend to be sort of dampened down if we’re having to aggress against people that we know,” said Dr. Carter.

“The game also involves extremely close contact with the victim in the activity. We also have lots of data that show that the closer you have to be to the person that you’re harming, the less likely you are to harm.”

While video games like Grand Theft Auto justify random violence and diminish the consequences, Dr. Carter wonders if these values are the ones haunting our society.

“I think we need to make people aware of the consequences of aggressive behavior. The freudian notion of catharsis is completely rejected by psychologists today. You find that that idea is taught in a variety of other places, but not by psychologists,” said Dr. Carter.

With these acts of violence occurring randomly, one has to simply wonder why people would even participate.

Exploring the appeal

“I know we have some documented cases where people have explicitly said that the motivation for their attack was participating in this game,” said Leonard Newman, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Syracuse University.

When looking at the problems surrounding the Knockout game, Professor Newman traced the problems back to the curious reasoning for even participating. He sees the mob mentality as a big issue, one that is certainly provoking random acts of violence.

“To explain the Knockout game, in part, might be to explain just why do people engage in random violence and why do they do so in the presence of their peers,” said Professor Newman.

“When we talk about peer pressure, we’re talking about a group of people imposing their own values and their own attitudes and their own preferences on someone else.”

Professor Newman also plunged deeper into thought, wondering if the peer pressure of a group towards an individual actually exists, or if it is just a false perception created by the attacker.

“The real pressure is coming from a need to conform to a norm that might not really exist. This is called pluralistic ignorance. You see this kind of thing in lots of difference context. I have no doubt it that can happen with the Knockout game as well,” said Professor Newman.

In addition to Dr. Carter, Professor Newman sees the social media world of today as a factor for those who see no problem in random violence.

“A study just appeared recently suggesting that one of the things that could be going on is that it sort of changes people’s standards for what is really unacceptably violent,” said Professor Newman.

“It’s hard for me to imagine anyone could really think that punching a stranger and seeing if you can knock that person out with one punch is within acceptable norms. However, this research seemed to show that people’s judgements of what’s really violent change as a result of exposure to violent media.”

With negative influences surrounding young children, Dr. Carter concludes that more emphasis should be put on those that hold more responsibility.

“What’s really needed in general is better parenting.”Parents have actually been more attuned to themselves and what they want,” said Dr. Carter.

“That provides two messages to kids: one is that it’s okay to be self-focused and not to be as concerned about the welfare of other people. It also provides a model for children to copy. So if kids see their parents behaving in a fashion that ignores sort of the social morays and the interpersonal obligations that folks may have to each other, then those kids are more likely to copy those behaviors.”

As a whole, the Knockout game has done more damage than expected and provided far less entertainment than any of the attacker’s ever imagined. The only questions now are will it stop, or what will it lead to next?


Syracuse: City on the Rebound?

Syracuse community members speak first-hand about what it’s like to reside in one of the ‘fastest-shrinking cities’ in the nation– then and now.

(c) 2013 Greg Munno

(c) 2013 Greg Munno


After Syracuse was dubbed one of the ‘fastest shrinking cities’ by the U.S. Census, Forbes and other publications, questions about the city’s rich history and uncertain future rise among community members.

Stark employment opportunities, job outsourcing and high crime rates have accelerated the population decline in recent years. However, this has not always been the economic atmosphere of the city of Syracuse.

Regional professionals, such as CEO and Treasurer of  Cooperative Federal of Syracuse, Ron Ehrenreich, share some of the rich history of this once-flourishing city and offer insight on what the future may hold.




A Jazzy Tune for Listeners in Central New York


WAER 88.3  (c) Cheyenne Cheathem

WAER 88.3
(c) Cheyenne Cheathem

By: Cheyenne De’Von Syracuse (NCC News)

Although pop music may seem to dominate the music charts nationally, a new genre of music is rising in popularity in central New York.

While some people consider jazz music to be too unstructured, others consider it to be an improvised, unrestrained form of art. The Morton B. Schiff Jazz Ensemble was started in the 1960’s as a student group that was a part of the curriculum at Syracuse University and is now under the direction of Dr. John Coggiola, associate professor and director of jazz studies at the university. The students in the ensemble come from a variety of backgrounds but all share a love for playing jazz music. Many of the students feel that the jazz ensemble provides an opportunity for exploration.

“It’s just really nice to get out there and be playing other kinds of music” says Matt B., a junior music education major.

