It’s no secret Syracuse has struggled to hit it big in the recruiting world. Over the past couple of years, high-level prospects have constantly considered coming to the Hill, but SU hasn’t been able to seal the deal with any top recruits besides Benny Williams. While Williams struggled and fumbled his way through his freshman season, other first-year performers (and former Jim Boeheim targets) had breakout games on the national stage. There are a lot of “what could have been” moments with Syracuse’s 2021-22 season. If the Orange had scooped up any of these high-caliber players over the past recruiting cycle, the year could’ve looked very different.
Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee PG
Chandler visited Syracuse back in 2019, and had an offer from the Orange. But the nation’s number one point guard chose Tennessee, his hometown school, and had an excellent year for the Vols. Chandler averaged 14 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in his first collegiate season. UT fell to Michigan last night in the Round of 32, but the blame certainly isn’t on the Memphis native’s shoulders. Chandler scored 19 points, dished out 9 assists, grabbed 4 rebounds and swiped 2 steals. He showed Chris Paul-esque mastery in the midrange and blinding quickness to the hoop, both of which SU desperately needed this season. Chandler proved he could’ve started for any team in the country, including Syracuse, last night. He could be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft if he goes to the league.
Chandler and Michigan head coach Juwan Howard also went viral for this touching postgame moment.
Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Tennessee PF
Huntley-Hatfield, a former 2022 prospect who reclassified to 2021, didn’t put up the gaudy numbers of his fellow five-star freshman. However, he slid into a big role for the Volunteers after Tennessee’s starting power forward went down with an injury. The Scotland Campus product played double digit minutes in the last nine games of Tennessee’s season. He looks every bit of 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, and shows a unique combination of athleticism and touch from the high post. Again, something Syracuse was definitely missing. Huntley-Hatfield projects to spend at least one more year in school before he heads to the NBA, and Orange fans
Arthur Kaluma, Creighton SF
Last but not least, the “last gasp” of SU’s 2021 recruiting cycle had a whale of a March Madness. Kaluma committed to Creighton after a long process, signing with and then decommitting from UNLV. Syracuse was in his top four, but the Dream City Christian grad went to Omaha, and found his footing after a slow start to the season. Kaluma scored double digits in 7 of his last 11 games. He was on a heater in a Round of 32 loss to Kansas, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Ridiculous versatility. Something Kaluma has, and something Syracuse doesn’t.
And now it’s a different team with championship expectations. Recruiting misses always come back to bite you, but these just sting a little deeper when it’s in March.