Then and Now (basketball) 2024 | Syracusefan.com

Then and Now (basketball) 2024

SWC75

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This is my annual look back at things I said in my SU basketball preview last October, (which I’ll quote in italics), and my view now on the same point, in March, now that the season is over.

Then:

But he’s, (Coach Autry), in a different position now than he was last year. I remember when Fred Lewis left in 1968, he was succeeded by his top assistant, (and freshman coach), Roy Danforth. The players approved of the change, saying that Coach Danforth understood them better and was easier to get along with. When Danforth left in 1975, he was succeeded by his top assistant and freshman coach, Boeheim, of whom the players on that team said the same thing. I’m sure it’s the same now. A head coach has to be the boss and demand more things of the players. He has to make decisions that aren’t going to set well with some players. The assistant, especially the lead assistant, is the guy who puts his arm around a player and talks him down from being upset in those situations. That will now be somebody else’s job.


Now:

I think this may have been a factor in the behind the scenes problems this team had. Benny Williams may have thought that he now had a coach who would lighten up on him and found he was dealing with someone who had to do the things Jim Beoheim was doing. Maybe he felt betrayed. Maybe Quadir or Judah and the others felt the same way. If they did, that’s on them. Perhaps Red, trying to do what a head coach needs to do, might have overdone it a bit. I don’t know. But he was doing what he had to do now that he was a head coach rather than an assistant.

Then:

Adrian, (everybody calls him ‘Red’ or ‘Coach Red’), will also have to become the face of the program, making public appearances at all kinds of events, doing the weekly radio show, answering for every aspect of what goes on in the games. Nobody knows how that will go, maybe not even him. That may be an even bigger legacy from Boeheim, who was outspoken on every subject, basketball or not and had both a notable temper and sense of humor. He had a real concept of being the most prominent member of the community and that giving him a bully pulpit to comment on everything. I’m guessing Autry will be more like our football coach, Dino Babers, in avoiding controversy, although I doubt he’ll talk in metaphors and movie references the way Dino does. Red will have his own style and we are about to see what it is.


Now:

I thought Red did very well in his new public role as head coach. He gave honest answers to honest questions. He showed a sense of humor, allowing his personality to come out. He didn’t weave stories or change the subject like Dino did. I’m hoping Coach Fran will also surprise me when he starts doing his Coach’s Show. We already know he’s into the community.

Then:

But what fans really want to know is what changes we will see on the court. They tended to assume that Red would be a clone of Boeheim and all the problems we’ve had in recent years would continue. The 2-3 zone has been outmoded by a generation of players who want to be like Steph (Curry), more than be like Mike (Jordan). There’s just too much reliable outside shooting in basketball these days to hang back in a zone and cut off the driving and passing lanes to the basket, (unless they’re playing us: more on that later). Fans want to see at least some flexibility: we’ve got to either play an aggressive zone that can extend itself to cover shooters, a man for man that can follow them wherever they go or a press that that will at least hurry them up and could take the ball away before they ever get into their half-court sets. Red has said that that’s exactly what he intends to do. He wants to get us running like we did in the old days.


Now;

We started out playing man-to-man most of the time. This was a problem when Naseem McLeod was in the game. He was a good rim protector but lacked the mobility to play again a big who could shoot away from the basket. He’s an ideal zone center and we should probably be in the zone when he’s in there. Maliq Brown is the reverse: he’s got the mobility and quick hands to defend away from the basket but lacks the size, strength and shot-blocking ability to battle in the paint. We had four centers. One red-shirted and the other three all got hurt so we wound up with Brown playing in all situations and, with Benny Williams kicked off the team, Justin Taylor playing the ‘4’. Having a power forward playing center and a small forward playing power forward is a bad combination vs. the ACC. We wound up playing more zone than man-for-man. That’s if we were playing defense at all. At times our defense seemed overwhelming because we had good mobility and athleticism and several players with quick hands. We led the ACC in producing turnovers. It often looked like we were taking candy from a baby. But there were other games where we just couldn’t be bothered to play defense at all or seemed overwhelmed, which really angered their new head coach, who admires intensity and energy more than anything else. We hadn’t had a team shoot 60% against us in something like 14 years and had three teams do it this year. In the final game against NC State, we had 9 more turnovers than the Pack did. We scored 76 points a game, normally enough to win these days. But we also gave up the same number.

