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What’s the Next Step for Syracuse’s Marek Dolezaj?

In two seasons in Orange, Marek Dolezaj has quickly become a fan favorite, and for good reason. He has a knack for finding the ball, and is never afraid to scrape elbows on the hardwood. For a big man, he’s a great passer and a very solid defender in the 2-3 zone. And when a player’s willing to take charges from a 285 pound bulldozer of a human, they’ll rightfully earn respect from the fanbase.

Last season Dolezaj’s scoring stats went down from his freshman year because there were so many mouths to feed in SU’s offense. But his field goal percentages went way up. He shot over 5 percent better from the field, but his biggest improvement was from behind the arc. In Dolezaj’s freshman year, Jim Boeheim cringed every time he saw the Slovakian line up a shot from deep. And at one point, he even told the fans to stop urging Dolezaj to shoot threes.

But last year, he raised his three point percentage to nearly 38 percent while averaging one three-point shot per game. If Dolezaj can continue to elevate his deep-range game, he’ll space the floor for a Syracuse squad that’s desperately needed shooters the past few years. Next year, with Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard, SU will have knockdown shooters. If Dolezaj becomes a threat to shoot 2-3 threes a game, he’ll force his big-man defender out of the paint, opening up the court for Elijah Hughes and other slashers like Jalen Carey.

Of course, shooting shouldn’t be Dolezaj’s biggest concern this offseason. He has to get stronger. Last summer, Dolezaj struggled to put on weight after catching the flu. Hopefully, this summer he can solely focus on his diet and the weight room. And while he seemed stronger last season, he was still susceptible to being pushed around by guys with 50 pounds of muscle on him.

If he can continue to add bulk, while also extending his shooting, Dolezaj’s junior season could be something of a breakout year. His hustle plays have won Syracuse ball games. The next step is to become a reliable shooter, and a guy who can consistently play minutes at center.

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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