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Enlisting Ennis: With MCW Leaving, A Look At SU’s Backcourt Next Season

The backcourt will be relying on a number of unproven guards next season.

No need to overanalyze Michael Carter-Williams’ decision to enter the NBA Draft. He’s known for awhile he was leaving, and we’ve assumed it as well. Just like Dion Waiters last year, MCW is a likely lottery selection. Disparaging anyone for seizing guaranteed millions and an NBA roster spot would be foolish. Carter-Williams helped lead the program to its first Final Four in 10 years, and solidifies future recruiting by reinforcing the message Syracuse can be an express line to the pros.

But now that Carter-Williams is officially gone, where does that leave the rest of the squad? Certainly, MCW’s departure makes the heads turn to CJ Fair. If SU’s leading scorer leaves as well, you’ll have major concerns from the fan base entering next season. That would mean Syracuse would have to recover from the loss of its top four players.

You could argue the Orange lost its top four players from the 2011-12 season (Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo), and you’d have good case. Syracuse responded by reaching the Final Four. But attempting that same feat again would be an intimidating task. Keeping the team’s most consistent player for his senior year would have a stabilizing impact on next year’s group.

With or without Fair, next year’s team will be forced to depend on unproven guards. There’s huge talent coming in, but they’ll have a huge void to fill with Carter-Williams NBA-bound.

Five-star recruit Tyler Ennis will be the starting point guard. The incoming freshman already has the maturity of an older player, but it’s still obviously tough to project how a true freshman will perform in that role.

Minus the Georgetown game in the Big East Tournament, Trevor Cooney never found his shot this season. Orange Nation will never forget his ill-fated final possession, down three, at the end of the Final Four loss to Michigan. It’s a microcosm of the limits of his game. Considered a disappointment as a redshirt freshman, he’ll have to work this summer on expanding his skill set. He was OK on defense atop the zone, but brought little to the table offensively outside erratic outside shooting. He’s not a very good ball handler, so when his shot isn’t dropping he isn’t very useful. He shot less than 27% on three-pointers on the year.

Three-star shooting guard Ron Patterson should see immediate playing time because Jim Boeheim won’t have much of a choice but to throw him out there. Like Cooney, he’s a shooter who plays good defense. The problem is, also like Cooney, Patterson has below average handles.

Duke transfer Michael Gbinije has the tools to contribute right away, but at 6-7 he’s a guard/forward tweener. He could be the first SU player in recent years to regularly switch between the wing and the top of the 2-3 zone. Or we’ll see if he mostly plays at the top this season due to depth concerns at guard.

Syracuse is at a point in its evolution as a program where Boeheim annually replenishes its recruiting cupboard. But new faces can often times mean speed bumps. En route to Atlanta, SU didn’t have to rely on freshman or new faces. MCW had a year under his belt, Southerland and Triche were seniors, Fair was a junior, and the pivot was manned by Baye Keita and Rak. Next season the Orange will be looking at two freshmen, one transfer, and one returning player in Cooney to prop up the backcourt. SU has to hope CJ returns, and on the inside Christmas and Dajuan Coleman refine their post game.

The key for guard play may come down to the super frosh, Ennis, who will be relied upon immensely for a true freshman. He’ll be the only elite dribbler on the roster. Better hope the Canadian and his fellow underclassmen guards step up to the task.

Posted: Andrew Kanell

39 Comments on this Post

  1. My understanding is that Boeheim had Gbinije working at point guard during this season he had to sit out because other than Ennis, he has the best handle of the guards. Boeheim will likely use Gbinije as a combo forward, like Triche, that will start at SG, and slide over to PG when Ennis needs a rest. That will Cooney & Patterson time playing SG while Gbinije is playing point and getting breather himself. Next year’s starting lineup should look like:

    PG: Ennis
    SG: Gbinije
    SF: Fair
    PF: Grant
    C: Christmas

    That leaves Cooney & Patterson as guards on the bench, Roberson & B.J Johnson as forwards on the bench (as well as X-Mas potentially playing some PF as well), and Coleman, Keita & Obokoh as centers on the bench.

  2. If you read the above scenario, that leaves Syracuse with 12 scholarship athletes, one less than the maximum, due to MCW leaving early. Fair & Keita would be the only seniors leaving after the 2013-2014 season, so unless someone else leaves early at the end of next year, Syracuse only has 3 scholarships to give to 2014 recruits. Obviously, one of those has already gone to Chris McCullough.

    Syracuse has several potential targets for the last two scholarships, but providing depth at the PG position clearly has to be a priority. Isaiah Whitehead is a 6’4″ guard out of Lincoln High in Brooklyn who won the PSAL Championship at MSG this year, and has always had Syracuse near the top of his list of teams. Definitely one recruit to keep an eye on.

  3. People shouldn’t be so down on Cooney – he does really hustle on D and with a good summer program and an understanding, from having played some this year, of what the game requires at this level, he should be an important part of the team, quite possibly the starter at the 2.

  4. Disagree. Even if Cooney shot 40% from 3 this year, I don’t think he would be starting over Gbinije. Gbinije is hailed as a complete player. He can penetrate, he can dribble, he can shoot, midrange & long range. Cooney is a one trick pony. You bring a guy like Cooney in off the bench to change momentum, light a fire under your team and make some big time three pointers when needed, like Southerland was at the beginning of the year and like Luke Hancock in the both Final Four games. You put them in to give your regulars a breather and see if they can get hot. If not, put your regulars back in once they’ve rested.

  5. The world knows we w Jimmy has a problem at the guard position.Surely Boeheim knew/knows that MCW was on his way out. Why not make a concerted effort to bring in another guard from JC or even Europe? No one else was available?Keeping this a language safe environment perhaps the expression “bovine waste” would bring to mind the correct sentiment being stated. This is simple roster management.He has the scholarships to give out and no one is going to tell me there isn’t a player out there who could help us out.

  6. 1)Ennis
    2)grant
    3)fair
    4)Coleman
    5)Christmas

  7. orangeinva

    WE have to have somebody who can play the point if/when Ennis can’t go…Foul trouble, injury, just need a blow. Is it smart to think Ennis can/will give us 36 minutes a game? Gbinije or Patterson will have to step in and up.

    Wouldn’t it be wild that JB sees we are likely to be even WORSE in the half court than we were this year and turns every game into dog fight, pressing 30 minutes a game?

  8. In Boeheim’s defense, he did target other point guards, such as Rysheed Jordan (way before Jordan was as highly touted as he is now) and Jaren Sina but it’s tough to sell a recruit on the idea that he’d be coming in as the back up point guard to another freshman. I believe he expects Gbinije to sufficient fill this role this year and is targeting a combo guard like Whitehead (mentioned above) or two pure point guards in Kaleb Joseph from NH and Ja’Quon Newton from Philly for the 2014 class.

  9. Boeheim will use Cooney like Marius Janulis. Janulis shot 41.6, 39.9, and 39.6% from 3 point range in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons respectively; however, he was never a full time starter until his senior year. Lets just hope Cooney can get his shot right and make that high of a percentage of his 3 pointers.

  10. @Drew

    Grant as SG? Are you kidding me? Worst lineup ever.

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