It feels like we say this every year, but here we go again. Syracuse is vulnerable inside. Backup center Frank Anselem is in the transfer portal, and starting big Jesse Edwards is coming off of a wrist injury. The Dutchman showed leaps and bounds of improvement last season, but didn’t really remedy his penchant for fouling at an exorbitant rate. He also struggled on the glass at times (Cole Swider led the team in rebounds in 2021-22).
It leads us to ask the question: Who steps up at the center position? It seemed like Anselem was also developing, but then Frank was benched for Bourama Sidibe for the last six games of the season. God bless Jon Bol Ajak, but he was getting run at the forward spots last year, and Jim Boeheim always seemed ready to rip his head off when Ajak was on the floor. It doesn’t seem like he’s the answer. Is incoming freshman Peter Carey an immediate contributor? The verdict is definitely still out, but Carey is 6-foot-11, 205 pounds. He also suffered a knee injury last summer which could increase the time it takes him to get adjusted to the SU system.
Since SU doesn’t have a great 1A option at the center spot, why not hit the transfer portal? Most around Central New York would agree last year’s transfers proved to be eventual positives. And this center wouldn’t necessarily play big minutes, or be on the floor in crunch time. But the opportunity to come to a big-time program and compete for playing time, especially when Edwards’s timeline is unknown, could certainly be enticing.
Here are some names to keep an eye on in the portal:
The Fizz highlighted Huntley-Hatfield last month as a former Orange target who put on a show in the NCAA tournament. A couple weeks later, the former five-star decided he wanted out of Tennessee.
Don’t worry about his “per 40” stats (those are artificially inflated numbers…no big man is going to play 40 minutes per game). However, watch the film, and you’ll like what you see. Huntley-Hatfield shows great versatility on the offensive side, and he has the potential to excel on defense as well with his length and athleticism. As a former SU target out of high school, the Orange should be all in on bringing in Huntley-Hatfield in round two of his recruitment.
It’s pronounced uh-COOK uh-COOK, for those of you wondering.
The Achilles tear is obviously something to be worried about. It takes even the best NBA players a long time to recover from such a severe injury. Some are never the same athletes after the injury. But I don’t buy the concern with regards to Akok. He didn’t play all that much last year because UConn starter Adama Sanogo is one of the best centers in the country. Dan Hurley kept Sanogo on the floor, and there weren’t all that many opportunities for backups. All things considered, It seems like Akok is a prospect worth gambling on. He was a former SU target back in 2019, and showed some real flashes of talent his freshman year before his injury. And let’s keep in mind, he’s coming in to compete for minutes, not play 35 per game.