Holiday wishes for the Syracuse basketball team

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Syracuse needs a more aggressive Gbinije

With the holidays looming, now is a pretty good time to share a wish list for what every scholarship player on the Syracuse should be hoping to unwrap. While these requests are not from the players themselves, let’s just say they are from someone who wishes nothing but the best for them, and that’s not their head coach.

Now, let’s tear open that wrapping paper…

Rakeem Christmas – continued offensive development

Headed into the season, head coach Jim Boeheim said he expected Rakeem Christmas to be the most improved player in the ACC. I like to think I was reasonable for doubting him, as Christmas had been pretty raw offensively through his first three seasons. While he has still been a little rocky at times, releasing some shots that have zero chance of finding the net and still coughing the ball up a little too often, Christmas has shown offensive skills that make you wonder where they were hiding his first three years on campus.

At his current pace, Christmas will best last season’s point total in 12 games. The senior has shown a couple developing low post moves and even did a solid job splitting double teams against St. John’s. While Christmas is not a finished product and his numbers will likely slide as the season wears on against conference foes, he looks to be option number one on the offensive end all season – and once again proves that Boeheim speaks the truth.

Chris McCullough – the ability to slow down

McCullough acknowledged it himself the other day, admitting he was simply rushing at the free throw line in the St. John’s game when he logged a 3-for-10 performance. The freshman came into that game making a shade under 62 percent from the line and has shown the ability to burn the nets from 15- to 18-feet out, so it’s clear that his 54.5 percent mark at the stripe can easily be boosted. With the SU offense prone to struggling, every point is worth just a little bit more.

Trevor Cooney – making his first three in every home game

When Trevor Cooney puts up a 3-pointer at the Carrier Dome, you can feel thousands of people holding their breath through the television while watching at home. If the ball goes through the hoop, the cheers are just a little too loud, packed with a sense of relief. If it doesn’t, well, those inhaled breaths become murmurs, groans, and growls.

And you can almost see Cooney tighten up, knowing he is carrying that additional weight on his shoulders. Just making his first three would get the fans on his side… and off his back.

» Related: Syracuse continues to struggle from downtown

Michael Gbinije – a playlist of whatever music gets him going

Whatever beats drive Silent G, he should listen to them very loudly prior to each game.

When Gbinije plays aggressively, he is a completely different man on the court. He slashes to the hoop, attacking either through the key or down the baseline without fear. However, he plays tentatively, reacting to what the other players on the floor are doing before making a decision. The Orange can certainly use a little more of what he has shown in the last week against Michigan and the Red Storm. Maybe the promotion to the starting lineup will encourage him to continue playing with some fire.

Kaleb Joseph – a Sunday drive

Joseph should just relax, take a little time, and check out everything around him. While Joseph plays aggressively, if he would just downshift a little, he could look a little more around him, see what is there and where his best options are. It would also help him play more under control and float his assist-to-turnover ratio, which is currently just above 1.6-to-1.

On a side note, it probably also wouldn’t hurt for him to get some earplugs that prevent him from hearing the words “Tyler Ennis”.

Tyler Roberson – a healed abdomen

Let’s start with the basics and get another scholarship body back in the mix. We’ll worry about the rest when he starts playing again.

B.J. Johnson – to break out of his slump

Johnson does not have an easy task. It’s been shown already that he will be one of the few options off the bench this season and being able to break out of his cold shooting streak would be a huge boost, not only to Johnson, but also to Boeheim, as he would likely to be quicker to give the sophomore a shot. Johnson was sensational in the opener against Kennesaw State, but has made only 9-of-36 shots since then, including being mired in a 1-of-12 slump from three.

Ron Patterson – “passing” grades

The quotation marks are because it’s not an academic thing. Patterson has dished out 13 assists in limited play and has the second-best assists per minute rate on the team. Unfortunately, Patterson looks for his own shot a little more often than what he should. While not a good shooter, 18 of his 27 shots on the season have come from three-point range. Even though the Orange need an injection of perimeter shooting, Patterson is failing at it.

Chinoso Obokoh – some more minutes

Obokoh has been a pleasant surprise in his very limited minutes thus far. For a player who was knocked for his hands coming into the season, Obokoh has done a nice job on offense when summoned. Getting some more action under his belt will certainly help, as there will undoubtedly be some games where Obokoh is thrown into the fray due to foul trouble.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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