Well, I was originally going to write about how everyone on the SU’s men’s basketball roster needs to step up with James Southerland out for the foreseeable future. Especially the young players.
They needed to do more in every game and especially in the Villanova game. That group included DaJuan Coleman, Trevor Cooney, and Jerami Grant. Grant was already doing his part. The others needed to follow.
But we’ve now learned that Coleman, the freshman center, is out for at least a month because of an injury to his left knee. Two scholarship players down.
Now, Coleman may not have been the most important player on this SU team, but he will be missed greatly. We’re not just talking about talent missing anymore. We’re talking about sheer bodies.
Now is the time when we get to see what this team is really made of. Yeah, I’d be worried. But not too much. Injuries happen.
This year and in the past, young SU players, especially freshman, have been placed in key roles. And they produce more than one would think.
Start by looking at this year. Since Southerland became ineligible to play, much of his minutes have been given to Grant. Grant’s solid play has led to comparisons between the two’s levels of production and has created a buzz surrounding the freshman’s potential.
The key play of a freshman is nothing new for Syracuse basketball of recent years. When current senior Brandon Triche was a freshman during the 2009-2010 season, he started over Scoop Jardine. Two years ago, the freshman quartet of Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita received their fair share of minutes. And last year, Rakeem Christmas started as a first-year player.
Generally, as the season wears on, the freshmen receive less playing time, unless they need to play, like Grant this year.
Now, Syracuse will never be like Kentucky and rely solely on freshman to lead the way. But the Orange’s freshman can still make a difference. And this year, they’ll need to.
Southerland and Coleman’s absences could give Grant and Cooney a chance to do something Southerland couldn’t his freshman year—get meaningful minutes. In two of the last three NCAA Tournament’s SU has played in, they’ve been down a key guy. Why not polish that depth now, so that come tourney time, the Orange won’t just be deep in sheer numbers, but in terms of experience too. And hopefully then, Coleman will be back.
Not every freshman can be Carmelo Anthony, but they can learn to play key roles. Cooney is seeing increased minutes and that will need to continue. And while I’m sure most SU fans would prefer to see Southerland launching three-pointers instead of Cooney, they have no choice now.
And then there is Coleman’s absence, which means that Christmas, a sophomore, needs to pick now to get his game together.
The curse of the missing center continues for the third time in four years. The bigs need to step up without Coleman, and Grant and Cooney need to step up without Southerland.
The upperclassmen seem to understand the urgency. They know their time is running out. And now it’s time for the underclassmen to shed the young label and make names of their own.