Then and Now - Basketball 2023 - The Guards |

Then and Now - Basketball 2023 - The Guards


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011

Joe Girard, a 6-1 190 senior 34.8m 16.2p 3.3r 4.9a 1.9s 0.0b – 7.9mfg 0.4mfg 3.3to 1.5pf = 13.2NP
The team’s leading returning scorer, Joe can return to his high school mode of being the big gun on the team, (although Judah Mintz may have something to say about that). Joe was only #202 and the 29th best combo guard in 247’s composite rankings. When he came here the two great hopes at the point were Jalen Carey (61/7) and Brycen Goodine (97/15). Both were busts, (a warning for over-estimating the current group of recruits), and transferred out, leaving Joe as our only viable option at the point, even though his natural position was shooting guard. Fortunately, he’d been the primary ball handler as well as the primary scorer for Glens Falls high school. He proved an acceptable, if not exceptional, option at the point for this level, even if it wasn’t really his natural position.

Despite his success here, Joe has been a lighting rod for criticism. He’s too short. (I doubt he’s 6-1 just as I doubt Gerry was 6-2). He was too slow, which made him a lousy defender. He had trouble handling defensive pressure and did little to break down a defense and set up his teammates. Those complaints were not false. But those who made them often didn’t give Joe enough credit for what he did for the team. And the position switch should be helpful. Joe can still help out with the ball handling and help keep the ball moving before he gets his deadly shot. Two concerns: How will Joe respond to being the focal point of the defense, (although he was triple-teamed in high school and got plenty of defensive attention as a shooting point guard), and will he see the ball enough if Mintz is playing the point?

Joe’s 2023 numbers: 34.7m 19.1p 3.3r 3.4a 0.9s 0.0b = 26.7+ 9.5mfg 0.5mft 2.8to 1.1pf = 13.9- =
12.8NP 9.1OE 3.7FG TNP: 353 His scoring went up, (at one point he was leading the conference). His assists and steals went down but so did his turnovers, clearly due to the position switch. He missed more shots but then shooting the ball was now his primary job. He hit double figures in 25 of 32 games and scored 20+ ten times, with a high of 31. He shot 43% on two point shots and 38% from three while hitting 87% from the foul line. The interesting fact is that he had to dribble in from outside to get those two point shots and showed an ability to shoot off the dribble and make moves to get open we hadn’t seen before. But his bad games, however few, were really bad. He had a three game stretch in November where he scored only 9 points on 2 for 25 shooting. We lost all three games. He was 5 for 20 in games against Virginia and Virginia Tech and scored 14 point in two more losses. His final game was a 2 for 8 job with 9 points in a three point loss. The season, and maybe Joe’s career here, ended with an off-balance three in a tie game that missed, leading to a buzzer-beater at the other end to beat us. His turnovers were not excessive for a point guard but he was now a shooting guard. He had 5 in a narrow win over a terrible Louisville team 6 of them in a loss to North Carolina and at least 3 in fourteen other games, including 4 in the finale. And they were often unforced, such as dribbles off the foot, and came at the worst times. He played the passing lanes well but was often late to challenging shooters. It gave his critics a lot to complain about but also a lot ignore.

He still has a Covid year. The question is: how much would he improve with another year here? JB told me on his show that Joe would get better. I think he’s pretty much the player he is going to be. He’s certainly not an NBA player but there are lots of places abroad he could win up playing. He’s doing car commercials here so he’s getting NIL but I don’t know how that would compare to what he could make elsewhere. He could decide, as his hero Gerry McNamara did after a couple of years as a basketball vagabond, to go into coaching. With JJ Starling coming in from Notre Dame to possibly joining Juda Mintz in a stellar backcourt, some SU fans don’t want Joe back. Others feel that getting back a veteran guard who is one the league’s leading scorers is a good thing. I wouldn’t blame him if he just left because he was never fully appreciated here.

Judah Mintz, a 6-3 172 freshman
Jim Boeheim saved the best for last in his recruiting class. We thought we had a good class with Copeland, Taylor, Bunch, Brown and Carey...He’s a legitimate three level scorer, meaning he can hit from outside, pull up for short jumpers or drive by people to score. Nunes: “For starters, the athleticism is off the charts for Mintz. In high school, Mintz flashed his ability in transition, get to the rim, and finish through contact. An underrated part of his athletic abilities is that his jump shot looks smooth (when he’s willing to take them). Considering his speed and size at guard, coach Boeheim is right: it’s been a long time since the Orange have rostered a lengthy, athletic, and versatile point guard on the court. The athletic pop Mintz brings translates on both ends of the court. On offense, the Orange really missed an efficient slasher at the guard position who can still hold his own as a playmaker…Defensively, Mintz flashed excellent skills on the ball, especially against elite perimeter players. The obvious concerns for Mintz’s defense center on if Mintz can take strides as an off-the-ball and help defender.”

