Plenty of high school studs never pan out as college stars. Projecting how a 17 or 18-year-old will compete against his peers at the next level can be a crap shoot. Players need the right fit, and are adjusting to life away from home for the first time in many cases. (Although that is fading away as the elite join far-flung prep powerhouses across the country.) A college staff needs to spend enough time around a player, while also considering the intel they get from coaches, to make as sure as possible what they are seeing in high school can somehow translate.
Staffs like Syracuse also need to take some risks by offering raw players who might be under the radar, but will grow into a star. While SU has the luxury of jumping in later than lower tier programs and being selective with offers, they can’t assume like Duke, Kansas or Kentucky that their offer automatically blows every other out of the water.
This brings us to this year’s targets. The Orange just landed Chris Bunch, a 4-star talent. SU was one of the first three to offer him back in April ’20. Rutgers, Seton Hall and SU handed him his first three offers all within a week of one another. They would be 15 months earlier than Washington, who ended up being one of his finalists. Smart scouting by the Orange and the relationship paid off.
Last summer the Orange offered Justin Taylor, and was arguably the first true powerhouse to do that. His first offers came from JMU, Liberty and Old Dominion. NC State, Maryland and Virginia Tech came in June, and then the Orange followed in July ’20. Taylor’s stock kept rising, and ultimately Virginia and UNC offered more than 6 months after SU. He became a 4-star stock, and the ability for the Orange to see that earlier than its rivals helped land him.
For Kyle Filipowski, Duke’s offer came in late June ’21. UNC and Kentucky’s came in July. Ultimately, the player they call “Flip” chose the Blue Devils late that month. But the Orange was in on Filipowski much earlier. In fact, SU handed him an offer in April, two months before Duke, which can be an eternity in elite basketball recruiting.
SU hoped to build a relationship with him that would win out in the end. But the Orange were actually late compared to a laundry list of others. Flip’s first offer was from Providence in March of ’20, followed by Vandy, UCLA and Xavier. In fact, he’d have 20 offers before the Orange, all from high major programs. It certainly wasn’t discovering a diamond in the rough, but Filipowski also wasn’t what he is now.
Today, Flip is a 5-star prospect and the 8th ranked player in his class. Yes, when you get an offer from Duke and accept it, the scouting services rate you differently. It can be a chicken-or-the-egg. Did Flip get ranked higher “because” he got offers from Duke, Michigan and UNC?
Even if that is part of the game scouting services play, Syracuse came in and saw his value before those three bluebloods, and two full months before Duke. He was a late-bloomer, but ultimately he did things on the court that few 7-footers can. His summer AAU season blew scouts away and made him highly coveted, but SU knew they wanted him before that. He was nowhere close to a top-10 talent when SU got in on him. He was between the 40th and 50th ranked player back at the beginning of ’21.
SU has a top 10 class, and a future starting five many schools could only dream of. Credit Gerry McNamara, Adrian Autry and the entire staff for having vision and foresight to assess significant talent instead of just following others. There’s no guarantees any player becomes a star in college, but it’s a sign the Orange scouting is on point in a big way.