Over the weekend we detailed the reasons 5-star PF Brandon Huntley-Hatfield chose Tennessee over Syracuse, Kansas, Kentucky, Baylor and others. The Vols staff was on him early. They told him he’d be a lottery pick. There are available minutes immediately. And he’s part of a heralded class.
There was also simple geography that hurt SU and helped Tennessee. Even though the Orange seemingly made a great impression late in the process, they weren’t in early enough. This is understandable considering BHH is a Clarkville, TN native, about an hour northwest of Nashville. Advantage: Vols.
Syracuse recently got a commitment from 4-star Kamari Lands, an Indianapolis product, which became the anchor of a potentially loaded Class of ’22. But again, SU was fishing outside its local waters. Why? Partially because Syracuse is a good enough program to recruit nationally. It’s also because there’s limited elite talent in the NYC area.
The tri-state region, New York/New Jersey/Connecticut, has always been the talent pipeline to stuff SU’s roster. New York City in particular gave the program its defining player in Pearl Washington. But look at the top 25 lists from Rivals Top 150 list. If you only recruited NY/NJ/CT it would be impossible to build a powerhouse.
In the Class of ’21, A.J. Griffin hails from White Plains, NY and will be headed to Duke. He’s the #6 player in the class, but also the only player from the NYC corridor in the top 100. No player from New Jersey appears in that list until Jaylen Blakes from Blairstown at #120. In the Class of ’21, Zion Cruz from Jersey City (a big Syracuse target) cracks #16. Kyle Cuffe from Blairstown comes in at #56, but that’s it for the top 100. Two years, only three top 100 players from the country’s biggest city and the densely populated region around it.
Syracuse’s recruiting has been the subject of recent criticism, and the loss of Mike Hopkins and mediocre ACC seasons certainly play a factor. But geography also has a role. Players don’t only play their high school ball in their hometowns. Northeast products could head to any number of athletic academies and be listed as Florida or California players. But the fact remains, the tri-state area isn’t pumping out the same number of elite high school talent it used to, which has made SU’s job harder.