Then:

One problem: Judah and JJ both shot 30% from three last year. Westry was 0 for 14. Cuffe never even attempted one, (he played 3 minutes in one game before he got hurt). Copeland was 1 for 9. Not a Steph Curry in the bunch. SU fans note that Mintz showed improvement late in the year and in practice for this year and Starling did too. But what we need is a guy the defense will bend itself out of shape to cover. We had one in Joe Girard but he decided to spend his COVID extra year playing for Clemson, (twice against us), after four years of constant criticism here for his defense and ball-handling. Now we’ll see if we can do it without him. Ironically, Boeheim’s 2-3 zone might be the best way to defend us!

The outside shooting may have to come from the forwards. Chris Bell and Justin Taylor came here as freshmen with reputations as shooters. They didn’t do a lot else, so ripping the cords was why they were in there. Taylor had a huge early game against Bryant with 25 points but never more than 12 after that, with only three double figure games for the year. He did hit 39.3% of his three pointers. But he’s got to play and score a lot more than he did to warrant any special attention by the defense. Bell played and scored more but shot only 34.5% from outside, not good enough to be a team’s primary outside threat. Benny Williams, who’s likely to play power forward, shot a surprising 39.6% but in a very limited sample, 48 attempts in 30 games. The defensive focus was elsewhere. The other forward, Maliq Brown was 0 for 0 and probably will be this year, too. Maybe someone will emerge here as a consistent outside threat but we really need to take the ball away and beat the other team downcourt to be successful.


Now:

Judah got off to a good start from three, going 14 for 30 (46.7%) in the first 9 games. But then his shot flattened out and he was only 14 for 55 the rest of the way (25.4%) for a net 28.2%, worse than last year. Supposedly the came back to SU because NBA scouts had told him that he must improve his outside shooting to play in the league. They aren’t going to tell him anything different now but people are saying that he’ll surely go this year. Why? He can make NIL here, continue to work on his shot and maybe get drafted next year. JJ Starling was the reverse: Through those same first nine games he was a dismal 3 for 24 for the arc, (12.5%). After that, he was 41 for 112 (36.6%). He could also hit two pointers and drive to the basket and was basically the epitome of a college 2 guard in the last 23 games. Hopefully he can continue to perform at that level – or better- next year.

Coaches said that Quadir Copeland had good form on his jumper and was making them in practice. The problem is, it’s the games that count and Q went 0 for 9 in the first 12 games. He, too improved, going 11 for 35 (.314) the rest of the way, including a dramatic buzzer-beater to beat Miami in the Dome that produced the most exciting and happiest moment of the season. If he ever became a good outside shooter to go with his other skills, the sky’s the limit for Q. Unfortunately, if he does that, it will be for somebody else, as he hit the portal after the season ended.

Chris Bell was on the up elevator and Justin Taylor was on the down elevator. Both came here with reputations as shooters and the idea was that they would both play small forward and whoever had the hot hand would play. Justin never had another game like that one against Bryant last year and this season, his shooting game went the way of Chernobyl. In his first 12 games, (it’s strange how different players seemed to have their shot change in the same game), Justin was 20 for 58, (34.5%). After that he was an almost tragic 5 for 25 (20.0%). What was tragic is that he seemed to develop a mental block, maybe comparable to baseball players like Steve Blass, Chuck Knoblach and Mackey Sasser – suddenly they just couldn’t throw with any accuracy to the plate, to 1st base or back to the pitcher. They became reluctant to do so and that’s what happened to Justin. Attempting 25 threes in 20 games was as bad as making just 5 of them. He just gave up on it, not even attempting a three pointer in the last 6 games. To his credit, he tried to help the team in other ways, hustling for rebounds, loose balls and playing decent defense. Red set up some plays where Brown passed to him for lay-ups from the high post and that worked for a while but then Justin started coming up short on them. I wonder if having to play out of position against bigger players impacted his confidence. He hit the portal, looking for some place to reset his career with less pressure, as he probably should. It didn’t help that he was a Buddy Boeheim look-alike and sound alike, but he wasn’t Buddy Boeheim.

