Kaleb Joseph wants to be the guy who brings energy to the game. That, he says, hasn’t changed from last year.
He’s done his part in the first two pre-season games, looking sharper on the offensive end than he did in his freshman season. In Syracuse’s 96-54 win against Florida Southern on Sunday afternoon, he scored 13 points on 4 of 5 attempts, improving on 4 of 12 performance against Lemoyne.
He was also 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, dished out three assists and committed one turnover in 15 minutes. Though his ball handling was still an issue, he looked more confident and comfortable on the court.
One immediately noticeable difference has been his outside shot. In addition to building up his strength, Joseph says he worked on “[his] footwork, staying balanced, his release point, little things like that.”
He says that last year, he tried to “bring it back (closer to his ear) a little bit,” but his release point is a bit higher now. It’s paid off, with Joseph shooting 5 for 9 from distance in SU’s two exhibition games. He shot just 20.0 percent from 3-point land last year.
Perhaps the biggest change to Joseph’s game this season is his role on the team. He’s still a guard, playing the 1 or 2 and leading the offense, but this year he’s coming off the bench.
The demotion hasn’t fazed him.
“I mean, at the end of the day I get to play basketball and I’m grateful for that,” Joseph said. “So no matter what I do, any opportunity I have to be on the court, it’s a blessing. You just gotta make the best out of every opportunity given to you.”
His answer is not what one might expect out of a player in his position, but Joseph has matured since last year. In an interview with Syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota last week, Joseph revealed that he has been asking himself a lot of tough questions, and pushing himself to move above the criticism.
Now that he’s out of the starting lineup, his responsibility on the team is “just like everybody else’s: come to practice every day prepared, ready to give everything I have. I think personally I would like to be the guy that brings energy that’s consistent every single day.”
Beyond that? He says he keeps his individual season goals to himself.
This season, he has an opportunity to find his groove as a bench player, with the ability to hit 3s and share ball handling duties. And, for now, Joseph will have time to develop behind starting guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.
That’s allowed Joseph to enjoy the game more in his second year, as evidenced by his celebratory roar after his 3-pointers against Florida Southern.
“Anytime you put in work—and I think I worked really really hard this summer—anytime you see it start to pay off a little bit […] that’s what this is all about,” Joseph said of his show of emotion. “And that’s why I love the game of basketball.”