With Elijah Hughes off to the NBA, next season already looks bleak for the Orange. Unless SU adds a star transfer, the primary roster is already set. The only two current additions to next year’s squad are Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton.
To make an NCAA Tournament run, Syracuse needs its primary offensive scorers to improve. Of course that includes Buddy Boeheim, who must improve at creating his own shot, Marek Dolezaj who needs to stay aggressive, and fellow bigs Quincy Guerrier and Bourama Sidibe. But the guy who has the chance to be the star for SU is Joe Girard.
Unlike Boeheim, Girard has the skills and confidence to score from anywhere on the court. He’s not afraid to drive the lane, take a shot at the elbow, or from the parking lot. But he must learn when to pass up contested looks. Coming from high school where he became New York’s top scoring player, Girard wasn’t accustomed to turning down shots. But the ACC is a whole different beast than high school ball in Glen Falls.
Granted, the potential is clearly there. Girard set a season high against NC State late in the season when he dropped 30 on the Wolfpack. That spurred a five game stretch where Girard averaged 19 points. Remember Hughes led the ACC in scoring averaging exactly 19.
That’s not to say Girard’s going to lead the ACC in scoring next season. But that five game stretch late in the season is an indicator of what he can do. Freshmen have a tendency to play their best ball late in the season. That often shows how vital they’ll be in their sophomore campaigns.
That’s exactly what Boeheim did in his first year. After averaging a tick under six points throughout the season, Boeheim found his groove in March. In a four game span against Virginia, Clemson, Pitt, and Duke, Boeheim averaged over 14 points. Of course he became SU’s secondary option this season.
Without Hughes, there will be more pressure on Girard. But Girard thrives under pressure. He wants that last shot. The issue this year was that he shouldn’t be the guy taking that shot. Not when Hughes is on the team. Not when Girard is in his first season.
But Quincy Guerrier said Girard was one of the team’s leaders in November. Before November, Girard had played a grand total of 0 college basketball games. That’s no longer the case. Next season, the Orange may be Girard’s team.
Sure Dolezaj and Boeheim will be massive contributors. But in the past, those two have been more content letting somebody else take the reins on offense. Joe Girard wants to be that guy. Next season Syracuse needs him to become one of the best in the ACC to have a shot at March Madness.