Over the next three games, James Southerland will have an opportunity to show he belongs in the Syracuse rotation.
The Orange next play Iona at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Dec. 18, before dates with Morgan State and Drexel. After those three games, Syracuse will begin its brutal Big East schedule.
The relatively easy next few games will afford Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to open up his bench and assess who will be in the rotation come conference play. Southerland hopes he can be one of those players.
“If I keep working hard and stay consistent everything will work out,” Southerland said. “Coach just tells me I need to go out and make shots, rebound, and most importantly do stuff defensively. You can’t always depend on your shots to fall. You have to bring something else to the table.”
The sophomore forward has been used sparingly this season, appearing in just seven games and averaging just 12.7 minutes per game. Although teammates and coaches say that Southerland is a deadeye from downtown in practice, it hasn’t translated into games, as Southerland is shooting just 4-for-20 from 3-point land.
Still, Southerland had an opportunity to show what he’s capable of during a 100-43 win over Colgate. Southerland played 22 minutes, scoring seven points while shooting 3-for-6 from the field, and 1-for-4 from 3-point range. Although he only connected on one shot from 3, the one he did hit came from about 27 feet from the basket.
But Southerland wants to be known for more than his shooting. Against the Raiders, Southerland also contributed nine rebounds, two assists, three blocks and three steals.
“The young guys have gotten playing time,” Boeheim said. “They’ve been in good situations but I think this helped James. James was lively today.”
It is that kind of liveliness that will earn Southerland a spot in the rotation.
“I’m focusing mainly on defense and rebounding,” Southerland said. “I really wanted to try and get some steals here and there. My shot has not been falling, but I know eventually I will start to knock down the open looks.”
For Southerland, the most important thing is staying positive.
“It is really tough, but the key is to just stay mentally focused,” Southerland said. “Just know that you’re going to get another opportunity, and when you do, just give it your all.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.
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