Not since the team was the “Orangemen” and a fresh faced Carmelo Anthony led the team to the 2003 NCAA title has Syracuse produced an NBA star. Yes, Jerami Grant is putting up decent numbers and has played an increased role with the Thunder. Michael Carter-Williams was the Rookie of The Year once upon a time, but neither have made a huge impact in the league. Now if you ask Dion Waiters, he will probably tell you something different about his own career.
Syracuse may not have NBA stars, but it has had a player drafted seven straight years. Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett hope that streak continues although some predict neither will be selected. Now the question is, with two of their top players leaving campus who is next in line to try to return the Orange back to the Final Four?
At one point early in the year, the Orange had hopes of signing Isaiah Stewart, but the top ten recruit squashed that dream by signing with Mike Hopkins and Washington. Precious Achiuwa, a candidate for the NCAA All-Name Team and another five star recruit, joined the number one ranked class in Memphis. Syracuse also had its eye on plugging their iconic 2-3 zone defense with Kofi Cockburn, but the New York native decided join Illinois and rebuild their program.
While Jim Boeheim fell short of bringing his first five-star recruit since Chris McCullough in ’14, it doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare. Leading the way for the incoming Orange are a trio of four-star recruit shooting guards, Brycen Goodine, Joe Girard and combo guard/forward Quincy Guerrier. Although spurred by the big-name big men, Boeheim did manage to ink two young players who could play a pivotal role in his defensive strategies with 6’10” John Bol-Ajak and 6’11” Jesse Edwards.
With only Elijah Hughes returning from last season’s starting five, the floor is open for four other positions to be filled by the incoming class. NCAAB betting odds say that Boeheim will lean towards starting his son, Buddy, at the shooting guard spot at the beginning of the season after his strong showing in March. However, when looking down the bench at both Goodine and Girard, it might be hard to keep both of his two top recruits on the pine. Although not nearly as sought after as his fellow freshmen, there are high hopes that another Canadian can fill the shoes of Brissett.
Having the ability to create his own shot and can hit with range, Guerrier might be the dark horse recruit of this freshman class. At the starting centre spot, Boeheim will more than likely add Marek Dolezaj to the first five, but Edwards could hear his name as the first big man off the bench. The Orange have had productive big men in recent years like Rakim Christmas and Fab Melo. If Edwards has even close to that type of contribution on both ends of the court the young man from the Netherlands, who many people in North America are unaware of, would be a break out star.
Last year was a rollercoaster ride for Syracuse and while they made the Big Dance, there are hopes they’re building for something bigger this season. While the team is unlikely to be in the preseason top 25, they should be able to find a way to return to March Madness. In order to do so, these five young freshmen will have to step up and make a name for themselves.
Author: Steve Lee