To compare the Dior Johnson and Kamari Lands situations is to compare apples and aircraft carriers. But the bitter taste in the mouths of Syracuse fans, and the budding reputation as the program who loses star recruits is a constant.
Lands decommitted from Syracuse with name, image, and likeness in mind. Unlike Johnson or Darius Bazley, there was no doubt that Syracuse would help him grow into a pro, or that the Orange wouldn’t win. The skepticism came from the unproven nature of the way SU and the region would promote his brand. As hard as that might be for Syracuse fans to accept, it makes sense. To compare the earning potential of a star player in Syracuse to the earning potential of a star player in Los Angeles would be like, well… comparing apples to aircraft carriers.
Head Football Coach Dino Babers and Athletic Director John Wildhack have discussed NIL consulting for the players, to make sure they are educated and cautious when it comes to long-term contracts. While that might be the responsible approach to protect the kids in the program, it clearly wasn’t enough to keep Lands. Syracuse needs to market themselves as a place to make money, not just a cold school upstate with a good basketball coach. That has to be part of the sales pitch on official visits. Assistant coaches and players should be telling star athletes, “This is how we see you fit in on the court. This is how we will help your brand thrive.”
Where Lands decides to go to pursue NIL opportunities will be interesting. Syracuse isn’t a very small city, and it is the “pro-team” in the area, so SU athletes won’t have to compete with more marketable professional players. Kansas already offered him, which could sting because Syracuse is a much bigger media market than Lawrence, but KU is more of a national team than SU.
This year could be a turning point for the program. The Orange have a lot to prove on the court, but also off the court. If recruits see some players cash in on NIL right away, then Lands will be an outlier. For now, he is a flashing warning sign of what could be if Syracuse doesn’t get in front of the trends.