Over the past handful of games (five, to be exact), Maliq Brown has taken a step forward as a player. He has played at least 24 minutes in each of those games, all off the bench, and averaged 9.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in them. Those are not out-of-this-world numbers, but they are a step up from his season averages of 7.9 points per game to go along with 5.4 rebounds a night in 22.1 minutes. But, specifically against Oregon and Niagara, Brown has shown that as a sophomore, he is ready to evolve and take a step forward with his game in a number of key areas.
He has always been terrific about playing his role, that is why Jim Boeheim said before last season that out of the six freshmen he recruited in the 2022 class, that Brown was the most ready to play out of them all. He played in 29 games a season ago and started seven of them, averaging 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds a game on a team that had a lot of offense but not a lot of defense. This season, he has not started any of the Orange’s first 12 games, but he’s 5th on the team in minutes per game and has taken a step forward in a number of key areas.
“He’s one of the most efficient players I’ve ever played with for sure,” Justin Taylor said postgame after SU’s 83-71 win over Niagara via syracuse.com. “He’s really smart. He doesn’t take any really unnecessary shots. It’s all smart, around the rim. He’s really good at reading what the defense gives him.”
Brown’s free throw percentage is up nearly 30%, he’s averaging about 0.5 more offensive rebounds, shooting over 75% from the floor after he shot just under 70% last year, averaging 2.2 steals a game as a forward/big, and has started to move his range back to the three-point line. He’s only taken a couple of threes, but the one against Niagara was an indicator of what could be on the horizon.
“Maliq, wow, I’m looking at the stats, he was phenomenal. 15 and 10,” Adrian Autry said after the Niagara win via syracuse.com. “And again, he’s just scratching the surface. He’s so talented, he does so much for the team. If we can get him to make one or two 3s a game for us, that’s going to be huge for us.”
Brown’s energy off the bench has been infectious, and his finishing ability is precise, which allows him to roll to the hoop or sit in the dunker spot when players like Judah Mintz, JJ Starling, or Quadir Copeland are driving to the basket.
“I know Maliq is a great catcher, a great finisher,” Copeland said after Niagara via syracuse.com. “It’s easy to just throw it up there and trust him to go get it.”
If Brown can consistently expand his range and space the floor, it could make Syracuse’s offense a whole lot more dangerous and improve from its spot at 124 on kenpom.com’s offensive efficiency rankings (SU’s defense ranks 59th for an overall ranking of 86).
Brown is potentially the linchpin for Syracuse’s ceiling this season, and even though he’s a bit undersized compared to other bigs around the country, he still has the potential to make a major impact in ACC play and get the Orange back to the NCAA Tournament.