As we count down to the start of the basketball season, we’re going to be highlighting each member of the Syracuse basketball team. Today’s spotlight is on forward James Southerland.
James Southerland has been an enigma during his run at The Hill.
On the one hand, he oozes athletic ability, can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and has one of the best vertical leaps on the team. But, despite all of this, Southerland has never been able to fully put his game together.
Now in his final year, Southerland has one final chance to realize his potential.
“My goal is to be an impact player,” Southerland said. “There’s going to be a lot of attention on us and we have to get the younger guys going and knowing there’s going to be a lot of eyes on us, it gets the younger guys a good feel for the game.”
Last year was a microcosm of Southerland’s career. On January 21, SU’s first loss of the season, against Notre Dame, Southerland led the way with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He was one of the few Orange who was scoring that night.
It wouldn’t be until March 8, against Connecticut, when Southerland would score in double digits again.
It was more of the same in the NCAA tournament.
Southerland came out firing, notching 15 points apiece in the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament. But he played just four minutes against Wisconsin and had a quiet five points against Ohio State as SU was eliminated from the NCAA tournament.
But that was last year, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is among those who think that Southerland is ready to make the leap into a consistent contributor.
“He’s really contributed and I think he’s ready this year to make another step up. I really do,” Boeheim said. “I think he’s a tremendous player.”
Now, Southerland’s teammates are looking for him to guide them.
“I would say by being a veteran and being here the longest and I would also say in being a speaker and being vocal with this team,” Southerland said. “I feel like Brandon and I have a lot of experience going through three years. So, it’s definitely different being a senior than being a sophomore or junior.”
Inside Shot: “James Southerland is an enigma. There are games, like the two he played against Cincinnati last year (when he was a combined 4-17 from the field), where he seemingly can’t hit the broad side of a barn. There are others, like our opening two games of the NCAA tournament, where he (shot a combined 11-14 and) seemingly couldn’t miss. The double-digit scoring games are easy to understand: he’s 6′ 8” and combines freakish athleticism with perhaps the purest shooting stroke on the team (of anyone not named Trevor Cooney). The disappearing acts that he pulled throughout the season are tougher to understand. Southerland has a tendency to get down on himself when he misses early and it throws off his game. This year, he’ll have ample opportunity to play and he has the potential to be the most prolific scoring sixth man in the country. But potential unrealized is just that, potential.” —Nate Federman