Syracuse will likely enter the 2013-2014 season somewhere around the top 10 of most preseason polls, which is a fair assessment.
Losing Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland hurts, but there is talent coming back — CJ Fair, the uber-promising Jerami Grant, the reportedly-in-shape DaJuan Coleman — and even more joining the program — Tyler Ennis, BJ Johnson, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson, Michael Gbinje.
Ennis, quite obviously, is the key to the team, as he just so happens to be the only point guard on the roster. Taking over as the sole point guard on a team accustomed to the likes of MCW, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf is not going to be an easy thing to do for a freshman.
One of the things that will make his job easier?
Shooters surrounding him on the perimeter.
One of the things that Ennis does well is penetrate, collapse the defense and find an open man; that’s what he did when I watched him last summer, and that’s essentially what his entire ESPN scouting report says. He also went for 42 points against China in the U-19s, so, you know, he’s pretty good.
We all know that Syracuse has the long and lanky athletes around the basket — I didn’t even mention Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita earlier, which should give you an idea of the number of front court players Jim Boeheim has at his disposal — but with Southerland gone, there is some question of where the perimeter shooting will come from. Fair shot 46.9% last season, but it was on a limited number of attempts. Grant shot 40%, but only took 15 threes.
Michael Gbinje, the former top 30 recruit and a transfer from Duke, should be able to help out in that area, but the key to this team could end up being Trevor Cooney, who might find himself playing the role that Andy Rautins once played for the Orange. Cooney entered college with the reputation of being a shooter, but struggled with his consistency as a freshman. He’s spent the summer working on that. From Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com:
No longer would the Syracuse University shooting guard busy himself with boosting his upper body. No longer would he worry that he had not accumulated the breadth of bulk necessary to compete at the highest levels of the college game.
Instead, Cooney would concentrate on conditioning his 6-foot-4, 195-pound body to withstand the rigors of tempo that he never fully anticipated. He dedicated the weeks and months after SU’s loss in the national semifinals to his legs.
All that legwork, Cooney believes, will translate into better shooting performances for his sophomore season.
“Being a good shooter is different for different people,” he said. “Like, I’m a legs guy. I step into my shot, use my legs, explode up. And if you’re going to be a good shooter that way, you have to be in good shape. Your legs have to be strong, you have to be able to run up and down the court. And I didn’t think I did a good enough job of that last year in being in great shape. I thought I did a better job this summer on it. And it’s helped me in these practices this far.”
If Cooney can find a way to be a consistent three-point threat this year, it will help create space for Ennis to penetrate.
That helps takes the pressure off of a freshman that will be starting at the point guard spot from day one.