Syracuse Basketball: Why Jerami Grant Is Orange's Biggest X-Factor

Gene SiudutContributor IIISeptember 13, 2013

Jan 26, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Jerami Grant (3) is defended by Villanova Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston (22) during the second half at the Wells Fargo Center. Villanova defeated Syracuse 75-71 during overtime. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse sophomore forward Jerami Grant is already carving a name for himself in the basketball world.

Being the son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace Grant and brother to Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant is a handful of unofficial titles, but Jerami may end up being the brightest star of the heralded basketball family.

Jerami began his freshman campaign playing limited minutes off the Syracuse bench. As luck would have it, an academic hiccup of James Southerland created a gap in the lineup, and Grant was called upon to fill in his spot against Villanova on January 12.

After logging two minutes in the previous game against Providence and only a single turnover to get into the box score, Grant took the opportunity and ran with it.

In 29 minutes, Grant showed he belonged as a piece of the Syracuse puzzle and not just a complementary player. He dropped in 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting (5-of-6 free throws), grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.

The athleticism and skill set he revealed caused the Syracuse nation to let out a sigh of relief that the team would survive without Southerland for however long his hiatus would be, which ended up being six games.

By the fifth game of Southerland’s absence, Grant was averaging double digits in scoring.

An injury to DaJuan Coleman left Syracuse with a gap in the starting lineup. Grant was the obvious choice to fill in, but he struggled from the field—as did the rest of the team save for C.J. Fair—in a tough loss to Pittsburgh.

That game would be quickly forgotten with the next team being No. 9 Notre Dame and Jerami getting a chance to face off against his brother as a starter.

Once again, Grant rose to the occasion, as his 14 points and six rebounds helped lead Syracuse to a 16-point victory, with household bragging rights going to Jerami.

Southerland would return to the Syracuse lineup, but the raw talent of Grant would become an important part of the Syracuse bench.

Now, as he enters his sophomore campaign, the guard-heavy roster of last season will be replaced by a forward-driven offense, led by senior C.J. Fair and helmed by freshman point guard Tyler Ennis.

Grant is coming off a summer where he was a star of the U19 Team USA until he was sidelined with mononucleosis. He already won gold on the under-18 team and was looking forward to getting a second gold with his new team.

With his illness behind him and some added weight to his athletic frame, Grant seems poised to become a major factor in the Syracuse offense. With a 6’8” body and a 7’2” wingspan, a good shooting touch and very good blocking and rebounding ability, Grant has the physical tools to be the perfect safety valve for anyone on the Syracuse roster.

For C.J. Fair, Grant provides a second athletic forward who will garner attention from defenders, allowing him room to operate.

For Tyler Ennis, Grant gives the Orange another scoring option. And he has enough range that Ennis can get him the ball at almost any area of the court and feel comfortable.

For the bigs, DaJuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas, Grant has the length and athleticism to grab tipped balls and clean up weak-side rebounds, giving them both confidence on the blocks with their backs to the basket.

An improved Jerami Grant provides a security on offense and defense making him the perfect utility man. He takes pressure off of his teammates and he never has to be the star, just the glue that holds the team together.

He’s shown his ability to mesh by filling in for both Southerland and Coleman.

Fortunately for Syracuse, he doesn’t have to be either of those players this season. He can just be himself, which is what his team sorely needs.