Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, and CJ Fair are gone.
That means sophomores are going to have to step up and play big roles. The bench players didn’t get much playing time in the ACC games because of the close outcomes, so it’s tough to know how they will perform on the big stage.
Gbinije showed his ability to take responsibility for such a role. Although he had an average of 14 minutes on the court, he was a filler for Ennis and Trevor Cooney when they were on the bench. He only had about three points per game, but showed at times he could handle the intense ACC environments. He has good side for a point guard, standing at 6’7”, and with more playing time and getting comfortable in Jim Boeheim’s system, he will only improve. If the job belongs to Gbinije, he could resemble MCW and use his size as a defensive advantage.
Then there is Joseph, who comes to SU from Cushing Academy. The 4-star point guard from New England is listed as the ninth-best point guard in the Class of 2014. If Gbinije isn’t the man for the job, it is definitely Joseph. Boeheim isn’t one known for starting freshmen, but he will if there are very few options. Ennis worked out extremely well. Some may have thought a freshman couldn’t adapt well in his first year in Boeheim’s system, but Ennis is on his way to a professional career after one year in Syracuse. Joseph appears to be an aggressive scorer, which is something we saw from Ennis. If Boeheim is going to start Joseph at the beginning season, one has to be confident because of how the coaches helped Ennis be successful.
The loss of Fair hurts. Not only does Syracuse lose a starter, but it loses a four-year player who was one of the main leaders on the court and in the locker room. Tyler Roberson, B.J. Johnson, and Chris McCullough are three guys who could realistically fill that role. Roberson and Johnson didn’t get much playing time as freshmen, and McCullough will be a freshman. This might be a situation where Boeheim and the rest of the coaches have to watch all three in practice and scrimmages to see who might be the best fit for the position.
The replacement has some big shoes to fill. Fair was a good all-around player who could shoot the mid-range jumper, drive to the hoop, and even hit the occasional three-pointer. McCullough is similar, but with an even bigger size. He stands at 6’10”, a little taller than Fair’s 6’8”. This gives Syracuse some of the size it needs, with Rakeem Christmas standing at 6’10” and DaJuan Coleman at 6’9”. With some of the defensive struggles for Syracuse this past season, adding healthy height can be a defensive plus.
Then Syracuse needs a replacement for Jerami Grant. Coleman is likely the favorite. He hasn’t been what has been expected of him, and a big issue has been his health. He missed time his freshman year and missed a significant amount of time last season due to a knee injury. If he can stay healthy and work on his moves to the basket, he can be a huge key to the Orange’s success in 2014-2015.
The bottom line is that this team will be young and a little inexperienced. It will take time for all of these guys to work on playing effectively with each other, but it something that can be done. Watching Joseph and McCullough, two of SU’s biggest recruits, play at the same time could very well be incredible. The expectations will be high, as that is normal for any freshman coming in to play for the Syracuse basketball program.
Posted by: Austin Pollack