For two straight seasons, Syracuse looked to Tyus Battle in their most desperate moments. Shot clock winding down? Game on the line? Battle was the answer. Jim Boeheim said Battle made possibly more big shots than anyone he’s ever coached. This season, Elijah Hughes needs to fill that void. He needs to be the hero when all else fails.
Hughes hit more threes than anyone else on the team last season by a wide margin. Not many people would have believed before game one that the East Carolina transfer would outscore Oshae Brissett in his first year playing for Syracuse, but he did just that, finishing second behind Battle with 13.7 PPG.
Why Syracuse Needs Him
Boeheim expects Hughes to be the only player on the roster who plays 37-40 minutes. It makes sense, given Hughes irreplaceable skillset. Nobody on the team has his scoring pedigree. More specifically, SU doesn’t have a real isolation threat outside of Hughes. Jalen Carey, Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj lack efficiency with the outside shot. Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard lack the size and strength to slash to the rim. Hughes, like any high-level scorer, can do both. Put simply, Hughes needs to be the scoring threat that turns even the most stagnant offensive possessions into points. And with the game on the line, he needs to deliver with the ball in his hands.
Best Case Scenario
Hughes continues his positive development and cements his status as one of the ACC’s best scorers. He is ready to make things happen in isolation situations, something he wasn’t asked to do much last season. He even does what Battle could not: distribute the basketball effectively after drawing rotations. The roster situation should allow Hughes to battle for conference scoring title. In the best case scenario, his talents turn that into a reality.
Worst Case Scenario
Hughes isn’t ready for his expanded role. His ball handling and isolation creativity isn’t suited to be a number one option. He doesn’t make teammates better around him and scores at high volume low efficiency. He proves to be better suited for last year’s role as a catch-and-shoot or catch-and-drive piece on offense. Or worse, he doesn’t have the incredible mental resolve that Battle did, even when slumping.
Thursday, October 17th: #5 Quincy Guerrier
Monday, October 21st: #4 Jalen Carey
Thursday, October 24th: #3 Bourama Sidibe
Monday, October 28th: #2 Buddy Boeheim
Thursday, October 31st: Elijah Hughes