Let’s take a little trip back to last season for SU basketball. Andrew White and Tyler Lydon, a pair of forwards (yes I’m counting White as a forward because toward the end of the season, he was the starting SF, with John Gillon and Tyus Battle getting the nods at the top of the zone) are at the top of the pack in nearly every metric you can think of. Scoring, shooting, assists, blocks, steals. They were the go-to guys for last year’s edition of the Orange. Now fast forward to 2017. Both White and Lydon have moved on and are playing professionally, not to mention that the Orange has also lost 4 other players to graduation and transfers. All of a sudden, the question becomes how Syracuse is going to fill that void left by the likes of White and Lydon. Insert freshman forward Oshae Brissett.
Standing at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Brissett fits perfectly in the mold left by Lydon and White (Lydon is 6-foot-9 and White is 6-foot-7). Despite being the perfect average of White and Lydon in terms of his size, Brissett’s game is something unique and all to himself. Growing up and playing high school basketball in Ontario, Canada, Brissett was the top recruit in the Orange’s 2017 class, but still wasn’t very highly-touted. Ranked as a consensus 4-star recruit, Brissett was part of an SU class that was the first in program history to not have a top 100 recruit. The recruiting services, however, may have missed the boat on this guy.
Jim Boeheim has said on a number of different occasions that Brissett’s playing part of his high school career in Canada hurt his potential to be a highly-regarded recruit. He has said that had Brissett played stateside, he would’ve been ranked much higher and there probably wouldn’t be so many concerns about the relative weakness of the 2017 SU recruiting class. I mean, come on, the guy was named the 2017 Biosteel All-Canadian High School player of the year after all. From his reputation and what we’ve seen so far from the Canadian in just two games (Orange vs White scrimmage and an exhibition vs SNHU), Boeheim is right on the money with his evaluation.
The 18-year-old put up an unofficial 20 points in the Orange vs White scrimmage and then followed up that impressive performance with a shining double-double performance, putting in 17 points and grabbing 11 boards versus Southern New Hampshire. He was also stellar on the defensive end of things, swatting two of SU’s 16 blocked shots on the night. So we know that Brissett can put up big numbers, but how does he do it? What makes this kid special?
First and foremost, Brissett is an absolutely incredible athlete. His impressive length and fantastic leaping ability make him a dangerous finisher at and above the rim. We’ve seen him throw down dunks in scrimmages and warmups that most other players wouldn’t even attempt and he throws them down with relative ease. That rangy athleticism is best used on the offensive end when the ball is moving in transition. He’s got long strides that can get him out in front of the defense and is crafty enough to manipulate his body to finish through contact when he needs to. He’s also starting to develop an excellent outside shot (6 threes through two games), both from the three-point line and in the mid-range, that will help an SU team that lost most of its shooting from last season, save Tyus Battle.
Brissett is even better on the defensive side of the ball. Again, using his length and innate athleticism, the forward is able to block shots and create turnovers. His lengthy wingspan will be especially useful on the wings of the 2-3 zone, whether it be used to close out on three-point shooters or to create turnovers in passing lanes. Also, just from watching him in two games, you can tell that this kid has a relentless motor and will fly all over the court both offensively and defensively, soaring for rebounds, dunks and blocked shots.
As with any young player, Brissett isn’t flawless, but luckily for Jim Boeheim and company, the few “weaknesses” he does have are either easily coachable or will come with time. Despite his ability to score the ball, he’s still a bit raw on the offensive end and would benefit from developing a couple of post moves and more of a back-to-the-basket game, but that will come with time. His ball-handling and decision-making in transition would also benefit his game and make him an even more dangerous threat on the fast break.
If the starting lineup for the exhibition versus SNHU was any indication, Brissett will likely be a part of the starting five for Jim Boeheim this season and that’s exactly where he deserves to be. Not only is he the top freshman on this SU roster, but he might even be the second-best player overall, behind returning sophomore Tyus Battle. Brissett has big shoes to fill from last season’s team, but with the athleticism and high basketball IQ that he possesses, that should be no problem for the supremely talented Canadian.
Check out our other player previews:
Brissett’s high school teammate Howard Washington