While Orange Nation has an eye on Chad Kelly this afternoon, you may have missed a major piece of SU basketball news cross the wire. A player is leaving the basketball program. No, not Dion Waiters – it’s a center. No not Fab Melo. It’s DaShonte Riley, now forever known as the guy who had to play when AO’s quad hit the fan and took SU’s national title hopes in ‘10 with it, is following Rob Murphy to Eastern Michigan.
“He actually wanted to transfer back in January. He was worried about his grandparents, but the timing wasn’t good. He needed to stay and finish his studies. I wanted to make sure everything was in accord for him to make that move.’’
The front line was supposed to be a strength for SU this year, anchored with extreme depth at the center position in Melo (expected to make a giant leap in year two), Baye Moussa-Keita (figured to bulk up with a full off-season), and Riley coming off of injury. At best it was three guys who have some experience and all had something to prove. At worst it was the Doc Rivers’ “21 feet of center” theory.
We are left with Baye as the only certainty and he is anything but. All three players had questions but Orange fans could take solace on any given night someone could step up, even if it wasn’t the same guy consistently. If Melo is able to stay on the team, Syracuse is in the same position it was in last year – praying Fab figures things out and thanking whatever deity they believe in (God, the legend of Ernie Davis, a bologna sandwhich, etc.) for any positive production out of Moussa-Keita.
It also could have an effect on incoming recruit Rakim Christmas. While no one in their right mind expects Christmas to match Rick Jackson’s production, he was expected to step into Rick’s position at the 4. This might slide Christmas into the 5 at times and CJ Fair to the 4, where he is capable but not ideal, especially if he’s paired with Christmas and Joseph. That lineup is undersized in the MEAC, nevertheless the Big East.
In the end, is the loss of Riley the end of the world? No. Absolutely not. But compounded with the Fab Melo situation and losing its best, most senior, and by far most experienced front court player to the NBA, it is anything but ideal.
Posted: Craig Hoffman