The Orange ended last season relegated to the NIT after making it to the NCAA Final Four a year earlier. Questions emerged about Syracuse’s potential success following the departure of several key players from last year’s team. Those questions are reflected in the USA Today preseason coaches poll, which did not rank Syracuse in the top 25.
However, preseason doubts only motivate Battle as he prepares for the coming year.
“There’s definitely a chip on our shoulder. We’re all competitors. I’m definitely a competitor,” Battle said during the Men’s Basketball Media Day. “We’re coming out this year to prove some people wrong. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Battle emerged as a central figure in the Orange lineup last season.
As a freshman, he started 25 of 34 games. Battle established himself as a consistent shooter, making 60 3-point shots on the season and averaging 11.3 points per game. With 58 assists and 44 steals, Battle made his presence felt on both ends of the court.
Moving into this season, the Orange will need to see even more production from Battle. From what he’s seen so far, Jim Boeheim believes that Battle is more than ready to deliver.
“Tyus has worked extremely hard. He’s improved as a player; he’s stronger and more physical, he’s more confident in what he should do,” Boeheim said. “He had a great year last year, particularly at the end of the year he showed against the best teams in the country and our league what he can do. I think he’s much better this year.”
Much of Battle’s improvement stems from extensive training at home and at school during the offseason.
“I’ve been in the gym a lot, working on every aspect of my game,” Battle said. “Even the mental part, I’ve been really trying to stay aggressive the whole time, taking no plays off, offensively and defensively. I’m ready to show it this season.”
Although Battle’s skill as a player will be critical to Syracuse’s success, his ability as a leader may be even more essential in the coming season.
In the wake of Tyler Lydon’s departure for the NBA and Taureen Thompson’s transfer to Seton Hall, Battle will be the nucleus of Boeheim’s restructured roster. Incoming players have already started to look to Battle for guidance.
“[Battle] is a great scorer. He’s been helping me with the zone and learning what coach likes and doesn’t like,” graduate transfer Geno Thorpe said. “We have a great relationship so far, and I’m happy to be at his side.”
“I wasn’t a vocal leader last year, but I always tried to lead by example,” Battle said. “I’m going to try and teach these guys…we have a lot of new guys, so I’m going to try to keep leading by example and be a more vocal leader.”
Where the season will take Battle and the Orange remains to be seen. Many questions remain about how this new team will coalesce. However, Battle appears ready to meet the season’s challenges head-on.
“I’m going to have to take on a leadership roll on,” Battle said. “I’m looking forward to it… taking on a leadership role for Syracuse basketball is a great honor.”
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