Mintz is the sort of player who is inadequately described by the limits of a ‘position’. His position is likely to be ‘star’…Boeheim has made comments to suggest he’s putting Mintz right into the starting line-up: “He’s as explosive a point guard as we’ve had here in a long time. He’s like Johnny Flynn, but he’s much bigger.”

His 2023 numbers: 33.3m 19.5p 2.7r 5.5a 2.2s 0.1b = 30.0+ 8.5mfg 1.7mft 2.9to 2.5pf = 15.6- =
14.4NP 9.3OE 5.1FG TNP: 386
Mintz had some growing pains. He had to slowly learn to get his teammates involved, a process that was still evolving at the end of the season. He dominates the ball, bringing it up with his own dribble, rather than passing it to get it down court quickly. He uses his remarkable ball handling skills to set up his own drives to the basket, where he often makes spectacularly difficult shots on banked lay-ups and Dr. J style windmill moves while winning Oscars for his flopping, trying to draw fouls. Hey! It worked! He averaged 7 FTA per 40 minutes and hit double figures six times, twice hitting a high of 13. If the box scores shows ‘fouls drawn’, I might include that in my “net points” formula as getting opposition players out of the game can be a big deal and Judah’s numbers would look even better. But he had to figure out a way to get past defenders without getting called for charging fouls. He fouled out once and got to four fouls in 5 other games, mostly charges. Of those six games, we won just two, over terrible Georgetown and Louisville teams. He only shot 30% from outside although a streak of 7 in a row over three games late in the season got some people excited about his potential there. Judah was ACC rookie of the week five times.

He recently announced for the NBA draft, although he has the ability to come back and play for SU as long as he doesn’t sign a contract or with an agent. It may be a matter of getting the guaranteed money as 1st round draft pick can get or being a second round guy, without the guaranteed. He can get NIL here but I haven’t seen him in any commercials with him in it, (not the only way to get NIL of course). I’ve seen football QB Garrett Shrader and Joe Girard in TV ads. Interesting that they are both white. Is that a factor? As usual, it seems clear that the SU player declaring early has much to improve on in his game and the fans are making much of this: He needs to develop that outside shot and to continue to get his teammates involved more, etc. But it never seems to be decided based on that. JB always emphasizes that there are so few open slots on NBA rosters that you’ve got to find the right situation. Jeremy Grant did. Oshae Brissett sort of has. Tyler Ennis, Tyler Lydon and Malachi did not. Jonny Flynn and Michael Carter-Williams got hurt and fizzled after good starts. Dion Waiters had a pretty good career for a while but never became a star. Donte Green and Chris McCullough hung around for a few years. They may all have been better if they’d hung around here longer. It doesn’t matter now.

Symir Torrence, a 6-3 195 senior 13.1m 7.9p 4.8r 9.0a 1.3s 0.2b – 4.6mfg 1.0mft 2.7to 2.1pf = 12.8NP
The departure of Kadary Richmond a year ago caused plenty of angst among Syracuse fans. He looked like the point guard we’d been waiting for to help us rise out of the muck of mediocrity, but he and JB didn’t seem to get along. Supposedly Jim didn’t want him to shoot and Kadary wanted more playing time, (over Joe Girard) and to have the green light to shoot. He transferred to Seton Hall. Jim brought in Symir Torrence, a reserve at Marquette but a Syracuse native who’d played for the Syracuse Academy of Science. The irony is, coming out of high school, Symir was actually the higher rated player, although at different positions. 247 had Kadary at #90 overall and the #19 small forward while Symir was #75 and the 11th best combo guard. Symir is not a combo guard. He has shown no outside shot to speak of. He’s shown an ability to score from floaters in the lane and even hit a couple of bank shots late in the season. (I’ve always had a love for the “kiss off the glass” since the days of Sam Jones with the Celtics – but he could do it from
20 feet.) What he does do well is to penetrate a defense off the dribble, make them come to him and then look for his teammates. Surrounded by jump shooters, his assists per 40 minutes soared, (see above). Pressed into service as the starter in the ACC Tournament because of Buddy Boeheim’s suspension, Symir had 20 assists in two games against Florida State and Duke, two of the top programs in the conference and he and Joe Girard looked like they were made for each other. They looked like next year’s backcourt – until we recruited Judah Mintz. Now Symir seems limited to a reserve role, held back by the fact that he’s just not much of a scorer. He was said to have worked on his jump shot all spring and summer but so has Judah.

