I wish I could find a photo that properly illustrates the jarring physical abnormality that is our new backup center. The Colgate game was a nice distraction and fun to watch for the most part, but I can’t lie: during the final eight minutes when Sean was in there, I have no idea what anyone else on the team was doing. All I could manage was to stare, mouth agape, at the limbs dangling from this man’s shoulders. And I wasn’t thinking sweet, this guy is going to be a nasty shot blocker. I was thinking, holy crap, was this guy born in Chernobyl? His arms are, honestly, more than a little disconcerting.
At any rate, an early casualty of the Devendorf injury is a lost redshirt year for Williams. I guess it’ll be interesting to see if he makes any progress playing live instead of just in practice, but considering how raw and wild he looked out there, I doubt this lost year of eligibility will prove to be a good thing. His physique makes freshman era Hakim Warrick look like an offensive lineman. Williams’ insane wingspan makes his scholarship a worthwhile risk, but I’d be shocked beyond measure if we see him in any Big East games this year that aren’t blowouts. There’s no way he can contribute at this stage, even if he can block layups from the three point line (which, frankly, he probably can).
After the break, I destroy the Silver Lining myth of Devo’s injury:
Josh made a good effort below to calm the nerves of SU fans freaking out at the loss of Devo. I read it, I saw his point, I thought it was a nice try. But I’m not buying it for a second. It’s vital in college basketball to maintain winning momentum, and losing another year to the NIT will be devastating. The fact that it’s easier for us to “mentally” accept the failure isn’t enough of a benefit, in my book. Also, I was not on the negative bandwagon that thought this team, with Devo, was going to crap out. I was one of the ones who still saw the script playing out as predicted preseason: early season struggles, dumb freshmen mistakes, potential starting to coalesce, growth throughout the Big East season, and finally some noise in the post season with a dangerously talented team. Personally, I was looking forward to that scenario. Now it might be a pipe dream, and that’s nothing other than depressing.
There’s also the future to think of: the players benefiting from Devo’s absence are primarily Scoop Jardine and Kristof Ongenaet. While it’s always nice to build our future depth by giving valuable experience to versatile players, neither one of these guys is going to develop into a game breaker, no matter how many minutes we give them. Jardine is a nice player, and it’s helpful that he can bank this experience for 3 more years of contributions, but no matter how much he grows and develops, he will never be as good as Devendorf. You can tell by the way he moves out there, by his shot and his drives and his passing, he’s just not the natural talent that Devo is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we have him and I think he can help a lot; in fact his athleticism could easily make him a defensive upgrade over Devo, sooner rather than later. But Jardine will never surpass Devo’s scoring ability, or his knack for getting to the hole and finishing. Remember the few times that Louis McCroskey played well and gave us a glimpse of his potential? I see Jardine as a guy that could develop into the kind of player Louis never became. But that’s probably his ceiling.
Ongenaet, on the other hand…lets just say that up until the Colgate game I had filed him away in my head as a slightly less polished version of Matt Gorman. So, um, do with that information what you will. Admittedly, the Colgate box score alleges that he had 7 points and 6 rebounds, which is a nice contribution off the bench. But my eyes saw a lost Belgian tourist trying to navigate the New York City subway. He runs up, he runs down, he waves his hands a lot, he scrambles in every direction. He doesn’t know where to be on either end of the court, and his teammates seem reluctant to pass him the ball on offense. Then again, when someone is that clueless, it’s hard to judge potential. So maybe there’s a lot of talent buried in there somewhere.
Ultimately, it would be a lot better if these two had a chance to grow organically: in practice and with limited minutes off the bench. Now they’re going to be playing 20 or more minutes each, and we have no idea if either will ever justify that kind of PT. There’s no way to spin any positive scenario involving Devo not being the one to have that playing time.
This injury is also particularly catastrophic for the backcourt. College basketball is a game built around guard play, and Mike Waters had a nice statistic about the four guys available to replace Devo at the 2:
The other four guards on the Syracuse roster - Scoop Jardine, Jake Presutti, Mike Williams and Justin Thomas - have scored a total of 46 college points…Devendorf had scored 1,115 before his injury on Saturday night.
Oh lord. And don’t even get me started on Justin Thomas. Aside from the fact that he makes Jonny Flynn look like a giant, and aside from the fact that it’s kind of embarrassing for a walk-on to be getting real game minutes, I have to go back to my argument with Jardine and Ongenaet: how does it help SU in the future for Justin Thomas to be getting PT at this stage? It doesn’t help at all. He’s never going to play again, so whatever experience or improvement happens this season is for naught. Plus, if I have to watch Justin Thomas trying to check Jerel McNeal, I might shoot myself.
Jimmy doesn’t have a choice of course. He’s doing what he has to do, and he’s doing the best he can. I like that he’s enthusiastically jumping into the options available to him. If we end up with four freshmen on the floor during some crunch time minutes this year, so be it, he’s fine with it. But I’m still worried about how all this is going to play in 2008. While I agree that Donte Greene is as good as gone, it’s clear that everyone else will be coming back. So how does Scoop Jardine react to going from a 30 minute per game freshman starter, to being a sophomore who’s 4th on the guard depth chart? And it’ll be a deep 4th, because Rautins, Devo, and Flynn all deserve 35 minutes a game, which in and of itself is not possible. I can see trouble and discontent down the road. The only way he keeps his minutes high next year is if Devo or Rautins come back as diminished players, which would be heartbreaking.
Blegh, these massive injuries are so disorienting. Hate it hate it hate it.