Orange Watch: NCAA graduate transfer rule could alter 2016-17 Syracuse basketball

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Lydon and his Orange teammates will be joined by at least one grad transfer this upcoming season, and perhaps another

Item: With speedy Colorado State point guard transfer John Gillon already in the fold for the upcoming season, and Orange Nation anxiously awaiting the likely soon-to-be announced decision of Nebraska shooting guard Andrew White III on where he’ll play his final year of eligibility between a consensus of either SU, Louisville or Michigan State, it brings into focus a new brand of the “one and done” player for Jim Boeheim’s program, something not seen before in his 40 seasons. Instead of the one year Orangeman playing in only his first season of eligibility before declaring for the NBA draft a la the recent departures of Chris McCullough and Malachi Richardson, these collegiate veterans and one year contributors share two traits; they have already received their undergraduate diploma and are beginning pursuit of a graduate degree in a program not offered at their previous school while possessing one year of athletic eligibility, and they want to win now.

There have been the rare instances of undergraduates transferring into the Syracuse program in Jim Boeheim’s 40 year tenure, players having to sit out an entire season before becoming eligible including LeRon Ellis from Kentucky in 1989, Wes Johnson from Iowa State in 2008, and, of course, current NBA rookie Michael Gbinije from Duke in 2011, but the approximate decade-old NCAA graduate transfer rule (which brought Duke point guard Greg Paulus, his undergraduate degree in hand, to the Newhouse School for a masters degree and to help provide some sort of quarterback experience for rookie football coach Doug Marrone in 2009, so redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib could observe and learn in the backup role), has never before been such a tool in the ‘Cuse basketball recruiting handprint.

In the case of the upcoming Syracuse season it’s been the confluence of the aforementioned early-to-the-NBA departures combined with exhausted eligibility opening up scholarships, and with the program always striving to have the right balance of players in each class while considering the intangibles that cause roster subtractions for whatever reasons (going pro, transferring out, academic eligibility, injuries, etc.), the ability to add the caliber of players from higher level Div. I conferences to fill key spots with experienced depth is tantalizing.

» Related: How will Syracuse F Michael Gbinije do with the Detroit Pistons?

The rising play of Frank Howard running the point with his pinpoint passing combined with the arrival of Tyus Battle in the backcourt, perhaps the next player in line to leave after only one season playing in the Dome with his ability to drive to the basket, and his concentrated effort to continually perfect nailing three pointers. That duo is certainly buffeted by Gillon entering the rotation off a season in which he averaged 13.2 ppg in the Mountain West.

Besides the return of Dajuan Coleman for his last season of eligibility and an opportunity to go for an unheard of third Final Four appearance during his extended ‘Cuse career, the mere presence of 7’2” Paschal Chukwu at the back of the zone defense promises a new dimension to the position, with returnees Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon set in their roles of tough around-the-basket play by Roberson, and Lydon’s needed three point shooting threat to stretch defenses.

Freshmen Taurean Thompson and Matt Moyer are young, talented, and will learn on the job, but certainly the addition of the 6’7” White and his .412% three point shooting against Big Ten defenses last season would also make the upcoming season’s opponents in the unenviable spot of having to pick their Orange poison.

Ironically, Coleman, with his undergraduate diploma in hand, could have taken advantage of the transfer rule to pursue a graduate degree and play one final collegiate season away from his hometown, but as he explained to the Syracuse Media Group during last season, it never crossed his mind to leave.

“No, I never thought about that (option),” Coleman said. “(I knew) I was definitely coming back.”

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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