Central New York is abuzz with the latest addition to the Orange. Jimmy Boeheim chose Syracuse yesterday, marking a rarity in college basketball history. A pair of brothers will play for their coach at a D1 power program. The story is almost too good to be true, but the real test on whether this will work is on the floor. Does Jimmy fit with his brother Buddy, and the rest of the Syracuse roster? And more importantly, can Jimmy be effective in the ACC after three seasons in the Ivy League?
Let’s dissect some film to gauge how Jimmy will work at the high-major level. Here’s a look at a few plays from his standout game at Coppin State in November ’19.
We’ll look at two plays in succession. The first shows Jimmy holding the ball just a few shades left top of the arc. His defender plays him toward his right, so Jimmy take a jab step left. He dribbles left and encounters two defenders in his face. Jimmy elevates and puts up a right-handed floater over top for the bucket. It’s an impressive display of craftiness for Boeheim. For a 6’8″ ballhandler, he shows moves to create his own shot.
On the following play, Boeheim holds right elbow extended. He ball fakes, then drives right. He runs into help defense at the baseline, so he decides to spin back towards the paint. A Euro-step up and under frees him of his man, and allows just a sliver of light to get up the shot. It’s off glass and in. These types of moves (and enhancing them) will be vital to his success at SU. He’ll encounter much stiffer defensive competition than Coppin State in the ACC. Defenders will be taller, stronger, and faster. He can’t afford to stand out at the perimeter and just drain jumpers. If he can continue to hone his footwork and shot-creating skills, he can have an impact at SU.
There is a number of buckets he gets in this game based on sheer hustle and second-chance points down low. They arrive after misses and offensive putbacks. Jimmy can’t rely on that. He’ll rarely win as many battles for offensive rebounds in the ACC. He’s not the same as Tyler Hansbrough, nicknamed Psycho T for his energy in attacking the hoop down low. Jimmy doesn’t have that demeanor nor body type to make that work. Few do.
Let’s take a look at Jimmy’s performance at the Carrier Dome three nights before that Coppin State game. He shows off that up-and-under move again. He receives the ball left elbow extended. He immediately has space as Bourama Sidibe is late to close on him. Jimmy takes a quick step into the lane and then pump fakes to get Sidibe to bite. Sidibe leaves his feet and Jimmy deftly moves left to get an open look. The short floater goes in.
Finally, let’s look at one of Jimmy’s last games played, February ’20 against Princeton. Again, we see his craftiness around the basket. With about 4:30 to play the Tigers lose him in coverage. His entry pass is along the right baseline. Noticing two defenders rushing toward him, Jimmy takes one dribble to get them to pause. After they set their feet, Boeheim backs in and get a reverse layup off glass to beat the double-team.
We know Jimmy, like his brother, can stroke it from downtown. You’d imagine his dad would give him the green-light as long as it’s a smart shot. The key to his effectiveness though, will be in his footwork and shot creation for mid-range and low-post offense. Jumping from the Ivy League to the ACC is obviously an enormous leap in talent level. He was beating future financial advisors and CEOs off the dribble, not professional basketball players. (Editor’s note: Avoid watching much Ivy League basketball for your mental health.) But Jimmy is aided by natural size, great basketball DNA, and Hall of Fame coaching his entire life. As warm and fuzzy as the narrative is, Jim would not have actively recruited his son unless he knew he could help SU. The most savvy scout of Jimmy Boeheim is the head coach at Syracuse. It should not be a surprise to see Jimmy play an important role in SU’s season. He’s got the tools and the coaching. It should be expected. He’s good enough to make an impact,