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Syracuse Loses a Key Piece: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

syracuse.com

After averaging 14 points per game last season in an expanded starting role, the once-Villanova transfer Cole Swider has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to prepare for the upcoming NBA Draft.

This should elicit a wide variety of responses from those in the Salt City. Swider kicked off the season in struggling form, looking like the non-factor player Jay Wright molded him into over three years as part of the Wildcats. For the murmurs about three-point shooting ability, the senior connected on three of his first 22 attempts from distance, all in games against Lafayette, Drexel, Colgate and VCU. So the majority of hope SU fans had for Swider’s length and potential from outside simmered early.

That was until the Rhode Island native scored in double figures in 11 of the next 13 games, further proving that his ceiling had barely been scratched and the potential was there. But that sentiment was none more evident than toward the end of the regular season. Swider erupted in the final 13 games of SU’s long-winded 2022, averaging nearly 19 points per contest, which included 18-point outings against Wake Forest, Boston College and Georgia Tech, and above that point total four more times to finish out the year.

No performance was as gargantuan as his career-high 36 points in Chapel Hill, in which the senior almost led the ‘Cuse to an upset victory over the now-national championship contending North Carolina Tar Heels. Many forget that Swider also dropped 28 points on 60% shooting in SU’s opening round ACC tournament win over Florida State just over a week later.

With the extreme ups, as well as the downs (e.g. 16 games with a three-point clip under 35%), Swider’s impact singlehandedly saved the Orange and did the opposite at times. So with his departure, there is plenty of good and bad to come from it.

Good

Jim Boeheim did a masterful job prepping for this exact scenario. He recruited one of the deepest classes in his tenure with six recruits headed to Syracuse in the fall, which works in tandem with Swider’s decision. Now the Orange can shift toward focusing on their youth.

If Swider chose to stay, his expectation would be along the lines of 30+ minutes, as he received this past season. It would have also restricted Boeheim’s ability to start his new freshman and play them in expanded roles. But with the “3” or “4” slots open (with the graduation of Jimmy Boeheim as well), SU’s coaching staff can branch out in regards to the creativity of its lineups.

Transitioning into the 2022 season, expect Benny Williams, Chris Bunch, Justin Taylor and Maliq Brown to occupy the small forward and power forward positions for time to come. Losing Swider and gaining youth is a net positive that will ensure a bright future for Syracuse Basketball.

Bad

This is quite self-explanatory. Syracuse loses a veteran presence in Swider, who waited until the end of the season to show Syracuse his professional-basketball-ready talent. If the senior stayed for his final year of eligibility and put up the numbers he did during the final stretch of the ’22 season, while also keeping up his smothering zone defense presence, the ’22-’23 team’s chances at a deep tournament run improve tenfold.

Instead, Swider is gone, and Syracuse is back to stage one with its power forwards, and if Williams is any example, a young batch of forwards is as good as a line of question marks.

The Orange also lose a 40% three-point shooter. Many don’t realize that Buddy Boeheim shot the three ball inefficiently in his time in Central New York. The 2022 ACC’s leading scorer nevereclipsed that 40% threshold in any season at Syracuse, but was still touted as the best shooter for the Orange. So with Swider (who was the statistically best three-point weapon for SU) out the door, the only sure fire option from downtown is Joe Girard, unless Taylor, Judah Mintz, or Bunch pan out in the shooting department.

Indifferent

For everyone who does not fit into the two categories above in terms of one’s reaction to the departure of Cole Swider, this section is for you.

The Orange are losing a tall, athletic, experienced forward who played a part in SU’s worst season in a half century. He provided some spark, but as a whole was a product of the system, which includes launching contested shots and dribbling aimlessly. Either way, his impact was major on a 16-17 team, and the group will miss the many strengths Swider brought to Syracuse in his one year with the program.

The senior was dynamic and a great addition for a year rental, and the hope is that he finds his way into the league one way or the other. But for now, it’s time to gear up for the future with or without Swider. The best part about the Villanova transfer is the appeal he garners for the program, especially for shoot-first players trying to find a home outside the transfer portal.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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