Every year, as basketball season quickly ascends upon us, we can usually make a handful of guarantees about what we will see on the court in the following months. Jim Boeheim, the 2-3 zone, a high-scoring senior, and a future lottery pick are among what have become staples of a Syracuse Orange basketball season. Another interesting development, one that is not guaranteed to come to fruition every season, is the jump in production for a sophomore big man.
Ever since Hakim Warrick (who improved from 17.4 minutes per game, 6.1 point per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 0.6 blocks per game to 32.7 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg) made such drastic strides from his freshman to sophomore year, helping to secure a National Championship in 2003, “the jump” has been a phenomenon for many Syracuse bigs.
In addition to Warrick, Arinze Onuaku and Fab Melo both made massive improvements after their freshman campaign. Onuaku red-shirted a year in between, but his numbers went through the roof and he continued to lead the Orange as a junior and senior. Injuries resulted in him going undrafted and having to prove himself in the NBDL and overseas, but he recently signed with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Melo didn’t improve as much on the offensive end as Warrick and Onuaku, but his defense and rebounding did, which earned him first round selection in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Rick Jackson, Daryl Watkins, Terrence Roberts, and Rakeem Christmas, all saw their minutes double, and while not all of the statistics followed suit (table below), there was still a significant increase across the board, especially in their scoring. Watkins and Roberts continued to improve throughout their careers, although not enough to make a significant mark, and were solid collegiate frontcourt players. The jury is still out on Christmas as he enters his junior year, and of course Jackson went on to average a double-double as a senior.
At the other end of the spectrum, Craig Forth and Baye Moussa Keita both saw a slight drop in minutes and a di[ production during their second seasons. Neither, despite Forth starting every game and Keita contributing on defense, would average more than the 4.6 ppg and 5.1 rpg Forth did, eventually, as senior.
So, which group will sophomore center DaJuan Coleman (12.7 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 4 rpg, and .4 bpg) fall into?
Based on his pedigree, general skill set, and flashes in certain games, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is a safe bet he won’t be in the Forth and Keita, eternally adequate at best, category.
But will he join the ranks of Onuaku, Warrick and Melo and make “the jump” or just become a solid starter this year?
Looking at the numbers, the player he most resembles on paper is Rick Jackson. Except, unlike Jackson, Coleman started 20 of the 24 games he played during his freshman season. Melo and Warrick started the majority of games as well as freshmen, but then again Forth started all of his and Onuaku didn’t start any.
Still, the confidence Boeheim showed in starting Christmas and Melo through lackluster freshmen campaigns, shows me that he knows when has a talented big (sorry to pick on him again, but obviously this excludes Forth).
So let’s look at the numbers through the four Canadian exhibition games. Coleman averaged 22.5 mpg with 10.75 ppg, 4.75 rpg and 1.0 bpg. Of course he had scoring outputs of 26 points and just two points, so the inconsistency that he showed throughout his freshman season appears to still be rearing its ugly head.
He was not overly effective on the boards, even with C.J. Fair not playing in two of the games, but he did shoot the ball at a high percentage. It seems like the same problem as last season, good offensive touch but trouble on defense, will still be there for Coleman. Not to mention a crowded front-court, with talent deep into the bench, will not allow much room for error for any of the big men. Minutes won’t be a given every single game. He’ll have to earn them.
It’s hard to say for sure since they were only exhibition games and practice has just started, but if I had to guess today, I’d predict a line of 22 mpg, 8 ppg, 5 rpg, and 1 bpg for the upcoming season.
That kind of line would entrench Coleman as member of the improved group, but I don’t see him making “the jump” this season. That doesn’t mean he won’t continue to improve and go the route of Rick Jackson, who made his real leap as a senior, but I just don’t see it happening this year.
|Baye Moussa Keita||10-11||14.6||2.2||3.7||1.2|