The shot went up from the left wing. At first glance, it had a decent arc, not bad rotation. Jerami Grant must have dialed it up from 15 feet away thousands of time this season in practice and in games for Syracuse. But in that tiny Cathedral of college basketball, the rock fluttered just past rim. The chorus of Cameron Crazies saw the opportunity. They were about to start up again.
“Air ball! Air ball!”
It happened twice to Grant on Saturday against Duke. All the future first-round NBA draft pick could do was swallow his pride and sprint back on defense. Grant practices the 15-to-18 foot jumper, perhaps, more so than anyone else on the Orange roster. He has the physical ability and sheer athletic prowess to drive to the rim, execute a flashy spin here or there to fool his defender, and finish at the rim. It’s his bread and butter. It’s what ignites his desire and energy. All of Orange Nation knows he can finish inside the paint. And it wants to believe he can consistently hit the outside shot. But does Jerami think that?
“[Against Duke] the mindset was definitely get to the basket. I settled for a couple jump shots that I shouldn’t have settled for. I was just trying to get to the basket.”
Now, Jerami, why do you say that?
Not just against Duke, but all season long, you’ve been able to knock down open shots from the outside at a pretty good rate for a 6’9” lanky forward. A couple of air balls isn’t the end of the world, right? Why continue to question your shots from outside the paint?
“Yes, but we knew we had to maximize every possession. The game wasn’t as high scoring as the last one, and so I knew I had to get to the basket.”
Let’s be clear. Jerami Grant will have a successful NBA career. But until he develops confidence in his outside game, he won’t be a complete player. For a big, physical sophomore, his form is pretty good. And the shot isn’t as erratic as he thinks. Grant has a terrific ability to attack the lane. But he needs to get rid of the mindset that he only can drive.
Does Jerami Grant get genuinely upset when he doesn’t finish at the rim every time the ball is in his hands? Does he feel dejected when he is not able to display his high-flying dunks and spectacular put-backs? Is he afraid to not make a highlight reel play? Sure, he was clearly more athletic than Jabari Parker on Saturday, and beat him a few times throughout the game. He did lead all Syracuse scorers with 17 points.
Grant must invest more confidence in his outside game to take his skills to the next level. Boeheim and the team want to see him drive to the hoop. But the Maryland native shouldn’t be so quick to mask his jumpers and display his shame. The scoring opportunities are there for Jerami. He’s just has to go out there and embrace them.
Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald