McCullough is a 6-foot-9 with terrific length and athleticism, and after a terrific start to his freshman season, McCullough was considered by most to be a likely first round pick. But in mid-January, McCullough tore his ACL after an awkward landing, an injury that ended his season and will likely keep him out until the beginning of next year.
He ended the season averaging 9.3 points, 6.9 boards, 2.1 blocks and 1.7 steals.
Draft Express currently projects McCullough as the No. 21 pick in the 2016 draft.
Star Syracuse freshman Chris McCullough suffered a knee injury that appeared quite serious on Sunday night.
The Orange would beat Florida State 70-57, but McCullough did not return after this awkward landing during the first half:
After the game, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said that an update would be coming Monday. “We have no idea right now what it is,” he said in the post game. “Well find out in the morning. Hope for the best.” It didn’t work out that way. Syracuse announced on Monday afternoon that McCullough tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his season. It’s a significant blow to the NCAA tournament hopes for the Orange.
McCullough was averaging 9.6 points and 6.9 boards, but he’s struggled in the last month or so after a hot start to the season. He was considered a borderline first round pick for the 2015 draft — No. 26, according to Draft Express — before the injury. But the Orange don’t have any depth along their front line as Dajuan Coleman has already decided to redshirt this year.
Boeheim said on the ACC conference call on Monday that sophomore Tyler Roberson is expected to start in his stead for the Orange, who are now 3-0 in the ACC. Look for reserve forward Chino Obokoh to play a bigger role as well.
Syracuse’s 61-44 win over Cornell Wednesday night wasn’t the prettiest from an offensive standpoint, with it taking nearly four minutes before the first points of the game were scored and the Big Red shooting 34.5% from the field and 4-for-22 from beyond the arc. Syracuse limited Cornell to just 12 points in the first half, and they shot 48.1% from the field with senior forward Rakeem Christmas scoring a game-high 19 points.
Trevor Cooney joined Christmas in double figures with 14 points. Freshman forward Chris McCullough wasn’t as productive as those two, scoring just six points on the night. Unfortunately for Cornell sophomore forward David Onuorah he was on the receiving end of two of those points, with McCullough finishing Syracuse’s cracking of the Cornell pressure with an emphatic one-handed dunk.
Video credit: Syracuse Athletics
No. 7 Villanova’s wild rally forces OT, where they beat Syracuse (VIDEO)
Syracuse was rolling. They were up by as much as 14 points in the second half, having held the lead for the entire game despite the fact that Chris McCullough had basically done nothing for 40 minutes.
The Orange were about to put away the most important performance of their season — a win over No. 7 Villanova in Philadelphia — when disaster struck:
In the extra frame, McCullough, Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije all fouled out as the Wildcats held on for an 82-77 win in the battle between old Big East rivals.
Credit where credit’s due: Villanova really played well in the second half, forcing turnovers, getting to the offensive glass and making big plays when big plays needed to be made. JayVaughn Pinkston led the way with 25 points and 10 boards while Darrun Hilliard added 23 points and four steals, including a stretch of eight straight that he had early in the second half to spark the comeback.
Villanova beat the Orange on a day where they didn’t play anywhere near their best game. Syracuse is not exactly an ACC title contender, but they’re a pretty good team that played exceptionally well on Saturday, and Villanova won despite having an off night and making some uncharacteristic mistakes.
That’s a great sign for the Wildcats.
But that won’t make Jim Boeheim feel any better about the way his team dropped this game.
Because they finally looked like the Syracuse team that everyone (except me, it seems) had slotted in the preseason top 25. Rakeem Christmas was playing great in the paint, finishing with 18 points. Michael Gbinije had easily the best game of his basketball career, finishing with 18 points, eight boards and five assists, all career-highs. Kaleb Joseph had 10 points and 10 assists, making a number of tough, crucial plays — and more importantly, correct decisions — down the stretch.
It looked like everything was starting to come together, like all it took was a chance to beat Villanova for the Orange to figure it out.
But a late turnover and some foul trouble in overtime ruined that.
This was the last chance for the Orange to notch a marquee non-conference win. If they end up on the bubble in March, this game will be the reason why.
Jim Boeheim has seen his fair share of NBA-level talent. You don’t reach 950 wins and Hall-of-Fame status without pros.
But the Syracuse head coach is once again taking issue with recent suggestions that one of his players is a potential lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
And this time, Boeheim’s agenda seems very self-serving.
Talented and athletic 6-foot-10 freshman forward Chris McCullough is opening eyes with his strong start this season, as he’s averaging 15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 58 percent shooting.
NBA scouts seem to have taken notice of McCullough’s early-season performances as well.
“What intrigues scouts is what’s behind the numbers. McCullough has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, is an explosive leaper and is the rare big who can protect the rim on defense and stretch the floor on offense. He needs to add a lot of strength, but virtually every scout I spoke to who saw him play last week in New York came away feeling he’d be a lottery pick,” Ford said in the story.
After the Orange soundly defeated Holy Cross on Friday night, a game in-which McCullough put up a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, Boeheim sounded off on Ford’s take and said his star freshman wasn’t a first-round pick.
“I’ve talked to 10 pro scouts,” Boeheim said on Friday night. “Not one of them thought that Chris McCullough was a first-round pick. So who he’s talking to? I have no idea. When you print that stuff, people read it. Parents read that.”
That wasn’t all Boeheim had to say on the matter:
“You keep looking at what Chris (SIC) Ford says,” Boeheim said. “He’s a smart guy. He knows exactly who is going to get drafted. This is what parents do. Parents quote to me all the time, ‘He’s in the top 10 of the draft board.’ Oh yeah? ‘He’s the 14th pick in the draft.’ Yeah?”
