Orange fans are beginning to digest Thursday’s announcement by the Syracuse University Athletics Department that Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris all plan on entering the NBA draft.
As unappealing as the prospect of losing these three key players seems, SU fans have already begun to regroup, starting up the inevitable speculation as to the prospects for the 2009-2010 season.
Assuming the worst, which would be that all three players leave SU, head coach Jim Boeheim is left with a couple of huge holes in the lineup. The most glaring gap is at point guard, the position Jonny Flynn has owned since stepping on the court in Nov. 2007.
No one can replace Flynn’s ball-handling finesse and excitement; that’s a given. But Boeheim’s cupboard isn’t completely bare. Scoop Jardine, who sat out last season due to injury, is the most likely candidate to help fill this void.
Jardine, who was ranked 51st on Rival.com’s list of top recruits from the class of 2007, was added to the SU starting lineup in Dec. 2007 after Devendorf’s season-ending injury. Jardine started in 10 games but was pulled from the starting lineup in January after he was suspended for an off-the-court incident.
Despite missing several games due to his suspension, Jardine played in 33 of the 35 games that season, averaging 5.5 points and 2.5 assists per game and leading the Orange in free throw percentage (.829). During the team’s run in the 2007 NIT tournament, Jardine averaged 11.0 points and 4.7 assists per game.
Jardine is no Flynn, but he has been with this team for two years and has had a chance to absorb the culture and team philosophy.
If Jardine fails to impress, Boeheim can fall back on the skills of freshman Brandon Triche.
Boeheim will have less trouble filling Devendorf’s spot in the lineup and will certainly call on Andy Rautins to take over as a starter.
Rautins had some spectacular games this past season, and while he doesn’t have the same aggressive style as Devendorf, he is a better defender. He needs to work on consistency and inside ball-handling, but at least the Orange won’t lose its entire three-point arsenal.
Who will replace Paul Harris? Those in the know believe Boeheim's best bet for the shooting guard/small forward role is Iowa State transfer Wes Johnson.
Johnson's resume is impressive. As a freshman, he was named to the Big 12 Conference All-Rookie Team and was also the Big 12 Player of the Week and Big 12 Rookie of the Week once. He started 30 of 31 games, averaging 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Although he was injured during his sophomore season, Johnson started in 25 games and averaged 12.4 points and four rebounds. He had seven games in which he scored 20 or more points, with a career high of 24 points against Oklahoma State.
Many believe Johnson, who sat out this past season due to eligibility requirements, would have replaced Harris in the 2009-2010 lineup anyway, leading to speculation that this may be one of the reasons Harris made the decision to leave.
SU’s two big men, Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku, will return as starters, rounding out the lineup. While this is good news for the Orange, there is still some concern about Onuaku’s abilities due to his spotty play this past season.
However, Jackson made consistent improvements during the season and could end up being one of the team’s key factors, especially if Flynn takes the leap.
As for Flynn, Harris, and Devendorf, they have until 11:59 p.m. on April 26 to submit their intentions in writing to the NBA office. After that, the NBA will invite players to the five-day 2009 pre-draft camp, which starts May 27. Prospects will be interviewed by NBA scouts, given physicals, and observed in workouts.
Players then have until 5 p.m. on June 15 to withdraw their names from the pool if they have not already signed with an agent. At that point, the NBA publicizes the list. Any player who withdraws by that date and who has not retained an agent can return to school.
It’s important to note that, as a rule, 50 percent or more of those who have declared early withdrew their names prior to the deadline. In 2008, 48 of the 87 candidates opted out and in 2007 there were 84 entries, 46 of whom withdrew.
Orange fans are hoping that in Flynn’s case at least, this will also be the case.