As has been the case all offseason around college basketball, the transfer portal giveth, but the transfer portal also taketh. For Syracuse, that has included losing Symir Torrence, John Bol Ajak, Joe Girard III, and most importantly, Jesse Edwards. But, the additions of J.J. Starling and Chance Westry can’t be understated, and they’ll provide a massive defensive and playmaking lift in the backcourt for Syracuse next season. But, one thing remains true, and that is the Orange desperately need to add another center to this roster one way or another.
So far in the portal, Syracuse has missed on Abou Ousmane, who committed to Xavier and is looking increasingly unlikely to land the biggest of fish in the portal, Hunter Dickinson. Other names exist, such as Moussa Cisse, along with others, the Orange could be targeting. Word on the street is mostly quiet about how SU is planning on filling the Edwards-sized hole left on the roster. Papa Kante, a player SU targetted on the high school recruiting trail, asked out of his letter of intent with Michigan and is back on the market, presenting the Orange with another option.
But, the tricky thing that Adrian Autry and his staff are having to navigate is that the transfer portal is not open forever, and the 60-day window that opened in mid-March closes on May 11, which is only a little over two weeks away. That’s still time for the Orange to make a move, but not time for a long, drawn-out recruitment. Autry and his assistants spent the weekend in Atlanta watching the Nike EYBL circuit, with eyes on high school players (such as Donnie Freeman), but that doesn’t eliminate the need for a center in the short term.
The Orange have reportedly had contact with Florida State 7’4 transfer center Naheem McLeod, who torched SU back when the two teams played in February. Adding someone of McLeod’s size and length could be huge for the back line of Syracuse’s defense, which should play multiple different styles in its first season with Autry at the helm.
But, the main point here is that Syracuse needs to start acting with some urgency in the center market because a group of Mounir Hima, Peter Carey, and William Patterson is too inexperienced to take into next season as your only options. While Hima had his moments at times last year, he is still an inexperienced player who fouls too much and is not a great finisher around the basket. Carey missed almost the entire season with an injury and took a medical redshirt, and Patterson is an incoming freshman who has not proven anything at the college level yet.
After what they’ve been able to accomplish by bringing in Starling and Westry, the benefit of the doubt should be given that Autry and his staff can find someone to start at center for the Orange on the opening night of the 2023-24 season, but that needs to happen sooner rather than later before that goodwill evaporates.