Syracuse Basketball’s recruiting class of 2022 is poised to be one of the best classes since the turn of the century. The Orange already have commitments from four-star wings Kamari Lands and Justin Taylor, while quickly rising guard Quadir Copeland is expected to choose SU soon. While all of these signings are great news, Syracuse’s biggest recruiting weakness is rearing its ugly head once again in the class of 2022 – the inability to land a true big man.
Syracuse has a pretty poor track record when it comes to recruiting centers:
2020: Frank Anselem (3-star)
2019: Jesse Edwards (3-star), John Bol Ajak (3-star)
2017: Bourama Sidibe (3-star)
2016: Taurean Thompson (4-star)
I think that’s enough to prove my point. The last big center recruit for Syracuse was Dajuan Coleman, but he didn’t prove to be much in college, in large part due to injuries. You have to go back a decade to the Fab Melo days to find a truly solid center that could hold his own.
So, why isn’t center your top priority every year when the recruiting season rolls around? Sure, the zone works well with long, lanky wings and Jim Boeheim’s offense is mostly run through the guards, but come on. At some point you need to address the center position. Syracuse has plenty of talented wings and will always be an attractive place for wing recruits. Now, you need to put some more focus on making SU a place that talented centers want to go.
Syracuse offered scholarships to three centers in this recruiting cycle. Kyle Filipowski looked like he was leaning Orange, until Duke snuck in and stole him. Donovan Clingan considered SU, but his hometown UConn Huskies came calling. Peter Carey is still considering his options, but to be frank, he’s not even ranked or has a star-assignment.
First thing is first, only sending out two legit scholarship offers at the center position is just not enough. Syracuse offered three power forwards, five small forwards and five guards. But at the position of need, the Orange only wanted to offer two serious guys. Two guys that you very well knew were going to be highly sought after and receive a lot of other offers.
By the time the recruits of 2022 enroll in college, Syracuse’s centers will consist of Jesse Edwards, Frank Anselem and John Bol Ajak. None of them jump off the page as impact players. Knowing the future of that position, Boeheim and company should have casted their net wider. You aren’t going to land every recruit, especially with your track records with centers, so show interest in more guys and hope that you land at least one of them.
Another way to fix this inability to recruit centers is to bring in a lower-level recruit and turn him into a star. Make him more of a focus in the offense. Run the pick and roll. Feed him down low. Do whatever you need to do, but make him a priority. If you do that, you can use that guy as an example in future years to say, ‘hey, we made this lower-level recruit a star, imagine what we can do with your level of talent.’
Some of you may be saying, ‘well isn’t that what they did with Marek Dolezaj?’ Yes and no. Yes, they took a smaller recruit and non-center and turned him into a decent player in the middle. But he didn’t play like a true center and he was successful in different ways than a normal center would be. If you are Syracuse, you need to do this with a 6-foot-11, 245 pound big dude.
Syracuse’s inability to recruit centers has been evident for years now and you aren’t going to win if you don’t have a great center. Just think back to the 2003 championship. Why did the Orange win that year? Yes, they won because they had the best one-and-done of all time in Carmelo Anthony, but they also won because they had a talented center in Hakim Warrick.
The issue isn’t going to fix itself and it may not happen instantly, but it at least needs to be addressed.