Symir’s numbers: 11.2m 8.6p 5.2r 5.8a 2.0s 0.1b = 21.7+ 4.0mfg 0.2mft 3.0s 2.4pf = 9.6- =
12.1NP 4.4OE 7.7FG TNP: 103
Symir’s playing time faded as Judah Mintz developed and came to be essential to the team. As his playing time declined, the quality of Symir’s performance also declined. He hit double figures twice, getting 10 points in the opener against Lehigh and 12 against Oakland on December 6th. He had 6 assists in that opener but never as many after that. In the last 22 games he scored 40 points and had 27 assists. Symir has entered the transfer portal.

Quadir Copeland, a 6-6 203 freshman
Before Mintz was recruited, Quadir Copeland was to be the point guard in the new class. (247 has him #136 overall and the #17 combo guard prospect. Someday he may be the point guard, perhaps paired with Mintz in a dynamite backcourt. In his highlight films, he’s actually playing forward. But he clearly has excellent passing skills. He can penetrate and dish but he also throws Nolan Ryan-like fastballs through the defense to players in the paint or along the baseline, something we’ve not seen since the Leo Rautins days. He also shows the ability to drive to the basket and score, either with finesse or throwing down dunks and can make the occasional outside shot. Some people questioned his commitment to defense in high school but, as a forward, he was more likely to wait for the offensive players to come to him. He’s also been working on his shot. (Who doesn’t?) With his height he could be a point guard or a point forward. If we went to a three-guard line-up, he could be the third guard and essentially a small
forward at the same time.

Quadir’s 2023 numbers: 9.2m 9.2p 6.8r 2.2a 2.0s 0.4b = 20.6+ 5.9mfg 0.4mft 2.8s 5.5pf = 14.6- =
6.0NP 2.9OE 3.1FG TNP: 27
Quadir never got the chance to show all his abilities because he never got a shot at the point guard spot he was recruited for. He didn’t have the ball in his hands much. He was a big help on the press with his athletic ability. But he displayed very little as far as shooting skills and his passing skills were muted because he was being used at small forward. If he stays he could re-emerge at the point if Mintz leaves and if Starling doesn’t take that job. He may be waiting to see what develops. He’s a talented player and I hope he gets his chance. And works on that jump shot.

Jim Boeheim has called this his “best recruiting class ever”. That may be a bit of pre-season hyperbole. Jim tends to hype his team in the offseason to create interest, then tries to lower expectations once the season begins to take some of the pressure off the team, (and himself). But I like this class very much. Copeland and Mintz seem like very dynamic players. Taylor and Bunche are good shooters. Brown is a demon on defense and Carey a very athletic big man. Williams could still develop into a star player and Edwards and Girard are already there, or close to it. I called our 2009-10 team our ‘Noah’s Ark’ team because we seemed to have two of everything and this current team seems to have multiple options at every position and a great balance of skills.

At the least, this will be a very different team than last year’s, with much more speed and athleticism and a more aggressive attitude on defense, running the break and driving to the basket. We need at least two outside shooters to position on opposite sides of the court. I think Girard and Bunche/Taylor will give us that and we’ll have other guys who can hit threes. October is the time for optimism in basketball, (in football, it’s August). Once the season starts, it gets harder. Since it’s my choice as to how to feel at this time of the year, (or what color glasses to wear), I choose to feel that this will be a better team than we’ve seen in recent years, maybe not the type of national championship contenders we saw a decade ago but at team that will be ranked and should have no trouble starting a new streak and making the Big Dance.

We started a new streak of winning seasons, (we hope), but barely with a 17-15 record instead of 16-17 and against a weaker schedule. We were never ranked and failed to get out of what has become a nine year rut. That convinced Jim Boeheim to retire, (or the school administration that it time he did so). We are starting a new year with Adrian “Red” Autry but nobody knows how it will go or if there will be any kind of improvement or even any difference. Circumstances have changed in college basketball and it may not be possible for this school to return to days of being a powerhouse. One the other hand, basketball requires so few players to turn a program around if you make the right moves, we could come back to prominence at any time. The problem, once we do will be sustaining it.

Our six man freshman class produced one star (Mintz) and one other consistently productive player (Brown) in its first year. Taylor and Bell were disappointments. Copeland didn’t play much and Carey hardly at all. But the original five are all still here so far and if Mintz comes back, we’ll get a chance to see if this group can mature into an impressive unit. Throw in Benny Williams and JJ Starling and we could have our most talented line up in some time. Autry may try to duplicate what Pittsburgh and other schools have done by suddenly upgrading their line-up with veteran players through the portal. We could get good again in a hurry but will we ever be great again?

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