JJ Starling is a Central New York native, a 6’4″ combo guard from Baldwinsville who is a consensus top-40 recruit in the country. The rollercoaster of Syracuse’s 2022 Class has been thoroughly covered, from the highs of Kamari Lands, Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland’s commitments, to the departure of Lands, Arthur Kaluma’s decision, the loss of Kyle Filipowski to a rival, and the meandering chase for Zion Cruz. But at the moment SU stands strong, with a three-person class that now includes 7-footer Peter Carey.
There may be another commitment on the way, and many SU fans hope Starling is it. Who can resist the “local kid chooses Orange” storyline? But the competition is fierce even if Syracuse has the home field advantage. Let’s rank the finalists with the best chance to land him:
1. Duke. Heading into Coach K’s final season the attention surrounds Duke even more than usual. What will the Blue Devils do to send off one of the greatest coaches ever? The problem is it doesn’t appear that Jon Scheyer’s staff is faltering in their traditional recruiting success. SU already lost dynamic big man Filipowski (a top 10 recruit in the nation as his game has become must-watch) to the Blue Devils earlier in the summer. There’s no doubt that Duke continues to be the biggest threat for many of SU’s top targets, even one from CNY. Teaming with a monster talent in Filipowski, a dynamic big man who can pass and run the floor, is as tantalizing as it gets.
2. Syracuse. The draw is obvious, stay home, be a local hero, join an immensely talented class and push it into the top 10-15. Sure, Starling might have to share time in the backcourt with Copeland and Taylor, but SU can easily find space for those three in the lineup. He knows what the Dome rocks like when the big schools come to town, but is the aura of Duke and playing next to Filipowski too much to pass up? Filipowski has skyrocketed to the 8th best player in his class, a full 5-star recruit. It would be shocking if Starling didn’t end up at either Duke or Syracuse. There’s a huge drop off from here to the other trio. Either he chooses the prestige of Duke or the local tie at SU, many analysts believe.
3. Stanford. Once you get beyond the top 2, each of the finalists are potential sub-.500 teams that will struggle to make the NCAA Tournament. Give him credit for caring about school though, as each of Starling’s Final Five are excellent academic institutions. The Cardinal were 14-13 (10-10) last season, and they have no made March Madness since ’14. But help is on the way with a pair of 4-star forwards in Jaylen Thompson and Ryan Agarwal for the Class of ’22 (ranked 29th nationally). And the Cardinal just had a sensational Class of ’21, rated 20th nationally and 2nd in the Pac-12 Jerod Haase has yet to make a Big Dance at Stanford, but the allure of Pac-12 sun and elite academics would be the sell along with young talent on the way.
4. Notre Dame. The end of Mike Brey in South Bend appears near. He hasn’t made the Big Dance in four seasons, and coming off his worst season ever at Notre Dame (11-15). The Irish had the 10th rated class in the ACC this year, and next year have one commitment, a 4-star center Dom Campbell. The same way SU has gotten used to Duke winning their kids, Notre Dame has gotten used to SU winning theirs.
5. Northwestern. The Wildcats had a solid class in ’21, with 4-star Casey Simmons and two other three-star talents. That’s good for the 35th rated class in America. But so far there’s little in the cupboard for the Class of ’22, and the Wildcats are coming off a 9-15 clunker, and one of the worst seasons in the Big Ten. Their ’17 spot in the Big Dance was their only… ever.