The news of Kamari Lands’ decommitment splashed cold water on the excitement over Syracuse’s Class of ’22. The Orange had stacked a top 5 class with Lands, Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland, which would’ve given SU a terrific nucleus for the future. But Lands’ desire to pursue more NIL opportunities will likely push him elsewhere. It’s not like a tandem of Taylor, Copeland and another 3 or 4-star player wouldn’t be great. But the loss of a top 30 player like Lands – when he was seemingly locked up – does leave a hole.
With the activity of the transfer portal and the reality of modern college hoops, nothing is ever certain or permanent. Fans learn quickly that you have to be prepared for changes in decisions everyday. But there is a way to turn the disappointment of Lands into a positive. That means getting to JJ Starling and selling him on being the big dog.
Starling is a CNY native, a Baldwinsville product who understands the culture of Orange Nation and the delirium of a packed Carrier Dome. He’s a 6’3″ combo guard, and ranked as the 34th best player in his class by 247 Sports. Lands was a 6’8″ forward, so the match isn’t exact. But that’s okay, great staffs these days find ways to fit together winning lineups based on talent not natural position.
Starling is being heavily recruited by Duke, Maryland, Stanford and Syracuse. Obviously, the Blue Devils are the most formidable adversary in this battle. But Duke recently picked up a verbal from Kyle Filipowski (another SU target). “Flip” could be a generational talent. The offense will almost always funnel through a 7-footer who can run and shoot like a small forward. The SU coaches can offer Starling something he wouldn’t get at Duke: being the main guy.
Starling must know the celebrity and legacy of Carmelo Anthony, even though today’s high schoolers may not have been born yet for the ’03 natty run. SU has been on Starling for years. Mike Hopkins was speaking to his family when he was in middle school. Sell Starling on being a CNY legend, for the friends, family and community he’s known since he was a child. SU can offer a winning program that has other solid talent coming in with him in ’22. And they can now offer the chance to be the focal piece. As great as Taylor and Copeland are, Starling would be the most talented player of the trio. Had Lands stayed, Starling would not have had that chance. But turn lemons into lemonade and capitalize on the opportunity for Starling to be the next Orange icon in his own backyard. Starling’s commitment would once again push SU’s class into the top 5, and give him an opportunity to have an offense run through him as the primary piece.