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Judah Mintz is the Best Syracuse Freshman Since…

syracuse.com

Let’s put SU’s loss to No. 17 Miami to the waist side for a second.

After Syracuse’s 78-73 win over Notre Dame marked SU’s fifth conference win, the earliest the ‘Cuse has won five conference games since the ’11-’12 season. Yes, the days of Michael Carter-Williams, Dion Waiters, CJ Fair, Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas, Scoop Jardine, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche. Turn the clock forward and names like Jesse Edwards, Joe Girard, Judah Mintz and others shine. With all this talk of Syracuse basketball history being made a couple nights ago, let’s dip into what else history has to offer.

To many, Syracuse is a powerhouse and a blue blood, but to some, those days have expired. For those who don’t believe in SU’s prowess, what can’t be ignored is the star power the Orange attract. For those who do believe Syracuse is still a gold standard program, knowing the Cuse recruit show stoppers should be a given.

Which brings along this season’s hush debate: where SU’s premiere point guard, Judah Mintz, lands among all-time Cuse freshman. A topic that should be talked about more. Of course headlines can surround Edwards and Girard due to their augmented seniority role, but the possible future of SU lies in the hands of Mintz, which should create more buzz than it is amongst the media.

Let’s get one player out of the way. Mintz is not remotely as good as the best freshman in Syracuse basketball program history, Carmelo Anthony. The future NBA hall of famer transcended boundaries and achieved SU’s only title, so unless Mintz does exactly that, no matter the numbers the Maryland native boasts, Mintz cannot top Anthony. Speaking of numbers, Anthony scored in double-figures in all 35 of SU’s games back in ’02-’03, a feat no other freshman has accomplished. He also recorded 23 double-doubles, which is the third-most by any player in Cuse history (to put it in perspective, Edwards has ten during his entire career). So, the case is closed there.

That being said, does he have an argument for the second best?

Well now it’s time to dig historically. The late, great Pearl Washington tallied a freshman-record 199 total assists in ’83-’84 and averaged 14 points and six assists. Mintz only has 84 assists, but with plenty of season left, the former four-star recruit has plenty of time to increase his passing numbers, while also totaling nearly 15 points per contest, a higher clip than Pearl. Now this comparison might seem blasphemous with Washington’s number in the rafters and his representation as only one of six members of Syracuse’s ring of honor. But again, this is just a deep dive into freshman statistics and impact. In ’83-’84, Pearl’s team went 23-9 with an NCAA tournament appearance. While Mintz is in the midst of leading his team to a 12-6 record. So this comparison might have to wait until the end of the season in terms of total impact.

Now to turn the record books forward to the 90s and the all-time leading scorer in Big East Conference and Syracuse history, Lawrence Moten. As a freshman, Moten averaged over 18 points per game, the second most points averaged by a freshman (only to Carmelo). For a ’91-’92 team that won the Big East championship, Syracuse placed its scoring load on the freshman and he did not disappoint. But, the argument for Mintz over Moten is the current freshman’s total body of work. No one is disputing Moten’s scoring prowess, as he scored in double figures in 118 of 121 games over a spectacular four-year career, but in terms of rebounds and assists, Moten didn’t shock the world. The argument for Mintz is not flabbergasting in this case as SU’s current point guard leads ACC freshman in scoring, is 6th among division one freshman in scoring, and is top 15 in entire league in points per game, only 18 games into his young career. The scoring is there, which matches Moten’s talents, but with Mintz, there is so much more too.

Derrick Coleman ranks second among SU freshmen in rebounds and with 68 blocks. He was also named the Big East’s Rookie of the Year. Gerry McNamara averaged 13 points and just over four assists per game during the ’02-’03 campaign. The now-SU assistant coach famously hit six threes in the first half of the national title game too.

Other names like Billy Owens, who is the only non-point guard among the top five SU freshmen for steals, Roosevelt Bouie, who was the first ‘Cuse commit after Jim Boeheim’s hiring as head coach and leads SU freshmen with 91 blocks, and Tyler Ennis, who averaged 13 points and five assists for a team that started the season 25-0, are just a few of the other Orange standouts as first years.

A close comparison Mintz has drawn most of the season, even muttered out of Boeheim’s mouth, is Johnny Flynn. A player that still ranks fourth among SU freshmen in scoring and rebounding average, with 16 points and five assists per contest. These stats closely mirror Mintz’s statistics so far this season, which sit at 15 points and just under five assists per game.

Now let’s bring the Miami game into consideration. That game, particularly its ending, is the reason this should be a conversation. Did Mintz have a couple foolish turnovers and a poor play at the end to possibly win it? Many would say yes. But the comparisons and list above say a lot about the Maryland native’s full body of work, which is what should be judged this far into the ’22-’23 campaign. Let’s not rag on a freshman for one bad performance. If that starts to become the case, read this article again to gain perspective on the names Mintz is challenging among the best freshmen in Syracuse men’s basketball program history.

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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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