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Your Syracuse X-Factor: Kaleb Joseph

Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney: the senior leaders.  Dajuan Coleman: returning from injury.  Malachi Richardson and co.: the talented recruiting class.  Lost in the fold?  Second-year point guard Kaleb Joseph who had some unrealistic expectations to live up to.

In his true freshman campaign, Joseph put together an underwhelming 5.9 points per game, 2.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists (vs. 2.3 turnovers) in 27 minutes.  But, Joseph showed some obvious improvement towards the end of the season, looking more and more comfortable in his role as the season wore on.  He didn’t turn the ball over more than twice in any of the final eight games of ACC play.

Joseph is playing basketball for the USA East Coast team, which faced off with France’s First Division All-Stars yesterday, ultimately winning 90-72.  He is one of 11 players on the roster, and put up impressive numbers in limited playing time.  The rising sophomore led the US squad with 23 points in just 24 minutes.

This news should be especially welcomed by SU fans who are expecting Joseph to take a huge step in development.  Without a quality point guard to control the offense, the team may sputter on one end of the court like it did during much of last year.  Look no further than two seasons ago to see how important having a ball-moving point guard is.  Even with very little offensive talent, an extremely-flawed Orange lineup was able to rise to the number one ranking with cool, calm and collected Tyler Ennis running the point.

Under Ennis’ leadership, the Orange averaged a +8.8-point differential per game, while last year was only +4.2.  In addition, SU had the 45th most efficient offense in the country two seasons ago, compared to just 188th-best last season.

Now, even with a year under his belt, it would be foolish to expect Joseph to do what Ennis did.  In fact, Joseph may not even be the starting point guard.  The Orange could experiment with a big lineup, featuring Gbinije and Cooney at the top of the zone, with Richardson, Tyler Roberson, and a potentially healthy Coleman down low.  The sophomore will certainly have to earn his spot in the veteran-laden lineup.

Joseph will look to impress in the team’s next game today against Nigeria at 1:30 p.m.  Look for him to make smart decisions with the ball and limit his turnovers.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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