Fitting In: How Chris McCullough Will Find a Role for Syracuse Next Year

Chris McCullough will have to step up when he steps in for the Orange in 2014.

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via 247Sports

With CJ Fair graduating and the news that Tyler Ennis plans to enter the NBA draft, Syracuse will look like a completely different team next year. Fair and Ennis were Syracuse’s only consistent scoring threats this season. Replacing those two is a serious matter Jim Boeheim must deal with this offseason. Since Syracuse was at times down right atrocious offensively this season, incoming freshman power forward Chris McCullough needs to be a part of Boeheim’s solution.

Late last year it was unclear if McCullough was even going to play basketball for Syracuse in 2014. In November he was kicked out of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for a violation of team rules. McCullough’s specific actions that led to his dismissal are still unknown. Many speculated that his transfer of high schools midyear meant that he may not come to Syracuse on time because he would not have enough credits to graduate in the spring. Others questioned if he would even be able to find another high school to take him and allow him to play basketball after getting kicked out of Brewster so close to the start of basketball season. McCullough put all of those fears to rest and ended up enrolled at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

IMG is a prep school designed specifically for student athletes. Almost every student enrolled in the school plays a sport. Notable basketball alumni include Michael Beasley, forward for the Miami Heat, and longtime NBA big man Erick Dampier. Despite enrolling so close to the start of basketball season McCullough made a seamless transition.

On December 10 McCullough debuted for IMG after only practicing three times with his new team. He came off the bench and scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two blocked shots in the team’s 66-47 win over Elev8 Sports Institute. McCullough impressed despite only playing in short spurts due to a lack of game fitness and not really knowing his new team’s tactics and style.

After working out and practicing with his new team McCullough mastered coach John Mahoney’s philosophy and started for IMG. The Syracuse signee had back-to-back 26-point performances in the Brewster Invitational tournament in late December. The second 26-point performance came against McCullough’s former team, Brewster Academy, in the championship game. IMG lost 95-86 in OT but it was still encouraging to see him play at such a high level.

McCullough can be a legitimate star. His body is similar to Kevin Durant’s. Both players are 6’10″ and have wingspans over seven feet. McCullough operates more in the paint than Durant does but can also step back and knock down threes. Immediately coming to Florida and starting for IMG shows how valuable of a player he is. Putting up 26 points against his former high school proves that McCullough is ready for Division I basketball. Brewster Academy won the 2014 National Prep Championship and has players planning to attend Oklahoma State and Georgetown this fall. McCullough dominated top-level competition in his senior season of high school and is ready for the ACC.

Looking at SU’s roster for next year, there is no definitive scorer. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas all return for the Orange but are not premier offensive threats. Starting McCullough (or at least giving him significant minutes) allows for Boeheim to mold the power forward into the dynamic collegiate scorer SU needs. Boeheim usually does not love playing freshman, but McCullough is too skilled and will be too important to this team next season to sit on the bench.

Posted by: Connor Morrissette

16 Comments on this Post

  1. orangeinva

    …but it was encouraging to see the STARLET play at such a high level.

    Starlet is a young inexperienced female actress. I guess with a first name Chris he could dunk both ways.

  2. Chris will do just fine at Syracuse and as a freshman will get lots of playing time. I note that ALL five starters for Kentucky this year are freshmen. Kaleb to replace Ennis. Still no 3 point specialist which we find a vital need as Cooney is just not up to the task.

  3. DA still has control!! Plenty of SUFB news yet no news from this site again!!

    Please do not forget the kids of PSABUSEDU!! The NCAA DID!!

  4. Cooney and the 3 point shot continue to be an issue… If Grant stays… And he should.. McCullough, Kaleb, Grant and Coleman back…will form a very good March team!
    If we had a 3 point shooter.. We’d be deadly. Same as this year.. Cooney is not the guy..can’t shot when he’s pressured.. Is what it is!

  5. I seriously doubt that Jimmy would not be using McCullough a great deal next season . Most fans will know about this kid way before he steps foot on the court. Failure to give him time will amount to a ton of criticism that even the great HOFer won’t be able to deflect with his usual manner of firing off insults to those pointing their finger at him and not in a good way They won’t be saying “number 1” That other finger will be flashed.

  6. Please dont doubt cooneys work ethic. Dude worked hard to become a starter this year. He will improve and be a legimate knock down three point specialist. So kaleb cooney McCullough grant and Xmas. With mike coleman bj buss is a young but talented team

  7. And roberson

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