It’s June, and I have to admit, I can’t stop thinking about next year’s college basketball season. So here are ten reasons why I love this team we’ve got coming in:
10. The unfathomable experience jump
It blows my mind that it’s possible for us to go from last year, where the main roster players had a collective two seasons of playing experience under their belts (Onuaku and Harris each with one) to a team which will have have, by my count, 12. This doesn’t even reflect that we have four (FOUR!) redshirts who are a year older than their class reflects. This kind of thing makes a big difference in college, where we’re going to have three 22 year-old juniors going up against 18-19 year old freshmen. These guys are going to be like Gandalf - old, wise, and able to make quick work of opponents.
9. Almost all of our individual positions are as strong as they’ve been in the last 30 years
No really, think about this one. Going position by position, with the exception of the power forward, there’s no more than one guy in Syracuse history who I’d trade our current player for.
- Point Guard: Jonny Flynn is coming off of the best freshman season ever for a Syracuse point guard. Maybe you trade him for the Pearl or Sherman, but I might hold on this hand.
- 2 Guard: I’m going to take this position as a combination of Devendorf and Rautins, since they both fit here and it’s unclear if either will absolutely be 100% Lawrence Moten is the gold standard here, but aside from him, I want these guys.
- Small forward: Carmelo Anthony, sure. Probably Billy Owens. But Paul Harris brought his game to an elite level in the home stretch of last season, and became our most reliable scorer and rebounder - putting up routine double doubles. He’s the hustle, and he’s poised for a monster year.
- Power Forward: As I said, this is the exception. Rick Jackson and K-Ong will be serviceable, but will never be Derrick Coleman, John Wallace, or Hakim Warrick.
- Center: The only people who would compete with Arinze are Etan Thomas and Ronny Seikaly. Maybe I trade for Etan, but Arinze is a force to be reckoned with. Huge bruiser with a offensive touch. You can’t go wrong with that.
*I’ll note that I defined this in terms of the last 30 years for two reasons - first, it is the approximate amount of time that I’ve been alive, and second, that I believe that level of play in basketball in general has improved over the last 30 years to the point that a good player today would blow almost anyone from the 70’s or before (with a few superstar exceptions) off the court. This point always riles up the older folks, but nevertheless, I’ll always believe it to be true.
8. At least four future NBA-calibre players
As an extension of point nine, Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku, Eric Devendorf, (and maybe even Andy Rautins) all have at least a taste of the NBA within their potential reach, if not a nice career. As the Syracusan has observed in the past, these future NBA guys are the ones who win championships.
7. No more Donte Greene
Okay, this one is a mixed bag. I admit that the team would be better with him. But as I had time to reflect on his departure, I came to realize that this is not a guy I’m going to miss terribly. I think he’s the anti-Kevin Garnett. He saps hustle and drive out of his teammates with his lazyness, poor (though frequent) shot selection, and need to receive assists to score while rarely dishing them out.
6. Sean Williams
Who can’t wait to see those arms swing into action??? I’m looking forward to four years of raw and unpredictable play punctuated by a few completely preposterous blocks per game.
5. The freshmen
Probably the least exciting class we’ve had since the ill-fated Wright boys, but it seems like they actually have some talent. If so, it’s icing on the cake. Also, having three top 100 recruits on your team for the sole purpose of trying to prove themselves in practice against your starters and keeping the bench toasty during games is the basketball team equivalent of rolling blunts in $100 bills.
4. Andy Rautins’ glue
Possible lewd entendre aside, Andy Rautins strikes me as a real glue guy you love to have on your team. Good shooter who can spread defenses and be an end of game free-throw guy, a hustler, and surprisingly good defender and passer. Plus, this guy is going to be a fourth year junior who as I type is getting ready to go to the Olympics as part of team Canada. How many other college basketball players are going to be checking Kobe Bryant this summer?
3. A chance to appreciate Jonny Flynn while we still have him
We shouldn’t get too comfortable projecting the next three years of Jonny Flynn’s career. Syracusan explained this thoroughly in this post. The kid is probably in Manley fieldhouse this second taking 10,000 three pointers a day, because having a hot jump shot is the only thing standing between Jonny and the NBA lottery. Just as in RISK, when a player reaches a critical level of power, it’s all going to be over much sooner than you think it is. I’m looking forward to watching this guy for another year, and cherishing it like it might be his last.
2. Our best shot at a final four in this player cycle and maybe beyond
All of the above points boil down to the simple fact that whoever our best player is next year is going to go pro, and maybe more than one. We’ve got these guys now, and this is our time. I just hope that Boeheim gives them Mikey’s Goonies speech going into the NCAA tournament, because I get chills just thinking about it. (FYI, Troy’s bucket represents the NBA Draft).
1. Paul fucking Harris
I’ve been thinking about writing a post on this for awhile, so here it goes: Paul Harris is my favorite Syracuse player of all time. Here’s why: Paul Harris plays basketball EXACTLY as he would if I were controlling him in a video game. It’s uncanny. On the defensive end, he swats for every steal, attempts to block every shot whether from in front or behind, and charges in to leap for every rebound. On the offensive end, this guy has a distinct turbo mode. It may as well be activated by the right index finger button on my xbox controller, as it kicks in on every single drive and causes him to attempt to turn any shot within ten feet into a dunk attempt. It’s not the perfect way to play real or video game basketball, but dammit, I love him for it. He makes the game thrilling.
He’s the perfect narrative protagonist - passionate yet flawed, driven yet at times directionless. A guy who shows you limitless potential but peppers it with the heartwrenching mistakes of youth (turnovers at the end of the Pitt and UMass games). But you forgive him for those mistakes because you know he’s just trying too hard, and is probably spending the rest of his night headbutting the trees in the woods behind south campus until dawn to punish himself.
I love his complete and undampened optimism that he’ll develop an NBA jump shot one of these offseasons, and that even when he’s releasing his signature long range bricks, he truly believes that each one is going in when he lets it go.
I love that he’s not a millimeter over 6′4 yet is the best rebounder on our team based purely on hustle.
Paul Harris is my favorite Syracuse player of all time because he’s possibly the perfect college basketball player: an awesomely talented, passionate hustle guy who doesn’t quite fit into any NBA models. I’d take this guy first in any sport, from basketball to beer pong.
Alright, who’s ready for some hoops!?