Syracuse basketball began preparations for the season on a positive note after posting a 4-0 record on the trip to Canada last week. The trip gave an opportunity for several new faces of the team to demonstrate their skills and attempt to fill key roles for the upcoming season.
There are plenty of questions heading into the year. Who is going to replace Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche in the backcourt? Who will be the go-to 3-point man with James Southerland gone? Will Rakeem Christmas and Dajuan Coleman take the next step in becoming successful, consistent big men? Although we won’t know answers until real games start in early November, these preseason exhibitions have given us some clues.
The old adage is “adversity builds character” and the Orange hope to capitalize on that after winning a nail-biter against Carleton on Friday. The young guns of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant fueled the 15-point comeback with big help from Michael Gbinije and Baye Moussa Keita. Grant finished with 18 points and 9 boards while Keita grabbed 11 rebounds for the Orange. Some fans might not know that Carleton is a powerhouse program. The Ravens have won nine of the last eleven national championships in Canada, giving SU great competition in the middle of the summer. Games like these can be a difference maker in how players handle adversity in future games against the ACC.
A major positive for SU was Ennis. He showed he’s ready to compete at the college level. He did not lose his composure when the Orange was in trouble, and had an important 15 points on the night. His counterpart Grant rose to the occasion as well. He was able to finish plays and establish himself as one of Syracuse’s premier scoring threats going into the season. Grant showed flashes of greatness last season and many expect Grant to make a leap to become a top forward in the country.
A heavily scrutinized group this year will be the big men. Coleman and Christmas finished on a strong note against Ottawa with Christmas pulling down 11 boards and Coleman scoring 26 points in the finale. However, the major word haunting both players is “consistency.” Both had a sub-par effort the night before against Carleton when the team needed them to step up. The first half of the season will be crucial for the frontcourt to solidify dependable production.
Fans have to be impressed with the production of the young players thus far. With the new guys stepping up early and veterans such as C.J. Fair and Baye returning to the squad, SU should be in great position to make a run to the top of the ACC in its inaugural year.
Posted: Zephan Mayell