With spring football a distant memory and the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four (better luck next year, Syracuse fans) in the books, this is a pretty dead time of year in college sports. Yes, the NBA Draft provides a modicum of excitement as teams select the college stars of the past season, but it also conjures up a whole lot of “what ifs” watching college underclassmen form an assembly line to shake Adam Silver’s hand while desperately trying to bend the rim of a brand new Milwaukee Bucks hat. Best of luck, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. So what’s left for the diehards to get excited for? Recruiting, of course!
Recruiting is the life blood of any successful program. No matter how brilliant a coach is when it comes to Exes and Ohs, he needs talented players to execute. Jim Boeheim declared that he didn’t feel any smarter upon winning the 2003 NCAA Championship after decades of chasing that elusive six-game March winning streak. Boeheim’s trick that Monday evening 11 years ago in New Orleans was anything but magic. Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick all suited up for him. That’s usually how it works: the best players tend to play their best in the biggest moments. And Boeheim is no slouch when it comes to convincing the most talented players in the country to don the color orange.
Syracuse has been busy on the recruiting front as of late. Last Saturday at the Mary Kline Classic in New Jersey, 6’-9” power forward Moustapha Diagne became the fourth member of the 2015 class to commit to the Orange. He joins 6’-9” Tyler Lydon, 6’-6” guard Franklin Howard and 6’-5” guard Malachi Richardson. Diagne, Lydon, Howard and Richardson are all ranked 4-star players by Rivals.com while Scout.com lists Richardson as a 5-star player while assigning 4-stars to the other three commits. All four players are ranked in ESPN’s recently revised Top 100. And, though it’s early, 247sports.com ranks the Orange’s class as tops in the land.
Besides having a staff consisting of former players (Mike Hopkins, Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara), one of Boeheim’s most compelling selling points to potential recruits is that he puts players in the NBA. With the exception of 2011, Syracuse has produced at least one first-round draft pick every year since 2008. Six players in all (Donte Greene, 2008; Jonny Flynn, 2009; Wesley Johnson, 2010; Dion Waiters and Fab Melo, 2012; and the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, in 2013) have been first-round picks in the last six drafts. Waiters and Johnson were both selected fourth, Flynn at sixth and Carter-Williams just outside of the top 10 at 11. That trend is sure to continue a few weeks from now, as numerous mock drafts predict Ennis and Grant to be selected in the first round.
Syracuse is technically out of scholarships for 2015, but that doesn’t mean it’s done recruiting. The Orange potentially has room for two more at the inn, should either Tyler Roberson and/or Chris McCullough have break-out seasons and leave early for the NBA. Boeheim and his staff will keep tabs on center Thomas Bryant and small forward Derrick Jones. Scout.com and Rivals.com both rank Thomas as a 5-star recruit. Jones is a 5-star on Scout and 4-star on Rivals.
The Orange can also continue its full-court press on 2016 recruit Tyus Battle, a 5-star guard out of New Jersey. Closing the deal on its 2015 class affords Syracuse that luxury. The battle for Battle is going to be just that as Scout.com lists him with offers from such heavyweights as UConn, Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State and Villanova.
The first official day of practice doesn’t arrive until October. But recruiting is a year-round game.