The ensemble plays a wide range of jazz music and covers a multitude of artists. Their concerts consist of classics from the 20’s and 30’s as well as contemporary artists such as Radiohead.

“If they love music and want to play contemporary music, we’re here for them” says Dr. Coggiola.

However if you can’t be the maker of the music you love, you can always listen to the messenger. Eric Cohen is the music director at the local radio station 88.3 WAER and also the host of the Afternoon Jazz broadcast. The radio station has hosted jazz programming for around 30 years now. Listeners have seemed to like what they hear.

“It certainly has increased our audience ten fold over the years” says Cohen.

Cohen plays the classics as well as contemporary jazz music. He adds variety to his show by profiling new up and coming jazz artists for his listeners. In this way, he introduces them to new names and styles of jazz.

Cohen adds his own personal touches and believes that “the music is what the show is all about”.

Listen to the full story here: 

Five to Life

Five men dedicated to a life of Christ

(c) Five to Life 2013

(c) Five to Life 2013

By Bretton Keenan SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS)- Twenty-one years ago, James Robinson and Wesley Hampton formed Five to Life, an all male gosepl A Cappella group based in the Syracuse area.

The idea came to Robinson in a vision.

“The Holy Spirit said to me you’re going to have a group of five men singing A Cappella and that we’ll sing in every church in Syracuse,” said Robinson. “Every church now to me doesn’t mean that we were going to sing in every church in Syracuse. That means that somebody everywhere is going to hear us.”

The goal

Being from three different churches, the Seven Day Adventist Church, the Baptist Church and the Pentecostal Church, these five men have one goal in mind: to spread the word of the Lord, through music, to as many people as possible.

And they have been successful. Five to Life has performed in nursing homes, in jails, at the Budweiser Festival and at the Blues Festival, amongst others.

“I mean, we’ve been at some venues you might not normally think. But that’s ok as far as we’re concerned becasue we’re getting the word out,” said Ronald Mason, one of the group members.

Singing is their passion

The members of Five to Life are all passionate about singing. Most of them have been since before the age of ten. They enjoy singing because it’s a mobile instrument and an easy method for spreading the word.

The members of Five to Life have grown to become good friends through their mutual love for singing.

“We’re always helping each other do things outside of Five to Life, so that’s the kind of group that we are,” said Mason.

And their friendship radiates warmth that extends to their audience.

“When I listen to the group, it’s very relaxing,” said Cody O’Donnell, a Five to Life fan. “It’s partly self-reflective but also, at the same time, rejoiceful, and a feeling of comeraderie between the people around you and also with the people that are singing.”

Listen to the story here:

How Lovely Art Thou Branches

Syracuse Christmas tree retailers sell local trees

© 2013 Erin Kelly

© 2013 Erin Kelly

By Erin Kelly SYRACUSE (NCC News) With the clock winding down until Christmas, now is the time for people to buy their Christmas trees. Two local Christmas tree shops, Chuck Hafner’s Farmers Market and Garden Center along with  Syracuse Christmas Tree Farm have a variety of locally grown trees that customers can choose from.

While there is debate whether an artificial or real tree is better for the environment, Hafner’s grows trees in an environmentally friendly way. Each year they plant the same amount of trees as they harvest.

Christmas trees are a billion dollar industry in America. The National Christmas Tree Association reported that of the 25 million Christmas trees Americans bought last year only 14% chose to chop down their own tree.

Chopping Down Your Own

There are more than 850 Christmas tree farms in New York, and there are more than 12,000 cut-your-own Christmas trees farms across the United States. Still the option to chop down your own tree is not largely popular, the convenience of buying a pre-cut Christmas Tree and all your holiday decorations in one spot outweighs the alternative. Those who do chop down their own tree do it for the experience rather than the convenience.

Watch the story here:

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To Travel By Plane or Car This Holiday Season?

The up’s and down’s of holiday travel this year

@2013 Della Pelle

@2013 Della Pelle

By Nadine Della Pelle SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS) –
With the holiday season in full swing, visiting loved one’s is a priority for many. In this wavering economy the issue that comes along with the festivities is deciding on how to get there with as little stress as possible. Mastercard has recently released their SpendingPulse holiday traveling report which shows an increase in plane ticket sales but a decrease in the number of people purchasing them due to the rise in cost. With gas prices on the decline travelers are having to make the decision on between the choice of flying or driving, what is more convenient for them? Many feel as though this decision is based on a choice of comfort more than that of cost.

