Two days after the Rochester native and 5-star recruit Thomas Bryant chose Indiana, there’s still a buzz about his decision. His mother had hinted strongly that she wanted her son to attend Syracuse, but some interesting factoids emerged over the last 48 hours. It’s still just a verbal that Bryant has given IU, he hasn’t signed anything. But no one expects him to have a change of heart. So this isn’t about still hoping Bryant comes to the Hill. In a lot of ways it’s water under the bridge. Nonetheless, there was some interesting notes:
1) Did the sanctions hurt Syracuse? His mom Linda told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “He’s relieved it’s done. You know, it took awhile because there were things going on (off the court) at every school we visited. The decision is made.” Between Syracuse and Indiana, one would imagine this means the SU scholarship situation and sanctions. At Mizzou there was coaching uncertainty. At Indiana, Tom Crean’s future was always murky. Once Chris McCullough decided to enter the NBA Draft, and after the recent transfers, it appeared SU had the space to add him. But maybe this was about the effect the sanctions would have on SU that swayed Bryant. Here was his comments to Syracuse.com: “The one thing I saw it they aren’t going to let scholarships in for 2015 if you haven’t committed yet. I heard you could release some, get some. They told my mom they have a scholarship because they let two people go. As far as I know, that’s what my mom told me.” Sounds like some confusion and unknown for TB. We’ll probably never know, the odds seem high that waiting and wondering how SU would come out of the sanctions couldn’t have helped.
2) Did Syracuse really stop recruiting Bryant? “I haven’t talked to them in a while, to be honest,” Bryant said. “I talked, not to Jim (Boeheim), but (to) Mike Hopkins at the Hoophall Classic a couple months ago. That’s the last time I talked to them.” That seems crazy, that SU would be a finalist for one of the top players in the nation and ignore him during the final stretch of his decision making? Who knows what to make of this, but Hop isn’t stupid. If SU really did step back, maybe they already knew the Orange was out of the running. Maybe they knew he was heading to Indiana. Maybe with the impending sanctions they got wind that it would push Bryant away. But the idea SU just kinda lost Bryant’s number in its contact list is nuts. We might never know the real story, but this will always seem bizarre.
3) How big of a loss is this? Bryant is legit. Cant sugarcoat it. And the front court depth is a concern. McCullough leaving seems crazy in many ways as well. SU could’ve really used Bryant’s explosion and defense down low. But the good news is the incoming class is still one of the best in the nation even without Bryant, so the Orange expectations will be much higher than this past season.