Orange Fizz


Naheem McLeod Deserves An Apology

Photo Courtesy of SU Athletics

It’s been an absence-riddled season for Syracuse Men’s Basketball. It started before it even began when Chance Westry went down with a lower body injury, and has continued through the end of the regular season, most notably Benny Williams’ dismissal about a month ago. But the loss that has hurt the Orange more than the rest is Naheem McLeod. The 7-4 center hurt his foot before the Boston College game on January 10 and has been out since.

Let’s call a spade a spade, McLeod’s numbers when he was healthy were not what you’d call eye-popping. The junior started all 14 games he played, but only played around 14 minutes while averaging four points and four rebounds. As Syracuse’s schedule saw bigs with more agility that could stretch the floor, McLeod’s playing time went down in favor of Maliq Brown. Truth be told, he came in with sky-high expectations that were about as unfair as they could’ve been. McLeod was an interior presence defensively and could grab a few rebounds and score a few layups. What more did you want?

The reason this is so pertinent now is because in last night’s game, Clemson played about as much bully ball against Syracuse as you could imagine. The Tigers’ big man duo of PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin took advantage of the undersized Orange to the tune of a combined 41 points and 23 rebounds. Hall was matched up with Brown, and as impactful as Brown is defensively, it’s hard to guard one of the best bigs in the country when you’re undersized. As for Schieffelin, he had Quadir Copeland on him, who is a guard. Copeland deserves praise for his effort last night and all season, but guarding a man who averages nearly a double-double in points in rebounds and is bigger is an incredibly tough ask. Syracuse’s lack of size really came back to bite against Clemson.

Which brings us to McLeod. If he stayed healthy, things might look a little different. Clemson isn’t the only team with a distinct size advantage over Syracuse in the ACC. Wake Forest is a big team with a bounty of offensive talent, and we know how ugly that game wound up, really hurting SU in the NET rankings. Not to say that the Orange would win if McLeod was healthy, but might he have matched up better with the Demon Deacons’ size? Not only that, he would’ve given Syracuse something every team desperately needs over the course of a long season- depth. Last night is evidence that the Orange have none. It’s a real bummer.

This is not a declaration that Naheem McLeod would have completely saved SU’s season had he stayed healthy. But he got so much unfair criticism when he was playing to the point where he deserves an apology. We really wish he stayed healthy.

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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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