It’s been a rough go of it for Syracuse recently. A second-half implosion against Duke, a hang-on barely win at home against Boston College after being up nearly 20 in the first half, and then a 36-point drubbing at North Carolina. Granted, Duke and UNC are probably the two best teams in the conference and two of the best in the nation.
There have been clear talent deficiencies for the Orange whether it be size, shooting, or other aspects of the game. Every player on the roster in one way or another has struggled, and that’s contributed to not having a single true road win in the middle of January. So, with that, let’s look to the future of the program: Donnie Freeman.
A top-30 player in the 2024 class according to 247 Sports had Syracuse’s coaches watching him over the weekend at the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts according to syracuse.com. Playing at IMG Academy as a senior, Freeman has been working on a lot, but most importantly, his body.
“I put the weight on quickly, but it was good weight at the same time, and that’s really what I needed for Syracuse,” Freeman said to syracuse.com over the weekend. “To compete at this level, I had to bulk up so I could take the bumps, finish through contact, be a better defender, all around with strength.”
Building his body has been important to his success as a senior, and a skill he’s worked on with that is rebounding. It’s been simple for the Orange this season, when they rebound, they win and when they don’t, they lose. That has echoed to recruits.
“There was one game I had where I had no rebounds at halftime,” Freeman said via syracuse.com. “After the game, (Straughn) kind of lit into me about it a little bit. He started telling me that that’s what you need to do, you can’t slack, you’ve got to go and you’ve got to stay like that. It’s not really taking offense to the words, it’s just trying to channel what he’s saying and take it.”
Not only is Freeman working on those little things, but at 6’9, he can do so many different things offensively and defensively, which Adrian Autry knows and is a huge reason why he made him Syracuse’s top priority after becoming the head coach.
“He’s a guy that has versatility on both ends of the floor, that’s why we like him,” Autry said via syracuse.com. “He can guard spots one through five, offensively being able to play him inside, stepping outside, let him start the fast break.”
Shooting the basketball has been a struggle for the Orange recently, with Chris Bell the only semi-reliable option for SU at times. Justin Taylor has struggled, Judah Mintz and JJ Starling have been inconsistent, Quadir Copeland and Maliq Brown are still developing confidence, Benny Williams is shooting under 20%, and that’s pretty much every rotation player. Freeman can change that next year and give Syracuse hope beyond what might be a limited ceiling on the 2023-24 team because of this fundamental lack of shooting.
“We need somebody who can shoot – who can stretch the floor like that – right now,” Autry said Sunday to syracuse.com. “That’s the one thing going forward we’ve got to address.”