Several weeks removed from Syracuse men’s hoops’ final game of its 2021-22 season, the focus has shifted almost entirely to the team’s construction heading into next Fall. On last weekend’s Fizz Five, we touched on basketball a couple times, including a conversation about whether or not SU should dip into the transfer portal again for talent going into 2022-23. A transfer announcement yesterday from one of the NCAA Tournament’s most impressive first-round performers only goes to show just how hard Syracuse will have to think about bringing transfer players in.
Yesterday, it was announced that Colgate senior guard Nelly Cummings had entered the transfer portal. If you feel like that name rings a bell, it’s because Cummings was one of the guys who ripped Syracuse’s entrails out back in November when Colgate came to the Dome and smoked the Orange by 15. Cummings’ performance in that game – 18 points on 6 three-pointers – set the tone for the type of high-flying ball that eventually propelled the Raiders to March Madness. Once there, it was Cummings who again impressed, putting up 20 points as Colgate pushed 3 seed Wisconsin to the brink last Friday.
Already, Cummings has attracted the attention of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and some other lower-level ACC teams. His level of talent as a fifth-year player in 2022-23 is highly valued, and presents a dilemma that’ll become awfully familiar to Syracuse over the course of this offseason. Would Cummings, with his shooting acumen and 110 assists last season, be a better offensive guard to slot in ahead of Symir Torrence next season? It takes a whole lot of mental gymnastics to come up with any answer other than “yes”. However, SU may not pursue him or other similar, established players. It may be wise, because the team would likely end up losing in the long run.
The same transfer system that allowed SU to bring in duct tape players like Jimmy Boeheim, Cole Swider, and the aforementioned Torrence is the same one that would allow any one of its highly-rated Class of ‘22 quintet to slip away. If Syracuse showed that it wanted to prioritize experience over letting its new freshman class show out, it’s an easy bet to think at least one or more would transfer depending on who wasn’t playing. If he’s to be taken at his word, Benny Williams won’t leave this offseason despite his mostly-anonymous role on last year’s team. The Orange are lucky if so, because Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton sought greener pastures in 2021 after similar experiences. It would hurt even more to lose one of 2022’s freshman gems for the same reason, and bringing in experienced transfer pieces would only increase those odds.
Jim Boeheim has mostly succeeded lately in spite of calls to play his freshmen more. His resistance has indirectly caused some of his better recruits to break off from the program. Boeheim may prioritize experience, but doing so this season with any potential transfer pieces may go against the expectations of his incoming class. After 46 years on the job, Boeheim likely knows as well as anyone that difficult choices like these are where he earns his money. It’s an unenviable line to walk, and one he’ll have to delicately toe as we venture into Summer.