Bell seems to following the career arc of Demetris Nichols, who struggled his first two years here (23.6% from three, then 25.0%), then blossomed as a junior (36.3) and became the best player on the team as a senior (41.7%). Bell is actually ahead of that schedule, hitting a decent 34.5% last year and 42.0% this year, including 8 for 10 games against Louisville (30 points) and NC State (26 points – all in the first half!). I think he may actually have the most pro potential of anyone on the roster. They love guys that can fill it up and Chris is our most athletic dunker and a good shot-blocker, (especially from behind), as well. The knock on him is that he seemed disinterested in playing defense, couldn’t dribble to set up his own shot or drive to the basket or come off of screens to shoot. He was basically a stand-still jump shooter who could be taken out of a game too easily by sending a single defender out to guard him, (which is how NC State shut him down after that 26 point first half). Also, when his shots weren’t falling, he’d get down on himself and not look to contribute to the team in other ways, (as Taylor did). Chris started to break out of that mold late in the year, getting more aggressive on D, making some simple moves to get an open shot and even using his 6-7 body to grab a few rebounds. He needs to continue to develop in those areas. D-Nic is an assistant at Wake Forest and Gerry McNamara just took the head coaching job at Siena. I wonder if Demetris could come here and mentor Chris through his continued development. Just a thought.

Benny Williams fell to 7 for 34, (20.7%) from three and took himself out of the picture by forcing Red to boot him off the team. Maliq Brown surprised people by hitting 7 for 18 from outside (38.9%), partially because the other team didn’t believe he could score from out there and partially because he’s the type of player who works his ass off to improve his play in every way. That’s what it takes.

We just never had quite enough of an outside game to be a really good team.

Then:

Red also hit the transfer portal to bring in the biggest Syracuse player in history. Not the highest ranked recruit: the physically largest: Naheem McLeod, 7-4 265. He came here from Florida State where Leonard Hamilton collects 7 footers like sea shells and alternates guys at every position. Naheem played 13 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points and 2.7 rebounds. He wanted to play more and the center spot opened up for SU because Jesse Edwards, after going from an unknown to a star here, followed the NIL road, (even though foreign players – he’s Dutch – aren’t supposed to get NIL) to West Virginia, only to see Bob Huggins’ career crash to an end. I hope he’s happy. Behind McLeod is 6-11 Mounir Hima, who has a 7-6 reach and once blocked 7 shots in 18 minutes of play against St. John’s. 6-11, (some say 7-1) Peter Carey is an athletic player who can shoot and pass but has only played 20 minutes of basketball in this decade. He had the Covid year, was injured his senior
year in high school and then was operated on and redshirted last year, despite those 20 minutes. Then there’s William Patterson, a 7-2 high school recruit, (remember them?). That’s a lot of centers, big ones.

Now:

McLeod played 14 minutes a game for 14 games. He often seemed to be going at 33 /13 RPM when everyone else was going 45 and was heavily criticized for it. He couldn’t seem to get the knack of winning the opening tip and some rebounds bounced right in front of him. He seemed less confident with the ball than he looked on those highlights. Some passes bounced off his hands and he held the ball at his waist or tried to dribble it too much, (you are as tall as where you’re holding the ball). Then he broke some bones in his foot and was out for the season. Most fans seem to have dismissed him and feel that he needs to be replaced. But his numbers per 40 minutes were excellent: 14.4m 10.7P 11.9r 0.2a 0.6s 5.3b = 28.7+ 2.6mfg 1.4mft 1.2to 2.2pf = 7.4- =
21.3NP 6.7OE 14.6FG. That’s a double-double with 5 blocks. Most big men can’t play 40 minutes because they foul too much. Naheem didn’t do that. (Maybe there’s a virtue to 33 1/3). He may not have the stamina to play that much but I don’t think we should give up on this guy.

Hima gave up on his career after a year in which he hardly played because he could hardly play. When he was in there, due to some unannounced injury, it was obvious he couldn’t get off the floor and even a guy with a 7-6 reach has to do that. Carey finally got a chance to play – and then got a concussion, followed by some unspecified illness. When he was in there, he tried hard but his skinny body just got banged around too much and he decided to hit the portal. Patterson is a mystery man after a redshirt year. An unidentified coach described him as being “ahead of Jesse Edwards at a similar stage”. Jesse kept working hard on his game and started to contribute at the end of his freshman year, becoming a star his last two years until he went for the NIL bait and played for a lousy West Virginia tam this year. (With him, we might still be playing.) I think the 7-2 Patterson could be a good back-up for the 7-4 McLeod. But his real back-up is likely to continue to be Brown if Donnie Freeman is ready to contribute from day one. Red will have to have Freeman, Brown and Bell on the court at the same time and none of them will play guard. That leaves little room for a “true center”. (But see below for the latest development.)

