The 2014 Syracuse recruiting class is off to a great start with the commitments of 5-star forward Chris McCullough and 4-star guard Kaleb Joseph.
However, as of today, Syracuse has only one scholarship left to offer for that season. The three scholarships come from the graduation of C.J. Fair and Baye Keita and the early departure of Michael Carter-Williams.
This means, that barring anyone leaving early, the last Orange scholarship is a valuable commodity and must not be treated lightly. Depending on how this season turns out, there could be major holes to fill or just a few spots that need touch-up.
Furthermore, players other than Fair and Keita leaving could be the result of Syracuse having a great season with a few breakout performances or departures could be the result of a mediocre season or disgruntled players.
Don’t forget a truculent Dion Waiters wanted to leave after his freshman season due to lack of playing time among other reasons. Cooler heads prevailed, but that isn’t always the case.
The current crop of players doesn’t seem to have any vitriol towards the program and should mesh together nicely. This is no accident, of course. Head coach Jim Boeheim and his staff have been on a recruiting high and getting players to play in the Syracuse system takes more than just going out and getting the best player available.
That’s not to say that Boeheim wouldn’t take the best player available; it means that there is a desirable mindset, body type and skill level that is required for a student athlete to prosper in the Syracuse system.
Being that there is only one scholarship available, here are the biggest questions that will come up in the Orange’s recruiting plans for the 2014 season.
Freshman Tyler Ennis is being touted as an all-world point guard who has the chops to be a one-and-done player and jump right into the NBA.
This would be a blessing and a curse for Syracuse as Ennis will fill in for the departed Michael Carter-Williams and will be the team’s only true point guard.
The blessing would be that Ennis had a great season and consequently, the Orange had a great season.
The curse would be that without Ennis, 2014 commit Kaleb Joseph would be the lone point guard for the Orange.
Ennis could very well stay on, which would bode well for Joseph, who could provide relief for Ennis in his sophomore year and could play pressure free.
This would be the best-case scenario. Otherwise, Syracuse would have to shop for another guard to help out Joseph, but it would add another scholarship into the mix.
Without players such as Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland, the Orange offense should have a more forward-oriented look.
With Fair graduating after this season, Chris McCullough will come in to occupy his place on the roster. Should Coleman and/or Christmas underachieve, freshman Chinonso Obokoh may be called upon to play a bigger role.
If the Coleman-Christmas project falters, or one or both players are injured, coach Jim Boeheim may be forced to recruit more size.
Duke transfer Michael Gbinije could end up being one of the most important players for the Orange.
By trade, he is a shooting guard, but he played forward almost exclusively at Duke in limited minutes. Additionally, Gbinije has been practicing to play some point guard as well, as Tyler Ennis will need some relief and the only other option seems to be Trevor Cooney for ball-handling duties.
Having a player who can come off the bench as a one, two or three is an invaluable asset. Should he excel, Syracuse could breathe easier in its search for more guard support.
Should he falter, shooting guard duties would fall mostly on Cooney, but more importantly, Syracuse could suffer at all three positions Gbinije is being counted upon to fill in.
This could cause Syracuse to look for another combo guard.
Without James Southerland, Trevor Cooney will become the primary three-point option for the Orange.
Percentage wise, C.J. Fair was the best three-point shooter for Syracuse, but his perimeter shooting is not the primary part of his game. The Orange will need Cooney to grow into the shooter Syracuse fans have been waiting for him to be.
Cooney shot just under 27 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman, but he had few moments to give Syracuse optimism in his game, such as his three pointer against Michigan in the Final Four which put the Orange ahead 17-15 and was the last time Syracuse would lead in that game.
He also missed a three in the closing minutes that would have tied the game for Syracuse.
Cooney played over 11 minutes per game and was a very good defender at times. To allow the Syracuse bigs to move freely underneath, Cooney will have to make Syracuse’s opponents respect his shot.
Under the tutelage of Gerry McNamara, Cooney could be ready to take over as the Syracuse outside threat. If he is successful, the urgency to bring in a perimeter shooter after this season would be mitigated.
Brooklyn product Isaiah Whitehead has shown great interest in Syracuse and has the Orange.
At 6’4”, Whitehead is an off guard who can shoot, finish and create his own shot. He can pass well is extremely athletic. Should he choose Syracuse, the final available scholarship for Syracuse would be taken and recruiting would be moot unless, as stated earlier, someone leaves school early.
Whitehead would be a great fit for the Orange and would put Syracuse on the short list of best recruiting classes in the nation.