Patrick Tapé’s recommitment to Duke was a letdown for Syracuse. Tapé backed out of his initial pledge because he felt he had “rushed his commitment,” and for two days, there was plenty of speculation as to where the Columbia transfer would end up. But the 6-foot-10 center doubled down on the Blue Devils two days later.
Even though Tapé is off the board, SU still has options when it comes to bigs in the transfer portal. One center the Orange are currently pursuing is Matt Haarms from Purdue. Haarms is 7-foot-2, 220 pounds, exactly the type of player Jim Boeheim wants in the middle of the zone, and will be immediately eligible after spending three years in West Lafayette. He averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds a game last season.
Haarms’ main strength is affecting shots at the rim, having swatted 210 shots during his time with the Boilermakers. While not as versatile as Tapé, he is still agile for a big man. Haarms’ slender frame works well in the pick and roll, and he usually has a height advantage in the post. He’s not much of a jump shooter, but various reports have noted that Haarms wants to go to a school that will allow him to work on an outside shot. Haarms has been contacted by at least 25 schools, including some heavy hitters. Syracuse does have a connection with the Dutchman, as he and Jesse Edwards practiced together over the offseason. But SU will have to make a special pitch to land the most coveted center left in the portal.
Another big leaving the Big Ten is Colin Castleton. The former Michigan Wolverine struggled to get on the floor as a sophomore, only playing eight minutes a game and averaging three points and two rebounds. Castleton is listed at 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds, and still can add weight to his frame. He is another offensively versatilite big man. Michigan runs many pick and pop sets, giving Castleton opportunities to shoot midrange jumpers and threes. His post game is still developing, but won’t be as important in a guard-focused offense like SU’s. Castleton can also grow on the defensive end. He is very lanky and has good shot-blocking ability, but needs to become a more physical player. The key for the former four-star prospect will be adding strength to his thin frame and building confidence, which will come with more time on the floor. There is no information out on schools that have contacted Castleton, but he will surely be a high-value target for many Power Five schools.
A third player SU has on its radar is Joshua Morgan, a 6-foot-11 transfer from Long Beach State. Morgan averaged eight points and six boards a game last year. Just like Haarms, Morgan is an elite shot blocker. He blocked a shot in all but three games his freshman season, and rejected eight shots against Cal State Fullerton. Morgan’s offensive game came to fruition at the end of his first campaign, as he scored double digits in five of LBSU’s last eight games. He is confident with the elbow jumper, has nice touch inside, and runs the floor like a deer. While the rising sophomore has the talent to be a NBA prospect down the road, he still has a ways to go in terms of his body. Morgan currently weighs 195 pounds, and against better competition, this lack of mass will nullify a lot of his natural abilities. Many PAC-12 schools, along with San Diego State, Texas, and Syracuse, are interested in Morgan, and will want to get him on campus as soon as possible so he can gain weight and get stronger.
However, as of right now, Morgan and Castleton will have to sit out a year, and the Syracuse coaching staff has mainly targeted centers that can play in 2020-2021. For that reason, Haarms should definitely be SU’s primary target. He is experienced, offensively competent, and would bring a more physical presence to the 2-3 than Bourama Sidibe, Jesse Edwards, or John Bol Ajak could provide. But if Haarms decides to go elsewhere, Castleton or Morgan could be a nice plan B for the Orange.