The Syracuse Basketball program is one full of tradition and success. At the helm sits the second-most-winning coach in Division I history, Jim Boeheim. He has procured a culture of consistency in Central New York, although the success has certainly varied over his 38 seasons.
In the past ten years alone, fans have seen a Syracuse basketball tradition change drastically. Gone are the times of four-year players staying and helping lead their team to greatness. CJ Fair might have been the last one that the Orange will see for a long time.
Some of this comes from the pressure of the NBA Draft. Nowadays, scouts are looking for potential more than talent. Observing Fair specifically, his draft stock was much higher after his junior season than his senior one. Fair had a more complete offensive unit playing alongside him the year before, which allowed his mid-range game to shine in scouts’ eyes. But, when Fair decided to return to get his degree, his stock plummeted due to the lack of scorers surrounding him. The other reason for the trend is the quality of Syracuse recruits coming into the program.
Just five years ago, Syracuse’s recruiting class was a two-man class of only DaShonte Riley and Brandon Triche. Syracuse was loaded with great college players, but not great pro-type players who would end up spending a long time in Orange, like Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, Fair, and James Southerland.
Yet, since then? The Orange faithful has seen a parade of players leaving early for the Draft. Johnny Flynn left after his sophomore season. Wesley Johnson left after his first season in Orange. Dion Waiters and Fab Melo left after their sophomore years. Michael Carter-Williams left after his second year, despite not playing much in his freshman campaign.
And to fill this mass exodus, the Orange has been bringing in massive recruiting classes, sometimes of five players, to fill the shoes of underclassmen leaving early under the pressure of the NBA Draft. One-and-dones (still a growing trend, at the time) were unheard of for Syracuse. But now, before the start of the 2014-2015 season, Syracuse is looking at potentially its second-straight one-and-done player in Chris McCullough. Before Tyler Ennis declared, the Orange had only had two one-and-done players since 2003!
Syracuse could have a potentially lethal team if players didn’t leave. But when it comes to a career and a paycheck, draft stock is clearly more important than collegiate immortality and that isn’t changing anytime soon.
Looking forward, McCullough isn’t the only player that the Orange will probably lose early to the Draft. Even with the minimum age limit potentially being raised, Kaleb Joseph could shine in his role at point guard and decide to leave early. Already with the top recruiting class of 2015, it isn’t hard to envision all four committed players leaving before they graduate.
This isn’t a problem unique to Syracuse, but it certainly hits harder for Syracuse fans. Syracuse has cultivated a tradition of loyalty and longevity through the last ten years, but as the pressure to declare rises and the recruiting classes get better and better, Syracuse fans will have to understand that they probably won’t see a fantastic four-year player ever again.
Posted by: Jason Weingold