Then and Now - Basketball 2023: The Forwards |

Then and Now - Basketball 2023: The Forwards


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

Benny Williams, a 6-8 208 sophomore 10.8m 7.2p 5.4r 0.8a 1.5s 0.9b – 5.2mfg 1.3mft 2.2to 3.1pf = 4.0NP
I haven’t kept historical recruit rankings but if I did and made a comparison of ranking vs. statistical performance in a freshman year, then Benny Williams would likely be at the bottom of the list, at least at SU. He came in ranked #32 overall and the #8 small forward. He was a deer in the headlights all season. Nothing he tried to do seemed to work – when he was actually trying to do something. He shot 34% from the field, 9% from the three point line and 62% from the foul line. On January 8th he made a jumper with 5:31 left in the first half against Wake Forest. On February 19th against Boston College, 42 days - 6 weeks - later, he made a lay-up with 11:31 left in the first half. In between those shots, he missed 16 shots in a row. He didn’t rebound a lot, rarely made a successful pass, made a few steals but not many blocks. At least he avoided turnovers and fouls pretty well for a freshman.

I’m hearing that Benny has grown two inches since last season, making him 6-10. What he needs is to grow his confidence so he can use his skills to dominate at this level. Maybe it was too easy for him to dominate high school kids. If he does have a big comeback year, he essentially becomes another member of this year’s recruiting class, maybe the most important one. Last year he was an imposter.

Benny’s 2023 stats: 22.4m 12.8p 7.3r 1.5a 1.4s 0.5b = 23.5+ 6.3mfg 0.8mft 1.7to 2.0pf = 10.8- =
12.7NP 5.7OE 7.0FG TNP: 213 Everything good went up. So did missed shots and turnovers but he had the ball more and a more important role on the team. His two point shooting, (.465 from .392) and three point shooting (.396 from .091) and free throw percentage (.650 from .619) all improved, although the first and third could get better and the middle one needs to be maintained, or close to it. His fouls went down even though he was more active, indicating he did a better job of being where he needed to be to make plays. 12.7NP is enough to warrant a starting position, (I use 10.0 as the cut-off) but well short of what we expect from power forwards, (18.4) and small forwards (16.1), which are the two positions Benny played. Benny was Jim Boeheim’s whipping boy much of the season as he expressed exasperation about Benny’s unwillingness to mix it up inside or close on shooters. As people complained about Jim’s starting line-up, he started defending Benny, (and thus himself) more. Late in the season, Benny upped his game with 24 points and 9 rebounds in the loss at Pittsburgh, 11/7 and three assists at Clemson, then a bad game in the win over Wake Forest, getting yanked after 8 minutes with two missed shots, no point and a rebound but a good comeback in the ACCT loss to the same team with 18/11. It’s strange that his best games came in the losses and his worst in the win but the issue is simply one of consistency. We need Benny to become a reliable mainstay of the team next season. That’s the next step. Every player, even the highly recruited ones, has his own schedule of development. If they don’t become too discouraged and are given a chance to blossom we can find out what their destination is. Hopefully, we’ll find that out in Syracuse.

Maliq Brown, a 6-8 213 freshman
Maliq hasn’t gotten as much attention as most of the other freshmen but I found him a very impressive player on his highlight films, with one notable reservation. 247, (which lists him as 6-9 210), has him as the #220 overall prospect and #48 power forward. When I look at his highlight film I see an aggressive, athletic defender with long arms, quick hands a natural knack for blocking shots and making steals. He’s also a fine passer, both from the outside in and from inside out, especially to start fast breaks. He’s got a lot of moves to and around the basket. His tape is unique for two things: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tape that has extended sequences of what I call sneaker-to-sneaker defense: just getting all over players defensively, denying them a shot or a route to the basket. And I’m sure I’ve never seen a highlight film in which a player doesn’t at least attempt a jump shot, even a short one. Apparently, Maliq has no game facing the basket at all but he has everything else. Also, in his tape he’s playing center, not power forward. I think he’s classified as a forward at the college level because he’s not a seven-footer but he really has the skills of a center and looks as if he could play it better than most taller players. He could see time at forward but he also could be in the mix to back-up Jesse Edwards.

