With the offseason upon us, it seems like a good time to appreciate SU’s best players since the turn of the millenium. These rankings will take into consideration the longevity of a players career in Orange, as well as how successful the team was during the players tenure. Pure talent and dominance will also be taken into account. This article will look at players ranked 10-6, then another article on Friday will examine the top 5.
- Wesley Johnson (2010)
Johnson only played a year in Orange after transferring from Iowa State, but he lit up the Carrier Dome immediately. He averaged 16.5 points per game to go along with 8.5 rebounds on his way to becoming Big East Player Of The Year. He was also first team All-American before becoming the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Johnson always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for a 30 win SU squad that went to the Sweet Sixteen. Johnson was a high-flying menace that also paired as a deadly three-point shooter.
- Michael Gbinije (2014-2016)
Gbinije was a veteran leader on the memorable 2016 squads run to the Final Four. That season he averaged 17.5 points, and over four assists per game. In his SU career he scored over 1100 points after transferring from Duke. As an upperclassman, he became a sniper from deep, hitting over 39 percent of his threes. While he became Syracuse’s go-to offensive option by the end of his career, his skills lied primarily on the defensive end. Gbinije could guard point guards to small forwards, and excelled in the 2-3 zone.
- Tyus Battle (2017-2019)
It’s strange to be looking at Battle’s career as history, but with his declaration to the NBA Draft, it’s time to look back at his contributions in Orange. During his sophomore and junior year, he was SU’s go-to scorer who consistently put the team on his back and got big buckets when needed. He was Mr. Reliable. If you went to the Carrier Dome, you were certain to see some poor defender get crossed over as Battle drove to the hoop for an easy lay-in. Or maybe he’d pull up for a contested mid-range shot in drill it in the defenders face. In 2018 he averaged over 19 points a game while leading an Orange team that barely squeaked into March Madness all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. By the end of his career, he scored over 1600 points, finishing 16th all-time on SU’s scoring list.
- Rakeem Christmas (2012-2015)
Christmas was a former McDonald’s All-American who arrived at Syracuse with high expectations. It took him awhile to reach his potential, but by his senior season he was one of the best players in the country, as he was named a Third Team All-American. After three subpar offensive seasons, Christmas exploded for 17.5 points per game to go along with over 9 rebounds per game. Besides becoming an All-American, he was also named ACC’s Most Improved Player Of The Year, and named to the ACC First Team.
- CJ Fair (2011-2014) – 16th rebounds 818, 15th points 1660
Fair was a slasher that was unstoppable once he got a full head of steam. He could finish with both hands, or could use a deadly spin move to work past defenders. He obtained an arsenal full of lethal weapons, whether it be a sweet up-and-under move, or a quick burst that defenders couldn’t contain. He finished his career as 16th all-time on SU’s rebounding list with 818, and 15th on the Orange’s scoring list with 1660 points. After coming off the bench his first two seasons, he finally got a crack at the starting rotation his junior year, and didn’t disappoint. He lit up the stat sheet, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. He also became a deep threat, hitting 47 percent of his threes that year, as he led SU to the Final Four. Then in his final year on The Hill, he was named All-ACC First Team and AP Third Team All-American. And who can forget these incredible highlights, a collection he seemed to add to every game.