Looking at their highlights, I wondered if McLeod and Patterson were just big guys convinced to play basketball because of their size or basketball players who are 7-4 and 7-2. I concluded the latter.



Where will big man William Patterson commit? | Syracuse At The Top of His List?!?!


I would love to see Brown in the high post, feeding them in the low post or tossing it back out for open threes. It will be interesting to see how Red handles things – and if he goes for a portal big man. (Again, see below.)

Then:

Maliq Brown, recognizable by his long ponytail, was the mirror image of Benny Williams last year. He stayed inside. He had good hands and good moves around the basket and he could score in bunches in there. He was also a good rebounder. I’ve never seen a high school highlight tape that shows as much of a player’s sneaker-to-sneaker defensive skills and Maliq’s are considerable. He’s also good at stealing the ball and blocking shots – to his teammates or himself. He’s also a fine passer with good court vision. These things were not evident in his limited role last year. I think he could operate as a true power forward or as a center in a man-for-man defense or in the press. His mobility would be a big plus in such a role. One thing you didn’t see on the tape was a jump shot. He never even attempted a three last year. It’s not his game. That would matter a lot less at center than at forward.


Now:

Maliq played almost exclusively at center, due to the limitations and injuries of the centers. He didn’t do as much inside scoring as I recalled last year. Playing at the top of the key, he couldn’t work at the side of the paint as much as he did last year. He did, however, hit 7 three pointers, something I didn’t know he was capable of, (no doubt a result of hard work). He was not a shot blocker, perhaps for the same reason: he was facing the shooter, rather than coming in as ‘help’. But his role as a passer blossomed with him in the high post. Word is he wants to go back to being a power forward but that may be hard if Freeman is ready to play that role next year.

Update: The news came through today that Maliq is hitting the transfer portal, which he had earlier said he would not. There is much speculation as to what changed his mind. It could be NIL money or maybe the coaches wanted him to play center again, which he didn’t want to do. This resolves the issue of how can we recruit or use a portal center with Freeman, Brown and Bell on the team. But it makes you wonder what we will have to deal with next.

Then:

Chris Bell, sophomore 6-7 188

Chris Bell was Chris Bunch when we recruited him. There were times when I thought he might have shot the ball better as Chris Bunch. He was a tall, athletic small forward who was supposed to be a dead-eye shooter but who went 2 for 8 from the arc against Illinois, 0 for 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 for 5 vs. Miami, 1 for 9 against Florida State and 1 for 6 against NC State. Of course he had better games but we’ll need him to do better than the 34.5% he shot from three last season. JB also chose him as his whipping boy, (meaning he had more respect for his talent than for his play), because he didn’t use that tall, athletic body to help the team in other ways, such as on defense, or on the boards. Here were his numbers for the year:
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
Chris needs to significantly improve these numbers this year, both for himself and the team.
He’s an enthusiastic shot blocker. He can basically do it all – if he wants to.


Now:

Chris did improve his numbers:
23.8m 17.7p 3.5r 1.0a 0.8s 1.0b = 29.3+ 8.1mfg 0.3mft 1.2to 2.7pf = 12.3- = 11.7NP 9.3OE 2.4FG
People compare his career to Demetris Nichols, who also struggled in his first two years:
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
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
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
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
In fact, D-Nic was worse his first two years, although he had a better floor game. If Chris could be as good as a junior and senior, (and if he’s playing for us), he could help us win a lot of games. I think Chris is actually the player most likely to make it in the NBA as he has an NBA shot. But he’s got to use his physical abilities to be a more versatile player.

