Item: In the ever changing world of Div. I college hoops with the current “one and done” and graduate transfer landscape, many major conference teams are going to go through annual transition by addition, subtraction, and attrition. For a Syracuse program that is slowly but surely regaining its full recruiting and scholarship privileges from the 2015 NCAA penalties, there’s a turnover of five players from last season’s NIT team, and with eight players on scholarship committed for next season (plus East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes eligible next year), there’s still spots to fill.
It’s likely going to take even the most ardent of those in Orange Nation a little while heading into pre-season practice this fall to get a grasp of next year’s roster, which approaching the Memorial Day weekend is still not finalized with graduate transfer guard Geno Thorpe of South Florida reportedly mulling an opportunity to become the next “John Gillon” or “Andrew White” to join the program as a one season “free agent.”
Not only will Syracuse likely be searching each spring at any eligible grad transfers that could plug a hole on a particular roster, but our immediate reaction late Tuesday afternoon when we received the school’s media email announcing that 6-9 forward Marek Dolezaj from Bratislava, Slovakia had signed a letter-of-intent to join the program for the upcoming season (provided he completes the necessary academic steps to be ruled eligible), was that for the first time Jim Boeheim and staff directly recruited and brought aboard a foreign player (not counting Canada) as opposed to the player transferring in from another U.S. school.
The five players moving on from the program last season are the most since five players also left following the 2014-15 season, and continues a trend this decade of the ‘Cuse joining all the other annual contenders gaining and losing recruits each spring for a myriad of reasons, early NBA draft entrants, four year players that graduate on schedule, and the need to replace players that move on after only possessing one (graduate) year of eligibility.
With only two starters returning in sophomores Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson, and with only two other players that even played in games last season in juniors Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu, it will be new, but familiar face, redshirt forward Matthew Moyer, and touted frosh big men Bourama Sidibe, Oshae Brissett, and Doleza, along with guard Harold Washington, who will not only be counted on to contribute at varying levels, but will also comprise what will be the youngest overall roster the program has displayed since before the great 2009-2013 run of two Elite Eights and a Final Four.
With the first major coaching shuffle since Bernie Fine departed early in the 2011-12 season following Mike Hopkins March move to Washington, the return of Allen Griffin to join Adrian Autry, Gerry McNamara and Boeheim will make for an interesting season of transition with a team possessing little experience.