Syracuse basketball has its roster set for next season, and that’s with or without Judah Mintz in the picture. The Orange lost Joe Girard III, Symir Torrence, John Bol Ajak, and Jesse Edwards to the transfer portal, and have replaced them with JJ Starling, Chance Westry, and Naheem McLeod, all of whom can provide different skill sets that Syracuse didn’t have last season.
McLeod’s commitment Monday solidified that and gives SU a starting center for opening night, someone who can do a lot of the dirty work on defense, block shots, and provide an intimidating presence in the paint. On offense, he’s a screen setter and someone who can finish lobs at the rim. Paired with guards like Starling, Westry, Quadir Copeland, and potentially Mintz, Syracuse’s offense can look markedly different than last season when Girard, Mintz, and Edwards were the only offense the majority of the time.
McLeod’s commitment is the fourth total since Autry became the head coach, three via the portal, and Donnie Freeman is the only high school player in the class of 2024. Based on what McLeod told Syracuse.com, Autry’s recruiting skills are shining so far.
“When I was on my visit, I really bonded with the coaches,’’ McLeod said Monday night, just hours after announcing his decision to play for Syracuse. “We talked about life situations. (Autry) wanted to know about my plans after basketball and how I see my life progressing when I depart with Syracuse and when basketball is all over.
SU has put together a roster of size, athleticism, length, and versatility as it heads into the first year of the Autry, McNamara, Griffin, and Straughn administration. All that awaits now is May 31st, the deadline for Mintz to decide if he’s staying in the NBA Draft or coming back to school, which will be Syracuse as he did not enter the portal before that closed on May 11th. With the NBA Combine ongoing, it’s unclear where Mintz stands, but his performance this week will be vital to his draft slot.
“This is a really wide range, but right now I’d say 20 to 40,” an Eastern Conference scout told syracuse.com. “Chicago is going to be really important for him. I think he’ll have a good idea of where he slots after Chicago. I think it all depends on his ability to shoot the ball.’’
We’ll see what happens with Mintz, but it’s fair to assume that it’s more likely than not he stays in the draft based on current rumblings and rumors, but there’s still a chance he comes back to Syracuse, a la Terquavion Smith at NC State, who starred in his second year with the Wolfpack this season and is now headed to the draft after improving his skills.
But, whether or not Mintz returns, Syracuse is poised to have a better season next year than the campaign prior, and that’s thanks to a variety of factors, but most importantly, Autry’s ability to fill holes in the roster and create a more versatile group, which will be poised to succeed.