It’s been three weeks to the day since Adrian Autry was introduced as Syracuse’s next head coach, and since that day, everything he’s done with his staff and his roster has been deliberate and strategic. First, it was bringing in J.J Starling, a player he recruited throughout high school, and now is maybe the most talented player on Syracuse’s roster. He lost some pieces like Symir Torrence, John Bol Ajak, and Joe Girard III, but for Autry, he’s trying to build a team of athletes and run up and down the floor, and Girard doesn’t fit that profile.
The question mark is Judah Mintz, who entered his name in the NBA Draft but maintained his eligibility. There are multiple opinions as to whether Mintz should keep his name in the draft of return to school. Right now, he’s projected as a mid-second-round pick, but if he were to return next season and continue to improve, there’s no reason he could move into the mid-first-round. But, it all depends on what happens at the combine and in the pre-draft process, and if he gets any promises from teams. It’s a waiting game now.
Then, finally, this week we started to hear news on the rest of Syracuse’s roster. Benny Williams is coming back and Chris Bell is coming back. That’s the two Orange forwards who started the majority of last season. You would think those spots are not guaranteed for next season, and there will be competitions in training camp and the preseason for those starting roles, but based on experience Williams and Bell would seem to be in the driver’s seat.
There have been no official announcements from Quadir Copeland, Maliq Brown, or Justin Taylor, the other freshmen from last year (Peter Carey took a medical redshirt so we know he’ll be back) haven’t said anything, but at this point, it should be expected that Autry retains them. But, the big decision now falls on Jesse Edwards, and if he’ll use his final season of eligibility. The Orange could use him, and he’d fit with how Autry wants to play. Another waiting game.
So, the Syracuse roster is coming into focus. Lots of continuity around the board, with players from similar areas of the country, guys who have played in Syracuse before, and a coaching staff that has three of its same members from last season, plus a new member in Brenden Straughn who hails from Autry’s favorite recruiting battleground, the DMV, and has ties to players like Judah Mintz and Benny Williams.
Continuity with the players on the floor, and with the coaches off it. Now, the Orange just need to find a veteran guard in the portal who can ease the burden of Starling and potentially start next to him, or play a third-guard role if Mintz returns. That’s the final piece to the SU roster (along with the rest of the freshmen returning) and how the Orange continue to build something back. Maintaining continuity in the wake of a massive coaching and program change is not something a lot of teams could’ve pulled off, but Autry looks well on his way to having a lot of talented players on the court for him in year number one, and that’s thanks to continuity.