As the wounds from the Marquette loss finally start to heal, this week has helped Orange fans start to turn the page. With all but one key contributor returning, the optimism is warranted. But this week the excitement is starting to build around the crop of freshman that will be joining them.
With two key members of SU’s 2011 recruiting class on display in the McDonald’s All American Game last night, SU fans got their first glimpse of the future. Big man Rakeem Christmas and 6’5” point guard Michael Carter-Williams both played for the East.
The duo didn’t exactly set the world on fire, scoring just two points each, but it would be unwise to put too much stock in an All-Star game. Both did show that they have the length and athleticism to compete at a high level.
Carter-Williams stole the headlines this week with his lightning-quick 26.2 second dash in the skills competition championship, which beat his closest competitor by nearly six seconds. However it may be Christmas who is given a chance to make more of an immediate impact.
MCW is a supreme talent, and he’s built up quite a buzz in the CNY area recently. But, Jim Boeheim doesn’t care about any of that. Carter-Williams will be entering an already crowded SU backcourt with Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, and Scoop Jardine (he’s not going anywhere folks, get used to it). For a freshman to come in and earn a starting role within that group is an awful lot to ask.
Christmas, though, will have a chance to emerge from a group of bigs that will have plenty in quantity, but not much quality. Christmas will battle Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita, and DaShonte Riley for playing time down low. Has anyone been overly impressed with any of those three in the Syracuse careers so far?
The only key element that the Orange lose from this year’s roster is Rick Jackson, a 6’9” post player from Philadelphia. Enter Christmas, – a 6’9” post player from Philadelphia. If the Orange is going to take the next step, it has to replace Jackson’s inside presence and production.
Fab has a long way to go after his disappointing freshman campaign, and Keita and Riley will be both be coming off of injury. That leaves the door wide open for Christmas to make an instant impact. A description of the ideal post player to fit in with next season’s Orange would probably read something like Christmas’ ESPN recruiting profile:
“The future Orangemen defensively controls the paint area with a hostile disposition and seems to take personal offense when an opponent scores from in close. He is a relentless rebounder with a good understanding and superb timing when tracking offensive rebound opportunities. He is a good runner and jumper that puts pressure on his opponent to run the floor each possession”
Sign me up for THAT in the middle of the zone.
A lot is left to unfold between now and the start of next season, but it’s possible Christmas emerges with an improved Fab as the 1-2 low post punch on what is shaping up to be the deepest team in the Big East.
The buzz continues to build around MCW, and rightfully so given the talent he’s shown, but don’t be surprised if it’s Christmas who brings Orange fans more early gifts.
Posted: Steve Neikam