Don’t forget about Kaleb Joseph just yet.
In 14 minutes against Lehigh in Syracuse’s 57-47 win over Lehigh, Joseph finished with eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from downtown. In doing so, Joseph made his pitch to remain a key part of a Syracuse offense that can and will shoot 3s this season.
“If you keep shooting,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “Sooner or later you’re going to make one.”
Syracuse shot a combined 11-34 on 3-pointers while Lehigh went 2-17.
Of the 11 3s that Syracuse made, none was more important than Joseph’s midway through the second half. With 12:33 left, Lehigh had cut Syracuse’s once mighty 20 point halftime lead into just six after Jesse Chuku’s layup.
But Joseph calmly drained a top of the key 3-pointer on the game’s next possession, which put Syracuse up 39-30. Lehigh would never get closer than eight the rest of the way.
“The game was a little bit back and forth we were struggling to get buckets,” Joseph said. “[The 3-pointer] provided a little bit of energy just to get guys going.”
It has been an impressive preseason and opening game for Joseph, who is now a combined 7-12 from downtown in three games. Joseph shot just 20 percent from distance in his freshman year.
Joseph attributed his drastic improvement to an offseason regime that included improving his footwork on his jumper and raising the release point of his shot.
Still, his struggles his freshman year cost him his starting role, one that is now filled by Malachi Richardson in the front court, with wing Michael Gbinije sliding to point guard.
Joseph has handled the transition well.
“I would never say how many minutes I deserve or how many minutes I should play. That would be really selfish of me,” Joseph said. “At the end of the day whenever you’re put on the court you are put out there to make an impact, and I want to maximize every opportunity given to me.”
That’s exactly what he did, showing that he can be part of an improved outside shooting attack.
“We don’t have another option and that’s the best option for us. We have to make [3s],” Boeheim said. “Kaleb will probably play more. It’s difficult because we really get small when he is in there with Trevor [Cooney] and Mike.”