Travel choices based on individual preference

Holiday traveler, Gene Chrisafilly does not mind paying more to fly because he likes the convenience of a new method that helps in facilitating speedy layovers.

“They’ve done what I call smooth-curb fitting which is taking one flight, to another flight, to another flight so there’s hardly any interruption, about a fifty-seven minute turn around time,” said Chrisafilly.

Another holiday traveler, Stephanie Hess prefers driving because she likes the freedom of being able to travel with as much stuff as she would like.

“So I can bring booze because we typically travel within a four to six hour distance and that way we can bring a case of wine things like that to different family members homes,” said Hess.

Watch the story here:

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DJ’s Gift of Warmth

Rescue Mission’s youngest volunteer gives big


© Damon Villnave

By Hannah McDonald SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS) At the Rescue Mission in Syracuse’s Mission District, staff and volunteers run the facility. The emergency shelter on site has 132 beds and during the winter all the beds are full when inclement weather hits.

“Right now we’re averaging 120-126 men a night,” Liz Poda, Director of Marketing at the Rescue Mission said. “We will start seeing those numbers go up.”

In November and December, volunteers sign up to help out on the holidays.

“We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers. At the holidays, people are extraordinarily generous,” Poda said.

It was in 2011 however, that one volunteer changed everyone’s lives.

“DJ is unique in that he’s such a young man with such a big idea,” Poda said.

Damon “DJ” Villnave was just 7 years old when he started a blanket drive in the community. He collected 281 blankets the first year, and four years later his goal is to surpass 300.

“I was expecting 40 the first year, but I got 281!” DJ, now 10 years old, said. “The second year I was expecting to beat that goal, but I got 251 which is still great and I got 231 last year.”

DJ’s Mission


© Damon Villnave

The blanket drive titled DJ’s Gift of Warmth runs January to February. This is a perfect time to give, according to DJ.

“It’s a good time to do it because after the holidays people just think about themselves,” DJ said. “We get all these presents over winter break so that’s why I think it should be in January and February.”


Last year DJ’s father Damon Villnave recruited Syracuse University Marketing student Colleen Morgan to create a Facebook page for the drive.

“DJ had been doing really well the 1st and 2nd year, but he [Damon] wanted to get a little more publicity,” Morgan said. “Since I was in college he thought maybe I could help tell people around the area a little more than he could do.”

The Facebook page has helped get the word out about where and how to donate.

“…complete strangers that I don’t really know, I wanted to get them involved,” DJ said. “So putting it on Facebook, in the newspaper, on the news, it tells people what I’m trying to do so they can try and do it.”

The cause

DJ’s Gift of Warmth has donated over 750 blankets to the Rescue Mission. The blankets that DJ delivers are used for bedding for every person who goes to the shelter, in the apartment’s of men transitioning to independent living and for the homeless who prefer to stay put on the streets.

“I don’t want people to be cold,” DJ said.

To give to the cause check out DJ’s Gift of Warmth on Facebook to see where donations can be made starting January.

Watch the story here:

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CNY Bike Giveaway Returns for the Holidays

The family bike giveaway is back for its 18th year

(c) 2013 Mary O'Connell

(c) 2013 Mary O’Connell

By Mary O’Connell SYRACUSE (NCC NEWS) –Ever since he was a child, Jan Maloff has believed that bikes are an important part of a child’s life. He remembers lending his bike to his friends after school and the joy it brought to them.

“It was a great thrill for them being able to ride a bicycle, something that we took for granted because we had parents who made sure we had bicycles,” said Maloff. “So in the back of my mind I said if I ever become rich, I’ll make sure every kid has a bicycle.”

And 18 years ago, Maloff started the CNY Family Bike Giveaway, a charity that gives used bicycles to both children and adults in need.

A volunteer effort

After the charity grew to become a community hit, more and more volunteers joined in the cause. Volunteers help to collect and repair all the bikes before they are picked up by their new owners at the end of December.

“It’s a good cause,” said four year volunteer Carl Scott. “Kids need a bike.”

And for the people who come to donate, they too believe that bikes are important for children to have.

“A kid without a bike is limited to a thousand steps in any direction,” said Syracuse resident Phil Hider. “When he’s got a bike, he’s got wings.”

This year, Maloff says he expects about 3,000 bikes to be donated.

Watch the story here:

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