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Why Quadir Copeland Might Be Syracuse’s Most Important Player

Photo courtesy of @CuseMBB on X

Through 10 games under Adrian Autry, Syracuse is still working to develop an identity on both ends of the floor and as a program. The Orange are playing significantly more man-to-man defense than they are zone, ranking 81st in defensive efficiency according to kenpom.com, after years in which SU finished 185th in 2023 and 207th in 2022.

On offense, the Orange are playing a lot of isolation basketball and letting their best players create offense for themselves and for others. Judah Mintz and JJ Starling share a lot of that load, and do a lot of the playmaking for SU. But, one guy who does a lot of the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and when he does, they’re loud, is sophomore Quadir Copeland.

The guard/wing/athlete/whatever you want to call him is arguably Syracuse’s best defender in terms of length, activity, and energy. Plus, on offense, he’s a dangerous playmaker and constantly finds his teammates (and the other team often). Where he’s most impressive is in transition, if he grabs a rebound, expect SU to get up and down the court and for Copeland to do something exciting, as he did at the end of the Cornell game with a tomahawk slam and the Georgetown game, with his one-handed putback dunk.

“He’s active. He can move his feet. He has long arms. He’s naturally an aggressive person,” Autry said after the 80-68 win over Georgetown via syracuse.com. “We just wanted to make Epps work. He’s the real deal. And Quadir has just been getting better each week. Our Syracuse people know, he can make things happen and then sometimes he can make you cry. Today he was really good.”

Copeland’s final line against Georgetown was 14 points, 4 rebounds, an assist, two turnovers, a steal, and a block. He scored just six points against Cornell last Tuesday but hit two huge free throws down the stretch along with his monster slam. His minutes have been going up and down, as he played over 20 against Georgetown and Virginia, but 15 or less against Cornell, LSU, and Tennessee.

“He’s our energy guy,” Starling said after the win over the Hoyas via syracuse.com. “And he proved that today. Sometimes what he does doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. But today it did.”

It did in a way that has people in Syracuse talking about Copeland’s potential as more than just a practice player, as he didn’t play a whole lot last season and the results weren’t there early this year under Autry. But, just as the whole SU team is, improving every week and making an impact in only the ways he can.

“I’m that guy that picks their heads up,” Copeland said after Georgetown via syracuse.com. “Just doing the little things. I get deflections, I’m in the right spots trying to help. I’m opening up spaces for our guards. You know, games change. People miss shots, so the more I can build confidence in them to keep going that’s what I’m going to do.”

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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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