WHENNEUMANN-GORETTI (Philadelphia) guard Antonio "Scoop" Jardine dribbleson the wing, center Rick Jackson knows what to do. Without even exchanging aglance with Jardine, Jackson charges over the top, sets a screen, then rolls tothe basket to receive one of Jardine's pinpoint passes for a layup. It's achemistry two seniors can develop when they've been playing together almostdaily for four years and spend almost every waking moment together. "That'sour play," says Jardine. "We've got that one down cold."
They areNeumann-Goretti's odd couple, Jardine a 6'2" chatterbox with a flashydribble, Jackson an imposing 6'9" shot blocker with a quieter demeanor.Friends since meeting in the seventh grade on a neighborhood playground,Jardine and Jackson--who live two blocks apart in crime-plagued SouthPhiladelphia--became inseparable after both enrolled in 2003 atNeumann-Goretti, a Catholic school near their homes. "We just clicked,"says Jardine, who averaged 14 points and eight assists last season."Anywhere you saw me, you saw Rick."
Jardine initiallyshowed the most promise, but by the end of their freshman year Jackson--whocame in at a pudgy 6'2"--had sprouted to a lean 6'6" and was showingskills that would later make him one of the nation's top prospects. They alsofound that they played their best together. "We'd play two-on-two againstseniors," says Jackson, who last year averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds."And we'd kill them."
So they made apact to go to college together, a commitment that grew stronger as they led theSaints to back-to-back Philadelphia Catholic League titles. They bonded off thecourt too, especially after Jackson's beloved aunt, Laretta Thomas, died lastJuly. (Jardine says he was at Jackson's house "every day," helping himcope.) Though both were recruited by numerous elite Division I schools, onlySyracuse pursued them aggressively as a package, and that, says Neumann-Goretticoach Carl Arrigale, "was the only way to get them."
Jardine andJackson will room together at Syracuse--"Rick can cook," says Jardine;"As long as Scoop doesn't hit me with pillows, we'll be fine," saysJackson--but first they'll make a run at a school-record third leaguechampionship. Arrigale has high hopes. "I've seen guys get a scholarshipand stop working," he says. "Not Scoop and Rick. That's just not intheir nature."