When Tyler Ennis announced that he would forgo his sophomore year at Syracuse to enter the NBA Draft, he shocked a lot of people. With that news having passed, however, it’s time for Syracuse basketball fans to start figuring out next year’s starting five.
Ennis leaving has left a gaping hole at the top of the Syracuse lineup. After losing Michael Carter-Williams to the draft two years ago, Syracuse fans know the feeling. And last year, much like this year, the Orange has a top recruit entering to fill the void.
Kaleb Joseph is the most obvious choice to fill Ennis’ shoes. The 4-star recruit is the 49th best in the country and chose the Orange over Providence and West Virginia, among others. The lanky 6’3” point guard has wanted to play at Syracuse since high school and is a prototype for the 2-3 zone. If he were to start, it would be the Orange’s fourth starting point guard in four years.
As ideal as it would be for Syracuse to have another incoming freshman flawlessly integrate into the offense, it is extremely unlikely. Most freshmen have growing pains (like the other three that were on the roster this past season). His conditioning and his decision-making will most likely have to improve before Joseph can get consistent playing time.
So, assuming Joseph doesn’t fit in right away, the Orange have a huge question mark at the point for the first time since what seems like the pre-Jonny Flynn days. One option is to have Michael Gbinije handle the ball. While his figure is reminiscent of Carter-Williams, many think that he is the best option of what remains. His ball handling will obviously need to be improved, but having Gbinije at the point guard spot will open up minutes for guys like Trevor Cooney and Ron Patterson to get more minutes.
Both Cooney and Patterson have been discussed to run the offense as well. Orange fans sometimes got glimpses of the offense being run by Cooney during this past season, and it wasn’t always pretty. Cooney often dribbled hectic and out of control and turned the ball over more than he should have. Patterson, on the other hand, has already been practicing at the point and really never got adequate minutes (if any) to show his skills. Boeheim locked down on a seven-man rotation once conference play hit.
The front-runner right now, as early as it may be, seems to be Joseph. Boeheim has already said that he likes his style. He complimented his mid-range game, his explosiveness, and his ability to get the rim. However, he needs to work on his three-point shooting, Boeheim said too. Joseph displays poise and maturity on the court like Ennis, and fans can only hope that his play (or the play of any potential point guard) comes close to the special season Ennis just had.
Posted by: Jason Weingold