Recently, the center position has been a weakness for the Orange. Paschal Chukwu has been Syracuse’s starting big man for most of the past two seasons. Since he transferred from Providence, Chukwu has struggled to find a consistent role on the team.
Fans weren’t all that surprised when Jim Boeheim elected to remove Chukwu from the Orange’s starting lineup back in December. Why did he make the move? It’s simple: the results just weren’t there. The Orange were bullied inside in their losses to Old Dominion and Buffalo. Between those two games, Chukwu scored two total points and seven rebounds.
Safe to say fans were not pleased. Then, Boeheim made the switch to Dolezaj and the Orange won four straight games. At that point, Chukwu was somewhat written off. Since then, he’s responded in a big way, leading the Orange rebounding effort in their biggest win of the season over Duke.
Paschal Chukwu has some blood on his nose in the locker room.
“There’s blood on my nose? I didn’t even know. It was a battle down there, man.”
Dude went toe-to-toe with Zion under the basket today and grabbed 18 boards. Wow. pic.twitter.com/0c8zOWA0o9
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) January 15, 2019
How well did Chukwu handle his benching? I don’t think he could have handled it any better. After being criticized for the better part of a month, he flushed the noise behind him and delivered the performance of his life. One game later, he was back in the starting lineup against Pittsburgh.
Remember when he didn’t play against Clemson? Three days later he made a huge impact off the bench in the first half against Georgia Tech. Now this isn’t to say Chukwu is perfect, he made a number of questionable plays against the Panthers. What it does say is how tough of a player he is.
The guy has responded in a huge way and may end up being a large reason why Syracuse makes the NCAA Tournament. If Chukwu plays like he did against Duke, the Orange can beat any body. It would have been easy for the center to fold after being benched. He didn’t.
My hat is off to you, Paschal Chukwu.