His 2023 stats: 20.2m 11.3p 9.1r 1.7a 1.8s 1.0b = 24.9+ = 2.2mfg 0.9mft 1.6to 2.0pf = 6.7- =
18.2NP 8.7OE 10.0FG TNP: 267
Maliq never was the defensive tiger described above, maybe because he was exclusively a power forward. Instead, he proved to a sanitation engineer, first class. He cleaned up many an offensive mess by gathering in the ball and quickly putting it in the basket. He hit 69.8% of his field goals, all of which were two pointers. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as good a free throw shooter: .567. He scored so quickly and smoothly that the defenders didn’t have time to foul him much of the time. Despite being purely an inside player, he got to the line only two times per 40 minutes. Ince that was likely to be a shooting foul, it's basically once a game. He was a good rebounder (9.1) but could be better. Our best line-up was Maliq as the power forward and Benny as the small forward but, as Benny needs to get more consistent, Maliq needs to expand his game, developing a back-to-the basket game and a short jumper and playing defense as he did in that high school tape:

Chris Bunch, a 6-7 180 freshman
Chris was the most highly ranked of the original five recruits, (before Judah Mintz signed on). 247 rated Chris #107 overall and #27 small forward in their composite rankings but their own scouts rated him higher than that: #61/#19. He’s known as an athletic leaper with an excellent and deep jump shot. We’ve lost a lot of firepower with the Boeheims and Cole Swider leaving and he could supply some of the deep threat we need to open up defenses. He’s not known as a great ball handler or defender. 247 describes him as being good at “straight line rim attacks”. He does like to use his leaping ability to come out of nowhere for “help” blocks or to mess up fast breaks. In that respect he reminds me of both Alan Griffin, (not our coach of the same name) from two years ago and also Wes Johnson from our 2010 team. One thing many have noticed and wondered about is that Chris seems to start his shot from his chest, not above his head. It seems likely that could lead to blocked shots or difficulty getting a shot off at all against aggressive defenders. But others have pointed out guys in the pros who seem to have a similar motion and the highlight clip shows Chris using his quick leaping ability and also a ‘step-back’ move to get his shots off.
Update: Chris Bunch announced on 10/25 that he’s legally changing his name to Chris Bell.

I don’t know how well Chris Bunch would have played but Chris Bell was not very impressive. Here are his stats: 20.1m 13.2p 3.6r 0.9a 0.5s 0.5b = 18.7+ = 7.1mfg 0.3mft 1.5to 2.9pf = 11.8- =
6.9NP 5.8OE 1.1FG TNP: 103 He shot 80% from two and 80% from the line, which is fine but his job was to provide a second three point threat opposite Joe Girard. 34.5% wasn’t quite good enough to do that. He had nine double figure games with a high of 17 vs. Notre Dame when he was 5 for 8 from three. But he also had 5 games where he didn’t score at all and seven more when he scored 5 points or less. And he did so little else. 3.6 rebounds is OK for a guard but not a forward. He had eight games without any and seven more with just one. He had 13 assists, 7 steals and 8 blocks, none of them of the spectacular “from behind” variety. Chris was often a scapegoat for defensive lapses, as well. As with Benny Williams, we need to be patient. Comparisons have been made with Demetris Nichols. Here are his yearly stats in his career here:
14.2m 9.9p 5.3r 1.4a 1.4s 1.5b 19.5+ 7.2mfg 0.9mft 1.4to 4.3pf 13.8- = 5.7NP 1.8OE 3.9FG TNP 61
12.9m 12.1p 6.5r 1.5a 1.3s 0.9b 22.3+ 7.3mfg 0.6mft 2.9to 3.7pf 14.5- = 7.8NP 4.2OE 3.6FG TNP: 69
33.3m 16.0p 7.0r 1.7a 1.5s 1.1b 27.3+ 7.6mfg 1.0mft 2.2to 3.3pf 14.1- = 13.2NP 7.4OE 5.8FG TNP: 388
34.8m 21.8p 6.2r 1.8a 1.6s 1.2b 32.6+ 9.1mfg 0.7mft 2.5to 2.4pf 14.7- = 17.9NP 12.0OE 5.9FG TNP: 545