Then:

Justin Taylor, sophomore 6-6 218

Justin came advertised as a Buddy Boeheim clone. He looked and sounded the part. His high school highlight tape looked good – he could score from all three levels. He’s a bit bigger than Buddy and more able to mix it up inside. That tape seemed to indicate he was good at driving to the basket- better than Buddy was, but that trait didn’t show itself last year. Neither was Justin much of a rebounder. He was in here for his shooting. That basically showed up in one game, an otherwise embarrassing loss to Bryant. In that game Taylor dropped in 25 points, going 3 for 6 from the arc and 3 for 3 inside it. He got to the line 13 times and made 10 shots. He added 3 rebounds. It seemed he might be taking over the small forward position. But he never had another game remotely like that.


Now:

He still hasn’t. Offensively, Justin just deflated like a balloon this year to the point where he just didn’t want to shoot. He still hustled and played defense, grabbed some rebounds and made some lay-ups off passed from his pal Brown but it got to the point where even the lay-ups were short of the basket. I hope he breaks through what has obviously become a psychological block and has success at whatever school he goes to here.

Then:

Benny Williams, junior 6-9 210

Benny was a blue chip recruit who could do it all but likes to operate away from the basket and put up jump shots, to the consternation of Jim Boeheim, who wanted his power forward inside, rebounding, scoring and defending the basket, (see Maliq Brown). He was a total bust in his first year here…He looked like a deer in the headlights. It was frustrating because some of the teams we played also had highly recruited freshmen forwards who were far more productive in games we lost…. Maybe he should be the ‘small’ forward. In fact, 247 listed him as one coming out of high school. But he can be even better. They rated him as the #41 recruit in the country and 10th best small forward and a 4 star.


Now:

Donnie Freeman is a 5 star and McDonald’s All-American, the #26 national recruit and #5 power forward per 247. He’s listed as 6-9 190 but looks stronger. I’ve heard estimates of 205 now and hopefully will be stronger than that next year. He looks it through the shoulders. “There aren’t many more naturally talented four-men in the national class of 2024 than Freeman. He has a wealth of tools with good size, soft hands, touch, mobility, and athleticism, that give him the potential to be a versatile two-way player. Those gifts made him a high-profile prospect early on in his high school years, but he’s just now beginning to turn potential into production on a more consistent basis. He’s still fairly undeveloped physically with a leaner base in his lower body and an upper body that hasn’t filled out yet. He’ll need to add a significant amount of muscle mass in the coming years, but if he can do that while still maintaining his ability to run and jump with the same fluidity and agility, there is obvious physical upside. Offensively, he shows flashes of being a true three-range weapon. He’s already a bouncy finisher at the rim who is a shooting threat out to the arc, and likes to rise over contesting defenders from both the mid-post and mid-range areas. He’s not yet much of a creator off the bounce, can get knocked off his spots, and be occasionally turnover prone in the process. Defensively, he can both move laterally and get off his feet to block shots and that versatility should only continue to develop as he adds strength. He’s a solid rebounder, but could be more assertive in that area. Overall, Freeman has all the tools a developing four-man could want, it’s just a matter of him getting physically stronger, making sure the motor is always running at full throttle, and continuing to increase the total impact he makes on both ends of the floor.” (247 scouting report).
Benny’s career here suggests we need to wait and see what Donnie can give us, at least in his first year here.

Then:

Quadir Copeland, sophomore 6-6 200

I love Quadir but he’s likely to be this team’s Forgotten Man. He was recruited to be our point guard only to be recruited over with Judah Mintz, who then elected to return. Now he’s in with JJ Starling, Chance Westry and Kyle Cuff. Quadir’s great pluses, (as a guard) are his size, his defense and his great passing ability. But he has no shot. He could probably be a good penetrator. He was used mostly as a small forward but you have to be able to shoot there, too. It’s also hard to fully utilize your passing ability from that position. He hit 41% inside the arc but was 1 for 9 from three. He did shoot 13 for 15 from the foul line and was a tiger on the press.


Now:

I still love Quadir. He was anything but a forgotten man. The energy level went through the roof when he came into a game. He showed himself to be a great driver and passer and showed signs of developing an outside shot, hitting a three at the buzzer to beat Miami and getting three more against Clemson in the regular season finale. He had 25 points on 10 for 13 shooting and 8 rebounds in our second win over Final Four bound NC State. He had 9 rebounds and 8 assists in another game, (OK, it was Chaminade). He was a hot dog who occasionally had more mustard than relish but he seemed to play the game with a lot of joy and enjoyed playing for the ‘Cuse, making it doubly disappointing when he hit the portal.

