Alright, nobody is complaining, but it’s a fair question. Fresh off the heels of the ACC’s ninth best recruiting year in 2020, and then the 11th best recruiting pool in the conference in 2021, Syracuse basketball already reeled in three four-stars in 2022. That ranks second in the ACC with only North Carolina in front of them. All of a sudden, 2022 has SU’s recruiting class ranked fifth in the nation. What changed from the dark days of Syracuse recruiting (2017-2020) when the Orange never cracked the top-30?
As weird as it sounds, it all started with Dior Johnson. Syracuse fans are likely going to give him the Darius Bazley treatment after the five-star’s decommitment. But everything that Johnson promised is happening anyway. Johnson pledged to recruit other star high schoolers, which is what made the guard’s verbal decision so exciting. Even without him, SU managed to land Kamari Lands, Justin Taylor, and Quadir Copeland. At the very least, SU has to tip their cap to Johnson for helping put the Orange back on the national map.
Recruiting in this day and age is like a domino effect. Long gone are the days when kids would be spotted at the parks in their hometown and brought to a school by the coach that discovered them. Social media allows every recruit to see who is out there and what the buzz is. Whether it is intentional or not, the Orange’s commits are taking the 2018 Duke approach. The players are the most valuable recruiters. RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson coordinated the super team they formed in Durham. Now Kamari Lands’ decision swayed Justin Taylor, and so on, and so forth.
“Us two, hopefully try to get more guys here soon,” said four-star commit Justin Taylor prior to Copeland’s decision. “Trying to build something special and make an impact. Obviously Kamari is super skilled. We’ve talked a little bit… and we’re excited to get up there.”
So Taylor is taking it upon himself to make the team around him better. That’s a national trend. The still unanswered question is why are these stars agreeing on Syracuse as the best destination for them to win collegiately and develop professionally.
Only four projected rotation players are expected to be in Central New York by the time the triumvirate get there. Benny Williams is an incoming freshman who they may have had some contact with since Johnson claimed to have a hand in his commitment. So, the line of communication with Williams seems open. Symir Torrence, a transfer from Marquette, will be a senior guard in 2022-2023, but he hasn’t proven much on the court yet. Then there’s will-be seniors Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards. The point is, there is a very visible path for the 2022 class to plug and play right away. Whether the winters are cold or not, Syracuse, like any other program is an attractive destination for this generation of players who want to play right away, not just in the mental race to go pro, but also for the NIL perks.
That was a big drawback for SU’s last elite class. In 2016, Jim Boeheim’s staff brought in three four-stars. Tyus Battle, Taurean Thompson, and Matthew Moyer. Battle quickly emerged as a fan-favorite. Thompson was unhappy with his fewer than 20 minutes per game as a freshman and left for Seton Hall. Moyer had to sit out a year and only played 17 minutes per contest in his second year on the Hill before packing up for Vanderbilt. But those guys had upperclassmen in front of them, a lot of proven talent that didn’t leave them room to learn the Zone on the fly and make freshman mistakes without Boeheim pulling them off the floor and sitting them on the bench as punishment.
The 2022 group won’t have that obstacle. Not because Boeheim will be more willing to give them more slack, but because the old-school Hall of Fame coach has no choice. He’s a victim of circumstance. That’s what happens when you only bring in one player in 2021. The next year is given more responsibility, more elbow room, and more influence, and Lands, Taylor, and Copeland know it.