“Quote (from) last year,” Boeheim said. “Well, he’s in the top 10 in the draft board, that’s why he’s going to go. I said, ‘On whose draft board? ESPN?’ They do not have a team. They do not have a team at ESPN. That’s the kind of misinformation that gets kids thinking about things and parents thinking about things that make no sense, whatsoever.”
Ford isn’t the only NBA Draft analyst to have McCullough listed as a lottery pick. While Ford currently has him as the No. 11 player on his big board, NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith rates McCullough even higher, as the freshman checks in at No. 7 on his big board as of Nov. 27. NBA scouts that NBCSports.com has talked to also believe McCullough will be taken in the first round.
NBADraftBlog.com‘s Ed Issacson spoke with NBCSports.com on the rapid rise — and current stock — of McCullough and he also believes that the forward has first-round potential.
“I think he has the potential to be a late-lottery, mid-first rounder, though I haven’t seen him do enough this season yet to say it with more certainty,” Issacson said to NBCSports.com on McCullough. “Good skill and physical ability, but he needs to put it all together.”
That seems like a pretty fair assessment of McCullough, don’t you think? Not a sure-fire lottery pick, but a talented player with a very realistic chance of being a first-round pick.
So if Jim Boeheim spoke to 10 NBA scouts and they all said that his new, stud freshman wasn’t a first-round pick, then why do so many respected NBA Draft analysts and scouts seem to all publicly disagree?
Issacson brought up a valid point on how this process of gathering information all plays out.
“Here’s the catch with both Ford’s and Boeheim’s statements: They can both be true,” Isaacson said. “There are so many NBA scouts that you can find any opinion you want to fit.”
Looks to me like Boeheim is finding opinions that solely fit his agenda of winning basketball games for Syracuse.
Last year we saw something similar with Boeheim critiquing freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who went on to be selected No. 18 by the Phoenix Suns in the first round in the 2014 NBA Draft. Draft analysts also considered Ennis a potential lottery pick for much of last season after his strong leadership abilities and play helped the Orange to a 25-0 start. But Boeheim went on SportsCenter after Ennis declared for the draft and made some unflattering remarks about his point guard.
It was one thing to listen to Boeheim’s thoughts about Ennis, because what he said about him needing another year was truthful in many ways, but this latest spin on McCullough is just wrong and self-serving.
Let me make something clear: Boeheim should temper expectations about McCullough being in the lottery since these public opinions are accelerating at a rapid rate after only six college games. McCullough went from off-the-grid to smack dab in the middle of the radar of NBA people in the first few games of the season and that has to be alarming to Boeheim when he needs his star freshman focused on the current season. It doesn’t help that Boeheim is probably frustrated by an early entry process that has taken away Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis and Jerami Grant in the last few seasons. I get that.
But it’s a bad look if Boeheim spins this McCullough draft stock banter to only benefit him and his program. McCullough isn’t a first rounder? Of all of the public opinions being expressed by respected reporters, analysts and NBA scouts only Boeheim seems to publicly hold this line of thinking. And maybe he sees some behind-the-scenes things about McCullough that screams that he isn’t ready to leave after one year? Even so, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and right now the talk of “Chris McCullough: First-round talent” is blazing hot. His coach just doesn’t want to admit it and potentially lose another talented player to the pros.
Boeheim is paid to win basketball games and compete for national championships for Syracuse, but when a basketball player commits to playing for the Orange, they have aspirations of making money playing basketball as a career. He might be keeping it real by downplaying NBA expectations of his players, but in this case, it appears Boeheim is looking out for his own best interests instead of softening the expectations while promoting McCullough’s future.
There’s a way to delicately balance the ballooning NBA expectations of a 19-year-old kid while also promoting him as a future potential pro. Other coaches do it all the time, but Boeheim only appears to be seeking out opinions of those who agree with the agenda he wants to publicly express.
Three respected NBA Draft analysts, and multiple NBA scouts, are all on-record with the belief that McCullough is a future first-round pick but that’s not what Boeheim wants you to hear. Boeheim might be telling some truths in an attempt to help his own player, but he looks awfully selfish doing it.
After serving as a supplementary piece in each of his first three seasons at Syracuse, more will be required of senior center Rakeem Christmas in 2014-15. And through the first two games of his final campaign at Syracuse, Christmas has done a good job of taking advantage of matchups that have worked in his favor.
After accounting for 21 points and nine rebounds in Syracuse’s season-opening win over Kennesaw State, Christmas put forth the best rebounding performance of his career Sunday afternoon. Christmas scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the 23rd-ranked Orange to a 65-47 win over Hampton, with Syracuse pulling away late against a team that didn’t arrive in Syracuse until just over three hours before the scheduled tip time.
According to Syracuse, Christmas became the first player to grab at least 15 rebounds in a game since Baye Moussa Keita did so in a win over Canisius in 2010.
Christmas and freshman forward Chris McCullough combined to score 28 of Syracuse’s 65 points, and the Orange also scored 26 points in the paint. Those two will be key players for the Orange moving forward, as there are still issues when it comes to finding consistent shooting from the perimeter. As a team Syracuse shot 5-for-18 from three, with Trevor Cooney (2-for-7) and B.J. Johnson (2-for-5) being the players asked to provide the majority of the perimeter shooting Sunday afternoon.
The level of competition will pick up for Syracuse, beginning with their 2K Sports Classic semifinal against California, so the perimeter shooting will need to improve. But if there’s anything to take out of their first two games it’s the improved play of Christmas. After reaching double figures in just five games last season, the senior big man has done so in consecutive outings for just the third time in his college career.