Then:

Kyle Cuffe Jr., sophomore 6-2 190

Kyle seemed like an afterthought after we heard that Judah Mintz was coming back and JJ Starling and Chance Westry emerged from the portal. But he’s more than that. His father played for St. John’s in the early 2000’s, (but was a very different player: a 6-9 243 forward). Kyle went to Kansas and played 3 minutes in two games, got a rebound and missed two free throws before getting hurt. Cuffe tore his MCL and PCL ligaments while running up the court in practice. (KU sports.com). Then after he got here and broke a bone in his right hand during the summer. He says that’s been healed and he’s ready to go.

His high school tape shows him as having a quick first step, he can beat everybody down the court and can jump through the roof. He’s the shortest guy on the team but could probably win the dunk contest:

Kyle Cuffe Jr Blair Basketball 19-20 Highlights

I didn’t see too many jump shots and it should be noted these highlights are before he tore up his knee.


Now:

We never saw that Kyle Cuffe. We saw a strong defender who didn’t put up box score numbers and rarely got up off the ground. Will we ever see that Kyle Cuffe?


Then:

Judah Mintz, sophomore 6-4 185

“Junior Mints” was our last and best recruit in last year’s class. He immediately became the point guard and vied with Jesse Edwards for who was the team’s best player. Judah had a mongoose-style weave to get through the defense and/or draw a foul. He often landed flat on his back and often watched his shot roll around and through the hoop anyway. He collected a lot of his points at the free throw line while getting defenders in foul trouble. He needs to get the calls but he usually does. He was an aggressive defender and picked several pockets. He didn’t have much of an outside shot to begin with but started to hit jumpers late in the year. He had a four game 8 for 10 stretch from three before going 1 for 6 vs. Georgia Tech and then made 2 of 3 against Wake Forest to end the season. He wound up at
30.3%, which is less than you’d want for a guard. He had to learn to share the ball more and did so as the season progressed. That will be important with all the talents we’ve got on this team.

Now:

Judah was basically the same player as a sophomore he was as a freshman. Everybody except him has said he’s going pro this time after withdrawing his name from the draft last year. The big question is: how does his game convert to the pros? He still doesn’t have much of an outside shot and looks to score with passing the ball as plan b, or maybe plan c. And he’s heavily dependent on getting the calls from the refs. His flops, like most flops, come after contact, (which he often initiates). Will NBA (or G-League or Euro-league) referees give him the calls he desperately needs? Will he make more in the G-Leagues or Europe than he could make here through NIL? Who knows?

Then:

J.J. Starling, sophomore 6-4 206

JJ is a local kid, having played at Baldwinsville High School before moving to Indiana to play for La Lumiere School, a Catholic college preparatory school. He then went to Notre Dame, (hmmmm…)
He had a good freshman year there but elected to come home when ND coach Mike Brey retired. 247 had him as the #22 overall recruit and the #4 combo guard, a 5 star recruit and McDonald’s All-American, making him the highest rated player on this team when coming out of high school. Here are his numbers at Notre Dame:
29.6m 15.1p 3.8r 1.5a 1.0s 0.3b = 21.7+ 8.3mfg 1.0mft 2.0to 2.6pf = 13.9- = 7.8NP 5.8OE 2.0FG
Those are the numbers of a shooting guard, which is why he’ll be playing next to Mintz. JJ also needs to improve his shot. He was only 29.9% from three and only 63.8% from the line. He’s still another good penetrator, (47.1% from two).

He’s another guy who can get through a defense to score – if that defense isn’t packed in due to a lack of outside shooting on our team. And will we have enough balls for all these guys who like to have the ball in their hands?


Now:

JJ was in low gear early on but then got his shot going and had a solid year offensively:
34.4m 15.4p 3.7r 2.2a 1.0s 0.2b = 22.5+ 7.3mfg 0.6mft 2.0to 1.5pf = 11.4- = 11.1NP 7.5OE, 3.6FG
He improved in virtually every stat: 53.6% from two, 32.4% from three an 71.4% from the line. Has he reached his ceiling or will he continue to improve? He seemed to be deferring to Judah Mintz and later Quadir Copeland much of the time. Will he ‘take over’ with them gone. Can he play the point? Stay tuned.