Justin Taylor, a 6-6 205 freshman
Justin was described early-on as Buddy Boeheim clone. He looked, sounded and played like Buddy. But there are differences. For one thing, he’s already bigger than Buddy, (I’ve seen him listed as 6-7, 205). For another, he’s doing things in his highlight tape I haven’t seen Buddy do, like driving through the defense to the rim to dunk the ball in. He seems like a more complete player as a high school senior than Buddy was as a college senior. And, unlike Chris Bunch, he holds the ball high to keep it away from defenders and seems like a deadeye in his tape, able to score at three levels. He hit a slump late in his senior season, causing the more cynical posters to declare that he isn’t much of a shooter and can’t help us get out of our rut. But he sure looks good on the tape:

I see a guy who can make all the shots. He might not have Buddy’s range but he’s a more versatile scorer. He’s also big enough to be a legitimate forward and help out on the boards a bit.

Here are Justin’s 2023 numbers: 16.7m 10.1p 4.3r 1.6a 1.4s 0.5b = 17.9+ = 5.4mfg 0.4mft 0.6s 2.1pf = 8.5- = 9.4NP 4.3OE 5.1FG TNP: 112 He had one great game - in a loss to Bryant, (a lot of our best individual games seems top have come in losses). He was 3 for 6 outside the arc but also made all 3 of his two pointers and got to the line 13 times, making 10 for 25 points. He never had another game remotely like it. He hit double figures only in two other games: 10 points in a game against Virginia tech 51 days later and 12 in a rematch 17 days after that, (Taylor is from Virginia). The rest of the time he seemed to be just wandering around, wondering what to do. In the loss at Pittsburgh, he played 12 minutes in the first half and recorded no other statistic, (they call that being a “billionaire”: one number followed by a bunch of zeros). He wound up with 1 point and 1 rebound in 17 minutes. Compare his stats to Buddy Boeheim’s freshmen year, where he struggled early but became more productive as the season wore on: 16.1m 15.9p 3.8r 2.4a 1.3s 0.2b = 23.6+ 8.6mfg 0.5mft 1.8to 2.8pf = 13.7- =
9.9NP 6.8OE 3.1FG TNP: 136. Buddy had more negatives but was more productive, especially on the scoreboard. I still think Taylor could turn out to be the better player. You can see he’s well-built and strong and could help out inside. The tape shows him driving to the basket to score, which Buddy couldn’t do his first two years here. JB said that he didn’t play inside in high school and hasn’t learned to do it here yet. What’s the point of having muscles if you aren’t going to go inside?

John Bol Ajak, a 6-10 216 junior 5.1m 2.5p 6.4r 2.5a 0.4s 1.1b – 2.8mfg 0.3mft 1.4to 5.4pf = 3.0NP
John Bol came in with Jesse Edwards and had a similar reputation as a good offensive big man but wasn’t as talented or far along in his development and redshirted his first year and has hardly played since. He entered the transfer portal after the 2020-21 season but came back when he got no offers. He’s played 112 minutes in his career here, with his averages above. If he plays significant minutes with all the options we have at forward this year, the season will likely be a disaster.

His 2023 stats: 9.2m 4.7P 8.3R 6.3A 1.3S 0.7B = 21.3+ 2.0mfg 1.0mft 3.0to 4.0pf = 10.0- =
11.3NP 1.7OE 9.6FG TNP: 34 Interesting that John had the highest rate of assists per 40 minutes on the team. Mintz was 5.5 and Torrence 5.8.
John did play a fair amount early in the season when the young forwards weren’t ready but his playing time diminished to nothing – and the young forwards still weren’t ready. After the season he hit the transfer portal for the second time in his career. A couple of years back, he got no offers he liked and returned to the team. I think he means it this time.

We had a highly productive center and two highly productive guards. Why didn’t we have a highly productive season? The forwards. Too many billionaires.


Woman of a certain age
Aug 27, 2011
The forwards. I knew it!
Squint Narrow Eyes GIF by League of Legends

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