Note to the rest of the ACC: don’t let the Orange get hot on the recruiting trail.
We’ve heard plenty about Joe Girard, a high-volume sniper from Glens Falls, New York (about three hours east of Syracuse), who has likely been on SU’s radar for a while. The combo guard plays AAU ball with Buddy Boeheim on the Albany City Rocks and is apparently an Orange fan; we know he’s been to a couple games this year, including Saturday’s monumental win over Clemson.
Girard’s high school stats might make you do a spit take, so prepare yourself before reading the following numbers. He is already the most prolific scorer in New York high school hoops history — that includes the city! — and he’s still a junior. The 6-foot-1 marksman has scored at least 44 (fitting) points in every single game this season and is averaging more than 50, according to the Albany Times-Union. That’s almost unfathomable.
Somehow, 247sports and Rivals still peg Girard as a three-star recruit. ESPN represents the voice of reason as the only go-to recruiting outlet that has slapped Girard with a four-star rating, which seems to align with his stack of offers. The laundry list includes Duke, Villanova, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, and, as of about a month ago, Syracuse. (Looks like the Orange is going to have to either pay him $100,000 or give him a tattoo.)
But Girard is not the only local kid who could end up at SU. Several other highly-coveted recruits hail from New York State or the NYC area. For this purpose, we’ll include New Jersey under that umbrella.
In ESPN’s Class of 2019 rankings, six of the top 13 recruits fit the bill.
- No. 6: Cole Anthony — PG from Briarwood, N.Y. (Queens)
- No. 7: Bryan Antoine — SG from Tinton Falls, N.J.
- No. 8: Scottie Lewis — SF from Hazlet, N.J.
- No. 10: Jalen Lecque — PG from the Bronx, N.Y.
- No. 12: Precious Achiuwa — SF from the Bronx, N.Y.
- No. 13: Isaiah Stewart — PF from Rochester, N.Y.
That name at the bottom should really excite Orange fans. Rochester is even closer to Syracuse than Glens Falls is — just in the opposite direction — and Jim Boeheim and company appear ready to seize the opportunity.
Stewart is 6-foot-8, chiseled like a sculpture, and plays like a wrecking ball. His weight is listed as anywhere from 227 to 243 pounds, but try telling some of the poor kids who try to guard him that Stewart isn’t pushing 250.
Rochester’s proximity to Syracuse does not guarantee Stewart’s commitment to the Orange, by any means. The last truly elite recruit to emerge from the Flour City (which is apparently a nickname for Rochester) was Thomas Bryant in 2015, and we all know how that ended. After teasing SU fans for months, Bryant spurned Boeheim and chose Indiana.
But the positive takeaway from the Bryant saga is that Syracuse was in the running for his services until the very end, due at least partially to his growing up a couple hours away. After her son announced his commitment to IU, Linda Bryant said this to Syracuse.com: “I almost had him back home.”
I almost had him back home. We saw the same dynamic unfold in the case of Taurean Thompson, whose mom reportedly tried to steer him to Seton Hall because of its location in their home state of New Jersey. Her input didn’t end up mattering, either — but, oh, would you look at that! Thompson transferred to Seton Hall after one season in Orange. Insert *thinking face* emoji here.
Let’s revisit the quote from Bryant’s mom. Here’s how she prefaced the “I almost had him back home” comment: “When the NCAA stuff came down, I said, ‘Oh damn, why?’ The NCAA hit at the wrong time.”
Linda told Syracuse.com that her son picked Indiana because he viewed SU as a program “in chaos” after the NCAA used its right hand to bring the hammer down on the Orange while using its left hand to wave off blatant malpractice at pretty much every other Power Five school. The cherry on top of this extenuating-circumstances sundae is that Thomas Bryant said he didn’t click with the guys in the Syracuse locker room, whereas Indiana players took a liking to him and made a real effort to cultivate a relationship.
The bottom line: the last blue-chip Rochester product thought long and hard about the Orange, but ultimately didn’t pick Syracuse due to a bevy of unique factors. Assuming the NCAA doesn’t crush the program with another round of sanctions and SU’s players don’t cold-shoulder Stewart, it seems like the ‘Cuse has a great chance to land one of the best players in his class. Speaking of dodging NCAA penalties, it’s worth noting that Stewart plays for the Albany City Rocks, just like Joe Girard, which allows Boeheim to “legally” watch their AAU games because his son is on the team.
Location, location, location. Boeheim’s staff would be wise to take an axiom from the real estate world and apply it to recruiting, because the Class of 2019 is stacked with studs from the Empire State and New York City area.