While everyone is still hung up on the SU football win over then #2 Clemson a few weeks ago, people are seemingly forgetful of the fact that basketball season is quickly approaching on the SU campus.
Jim Boeheim and company open up their exhibition slate with a matchup versus Southern New Hampshire in the Carrier Dome next Wednesday and this is a very different Syracuse team than we saw a season ago. Gone are the days of Tyler Lydon, Andrew White and John Gillon. Heck, even would-be-sophomore Taurean Thompson is no longer with the program. SU lost a lot of leadership and a lot of scoring from last year’s team and it’s going to be a tall task after what was a seemingly week recruiting class in 2017. Or was it? While SU’s 2017 class wasn’t very highly touted or ranked, a lot of these guys can still flat out play and will make instantaneous contributions for the Orange this season. Here are the top three SU basketball newcomers to know ahead of the 2017-2018 season
A Canada native, Brissett was the highest ranking recruit in SU’s 2017 class and for good reason. The 6-foot-8 small forward was named the best high school player in all of Canada last season and is a special athletic talent. Brissett displays the exact kind of athleticism you want from someone playing at either forward position at the college level. His ability to fly and contort his body in mid-air make him an excellent finisher at and near the rim. Just take a look for yourself:
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) October 20, 2017
Brissett has also started to show the ability to knock down the outside shot and is quickly developing into a reliable threat from beyond the arc. With his size and shooting ability, he’s probably the perfect candidate to make up for what SU will be missing out on without Thompson in the program this season.
While all of those pros on the offensive end may make it seem like Brissett is just a guy who can score, that’s not even his best side of the ball. While he’s still a bit raw on the offensive end, he’s turned himself into a fantastic defender and it all starts with his size. He’s incredibly lanky and his arms are absolutely massive. That length is the perfect fit for the 2-3 zone and will also allow him to be somewhat of a rim protector as well. His defensive motor is also off the charts and he will fly all over the floor to create takeaways. Brissett was also the guy that his teammates mentioned when asked who the media should look out for this upcoming season. If you combine his emerging offensive talents, what he’s proven he can do on the defensive end and the respect and admiration of his teammates, Brissett is going to be an immediate contributor for this year’s edition of the Orange which is exactly what he showed in the Orange vs White Scrimmage on Friday.
As we saw last year with the likes of Andrew White and John Gillon, newcomers to the Syracuse basketball program don’t stop with freshman. The graduate transfer market turned into a key tool for SU last season and it may just have the same effect this season. Geno Thorpe chose the Orange over Pitt and Seton Hall back in June after his senior season at South Florida. Last season with the Bulls (15.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.6 apg) came after Thorpe sat out the 2015-2016 season after he transferred from Penn State after two years in State College. Now that we’ve got Thorpe’s path to Central New York out of the way, the question becomes what does he bring with him? Well, the answer is pretty simple: Thorpe can flat out shoot the basketball. Last season with South Florida, Thorpe knocked in 37.5% of his shots from beyond the arc. That mark would have ranked just fourth had Thorpe played for SU last season, but the three guys that would have finished ahead of him (Lydon, White, Gillon) are now all in the pros. That means that Thorpe will be the Orange’s most lethal three-point threat coming into the season. Along with the ability to shoot from deep, Thorpe also brings some versatility to the Orange. At media day, Jim Boeheim that said that Thorpe can play both point guard and shooting guard. With that ability to play multiple positions comes a lot of different lineup possibilities for Boeheim. If he needs to, Boeheim can play a three-guard lineup with Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Thorpe (to match up with quicker and more athletic opponents) and still feel comfortable on defense because Thorpe has good size at 6-foot-3 and Battle is more than passable as a forward at 6-foot-6. The Pittsburgh native also brings some much-needed veteran leadership to a very young Syracuse roster. When I watch Thorpe’s game, he looks to me like a smaller and quicker Andrew White who may not shoot the ball quite as well. He’s got a lot to bring to the Orange and SU fans should be very excited about this veteran newcomer.
Outside of Brissett, Bourama Sidibe was the most impressive performer from the Orange vs. White Scrimmage last week. His first-half posterization of fellow freshman Marek Dolezaj was probably the most exciting play of the game and he led his team in scoring with an unofficial 16 points on the evening. At 6-foot-10, Sidibe was ranked as the 15th best center in his class by ESPN. Similarly to Brissett, Sidibe is best on the defensive end. He’s an elite shot blocker and rim protector, something Syracuse seriously lacked in the middle of the 2-3 zone last season. His graceful athleticism and agility make him even more lethal on the defensive side because he can move his feet and block shots further away from the paint than most other rim protectors who have to camp out more underneath the basket. Again, unlike a typical shot blocker, Sidibe is also a rebounding machine. He uses his high basketball IQ to distinguish between the times where he needs to try to block shots and when he needs to crash the glass and get his team moving in transition. Playing in the zone, that rebounding ability from the forward/center position is crucial because guards don’t typically crash the glass in that kind of defensive system. As for the offensive end, Sidibe is still developing, but he showed some serious flashes on Friday. Right now he’s best suited in transition and off the catch where he can use that aforementioned quickness and athleticism to beat bigger and less agile defenders. He’s still working on his post-game, but there were a few times on Friday when he finished over the top of a much bigger Paschal Chukwu with a soft baby hook that was surprising and exciting to see. Overall, Sidibe is still a pretty raw prospect and he’ll need to put some weight on a naturally wiry frame to be truly effective at the next level, but the flashes he showed in the Orange vs White Scrimmage can be considered nothing but encouraging.
On a quick footnote to this newcomer watch, we shouldn’t forget to mention redshirt freshman forward Matt Moyer. While he technically isn’t a newcomer to the program after sitting out last season, 2017 will be the first time we see him play in a meaningful game for the Orange. Jim Boeheim has said he is the team’s most experienced forward and that will only serve to help both himself and young frontcourt players around him like Brissett and Sidibe. He showed an incredible motor and passion for rebounding and in-the-post offense during the scrimmage and he is rearing and ready to go for this season. With an improved jump shot, he could make a serious impact as either a starter or a crucial bench piece for this SU team throughout the campaign.