Jim Boeheim never has a problem speaking his mind. Whether it’s rebuking the FBI investigation into college basketball or opining on Donald Trump, the Syracuse coach has no trouble speaking candidly.
The latest subject is Darius Bazley, the one-time five-star Syracuse commit who opted to skip college for the G League before ultimately later deciding to skip the NBA’s minor league for a year to workout by himself.
“I mean, he made a mistake. It doesn’t do any good to talk about it,” Boeheim told Syracuse.com. “Everybody thinks I’m criticizing him. I’m not. I’m just telling it like it is. He made a mistake. He should own it. He’s just not ready. He’s just not physical. They’re not letting him play in the G League because he’d get killed.”
It’s not often a coach will speak like that about a player, even if it’s one that a coach may feel burned his program. It’s blunt and direct. It also may not be the whole story.
But it’s most likely right – at least from a purely basketball standpoint.
There is a legitimate conversation to be had about the merits of playing college ball vs. suiting up in the G League for prospects’ developments, but I doubt you’ll find many that would be advocating for simply taking a year off from competitive hoops when other avenues are available.
Players can work on their game behind closed doors, but that’s going to have limited value come draft day. It’s simply going to be hard for professional franchises to evaluate what kind of progress Bazley’s made when they can’t measure him against his peers. Seeing him in an empty gym going against practice players makes for a much less valuable evaluation environment than, say, watching Bazley go up against the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and the rest of what the ACC has to offer night-in and night-out for three-straight months.
It also seems more likely that such a situation would be better for Bazley to find success than even the G League would offer. With the Orange, Bazley would be going against players, essentially, his own age with, essentially, similar developmental arcs. In the G League, the 6-foot-9, 200 pounder would be tasked with going against players with multiple years in the professional ranks. One of those situations seems more likely to produce advantageous results than the other for an 18-year-old with a slight build and without a slam-dunk NBA future.
So, to call Bazley’s decision to skip Syracuse for an option he eventually decided not to pursue a “mistake” seems in bounds. He picked the G League over the Orange only to then find that option not quite as desirable as originally thought.
But that’s probably also not fully fair to Bazley. If he decided he simply didn’t want to pursue the student-athlete path – and all that entails (to whatever degree) – even if it cost him on the floor and on draft boards, that’s his decision. So often in this one-and-done era, players get slammed for simply going through the motions in their semester-plus on campus when they have no desire to be there other than to hoop. Seems unfair to criticize a player who decides against doing that, too.
Bazley’s decision to forego Syracuse looks like one that will hurt his professional prospects in the short-term. Maybe it will in the long-term, too, but there are plenty of paths to the pros. Bazley set out to blaze one trail, but maybe he’ll ultimately find another.