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Who’s To Blame for Struggles of Orange Freshman Chris McCullough?

Chris McCullough, the Orange’s highly touted freshman forward, started his first season at Syracuse strongly. Averaging 12 points and eight boards, he looked like a reliable scorer for an SU offense that had lost its three top players from last year. The freshman’s last few performances have not been so pretty however.

The forward has as many points as he does fouls in Syracuse’s last three games, which is puzzling considering the Orange played Louisiana Tech and Colgate during that stretch. Every player goes through rough patches in a season and McCullough is no different, especially considering his age. The diaper dandy will definitely bounce back, but is it troubling that he did not hold his own against two teams that on paper Syracuse should have beaten easily?

No. It has more to do with what’s around McCullough than the forward himself. The freshman and Rakeem Christmas are the only players big enough to play the five for Syracuse. At 6’10’’ McCullough can definitely play there, but he thrives when he is a little further from the basket. He has a reliable jump shot and can beat defenders off of the dribble. Unfortunately, with Christmas seemingly always getting into foul trouble, McCullough is forced to play right under the hoop which is partly responsible for his struggles. He’s still adjusting to the role Jim Boeheim wants him to play on this team.

McCullough’s performances these last few games may also have something to do with Boeheim’s comments about his draft stock. In late November SU’s coach said that according to NBA scouts McCullough has no chance at being a lottery pick. After SU’s 78-43 win over Colgate on Monday, Boeheim said that he himself has a better chance of winning the lottery than his freshman forward does at being a lottery selection.

Whether Boeheim was trying to motivate his player, or just tell us how he really feels, so far there is no arguing that his comments have had a negative impact.

McCullough has been an NBA first round pick since he was in high school. He certainly has not been playing well lately, but once he understands how to play center and how his coach operates, he will play as advertised.

Posted:  Connor Morrissette

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