Tyler Ennis announced his decision to enter the NBA draft yesterday, riding the coattails of a successful season where he averaged 12.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 5.5 APG. Most people have sounded off—Ennis should stay and improve, but he won’t, so best of luck—while Orange Nation waits to hear from one other young star: Jerami Grant.
The 6’8” forward blossomed when he came off the bench to start for injured DaJuan Coleman in late January. He exceeded expectations, elevating Syracuse past UNC and Boston College and showing off his great athleticism for much of the season. In his first 20 games as a starter had had six double-doubles. What a difference a year makes.
Mock drafts still have Grant as a first-round pick, despite his tumble to the low 20s. Blame that late-season back injury and his troubles against Dayton in the NCAA tournament (four points to his name and fouling out wasn’t exactly a good way to go out).
With Ennis going pro, CJ Fair and Baye Keita graduating, Boeheim will be developing the squad from ground up—again. BJ Johnson and Chris McCullough will be in the spotlight anyway, and will have to deliver quickly if Grant secures a lottery pick. Michael Gbinije would have to use his experience playing around the court to elevate the new frontcourt as well.
Should Grant stay, he’ll have a bulls-eye on his back—his 12.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.4 APG in 2013-14 cements that. But with some development—including that jump shot, and a little bit of speed—his stock will rise, and his experience playing for the Orange will help strengthen a squad that has lost two Syracuse studs in Fair and Ennis.
It’ll be a young team for 2014-15, but there were a lot of nerves this year, too. Orange Nation, take a few breaths while Grant stays silent. Yes, he should stay. But there’s a high chance he won’t. Basketball is in his blood, and money is hard to turn down. And that’s okay—despite a quick exit from the tournament, that record 25-0, and some great displays of teamwork, can’t be forgotten.