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Success for SU Basketball Relies on a Center Stepping Up

Syracuse suffered a couple of blows recently when Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett both decided to stay in the draft and forego remaining eligibility. Luckily, Syracuse was preparing for both to leave early, and had contingency plans in place. Next year the Orange will likely rely on budding stars Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim, as well as incoming freshmen Brycen Goodine, Joe Girard, and Quincy Guerrier.

So while seeing two stars leave hurts, the Orange have the players in place to pick up the slack. The same can’t be said about the center position. The position is Bourama Sidibe’s to lose after the graduation of Paschal Chukwu. But outside of the injury prone Sidibe, Syracuse didn’t return a true center. Marek Dolezaj can play center for a few minutes here and there, but Jim Boeheim has said that Dolezaj isn’t big enough to consistently play down low. If he can bulk up this summer, maybe he can accumulate more minutes in the paint.

But for now it seems like SU is hoping for a true-freshman to step up and become an impact player. That’s why they it out and signed Jesse Edwards late in the recruiting period. Besides the Netherlands native, Syracuse also signed John Bol-Ajak, an athletic 6-foot-10 center who was born in South Sudan and raised in Kenya.

Unfortunately for the ‘Cuse, both players seem raw in the limited tape available. Bol-Ajak has a good stroke from three which could help Syracuse space the floor next season if he sees extended action. He also has a quick first step to burst by defenders. But his tape doesn’t show much in the way of post moves, and ESPN only lists him as 205 pounds, so he desperately needs to bulk up.

Meanwhile Edwards seems further along and has a solid spin move to get to the rim. He shows off good footwork that allows him to work around defenders with the ball in the paint. Clearly he’s more of a down-low threat as his tape doesn’t show much range, but that pairs perfectly with Bol-Ajak’s skill set. It’s also important to keep in mind that he’s going up against much smaller defenders. But Syracuse will likely ask for big time minutes out of one of these bigs. If they can’t contribute, it could haunt SU’s season.

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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