Then:

Chance Westry, sophomore 6-6 190

This is still another highly rated guard we got out of the portal, although his height suggests he could also be in the mix at small forward. SU really wanted him but he went to Auburn. He hurt his knee prior to the season, tried to give it a go but gave in and had surgery after playing only 11 games. That makes his numbers last year of questionable use in evaluating him:
9.2M 10.3p 3.0r 4.2a 3.0s 0.8b = 21.3+ 9.9mfg 1.5mft 3.4to 6.5pf = 21.3- = 0.0NP -1.1OE +1.1FG
The worst thing was his shooting, which can obviously impacted by a knee injury: 50% inside the arc but 0 for 14 outside of it and 3 for 7 from the line. His highlights:


Chance Westry - Auburn - Secondary ball handler - 2022-23 Transfer Portal Highlights

Syracuse.com: “The 6-foot-6 Westry has the skills of a point guard but ability to play off the ball plus the height and length to defend multiple positions.”

LATE UPDATE: It was reported today (10/21) That Chance had sustained a “lower body injury and has to have “lower body injury” and will be “out indefinitely”. Not again!!!


Now:

Yes, again. People were saying that he was OK by the end of the season and impressing in practice but Red didn’t want to waste a year of eligibility putting him in some late season games. The fact that Judah and Quadir were dominating the ball might also have bene a factor. With both gone, there could be a spot for him in 2024-25. From the highlight film he seems similar to Judah and Quadir. 6-6 is a bit tall for a point guard but that’s Quadir’s listed height and I had hoped he could replace Judah until Q decided to hit the portal. He might also play the 2 or back up Bell at the 3, although he’s a very different player.

Then:

Some general observations:

It’s indicative of modern college basketball that we have one recruited high school player, (who will likely redshirt) and no seniors. Every player could come back next year, which would make it fun to watch this team mature. But just because they aren’t seniors, it doesn’t mean they won’t leave. One saving grace: once a player has transferred, they come under the old transfer rules: if they leave again they have to sit out a year, so there’s a good chance McLeod, Starling, Westry and Cuffe will be here next year. Mintz could certainly leave for the pros. Bell and Taylor have a lot of maturing to do. We’ll see what happens with the rest. But there is a good chance most of these players will be on the next two teams and we’ve got a very good class coming in next year.

Red has used all 13 scholarships. We’ll have 4 centers, 4 forwards and 5 guards. Depending on how those guys develop, we could have tremendous depth. We won’t have injured guys trying to play, as we often had in the Boeheim Era. We could have some disgruntled guys who won’t like sitting on the bench. But with some good prospects on the way for next year, I don’t think Red is worried about that.


Now:

If Judah Mintz leaves for the pros, we now have 6 of those 13 scholarship players still on the team – and with Maliq Brown’s announcement today, 15 days into the portal, we don’t know if there will be further defections. Benny Williams was kicked off the team. Mounir Hima decided to get on with his life. Justin Taylor, Quadir Copeland, Peter Carey and Maliq Brown are now in the portal and Judah is supposed to be focused on beginning his pro career. Does this mean there’s something wrong with the program or Red Autry’s coaching? I have no idea. It may be just what modern college basketball is, (the NCAA rescinded the rule about a second transfer requiring the players sit out a year, so we could lose the guys who transferred in at any point). Any concept of watching a group of young players grow up together is gone and SU fans are pretty bummed out right now.

What we don’t know is what Red is doing about this and who he’s going to get to join the program now. We know he’s got 6-9 McDonald’s All-American forward Donnie Freeman and 6-4 guard Elijah Moore, who just scored 67 points in a state championship playoff game, including 13 threes. That gives him two centers, Naheem McLeod and William Patterson, (whom I haven’t given up on, as some seem to have), two forwards, Freeman and Chris Bell, and four guards, JJ Starling, Kyle Cuffe, Chance Westry and Moore. Red could make a decent team out of that but the frontcourt would lack depth and I’m not sure if we would have a true point guard. If Red wants to have 13 recruited players on scholarship next year, he’ll have to bring in 5 more players. Who will they be? Some more high schoolers? Guys moving up from a lower level of competition, (a DJ Burns or Dalton Knecht would be nice)? Transfers from other power five schools, (probably reserves unless we have plenty of NIL or they were born here)? What positions will they play? Stay tuned. It’s like describing a kaleidoscope.
 
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