“This is strictly gonna be the last time I answer that question. We’re gonna talk about basketball.”
And with those words, Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim announced that Media Day would have nothing to do with the NCAA investigation into his program. Following that, the usual platitudes were given, ranging from an update on the medical status of DaJuan Coleman to what position Michael Gbinije will play to the expectations on freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph.
Examine those platitudes and you get a program in transition, certainly from one led by C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and Jerami Grant to one led by Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney. Or at least that seems to be the hope.
It’s an understandable that this season seems to be tied to a certain degree of hope, given that those three players who left the program following last season were responsible for nearly 1,400 points to go with 551 rebounds and 274 assists.
Of course, Christmas returns as the team’s leading shotblocker and rebounder on a per-minute basis, and Cooney hit 90 three-pointers as he averaged a shade over a dozen points per game.
Tyler Roberson, last year’s most-hyped freshman (no, really, he was) is in the mix with a year under his belt. Jack-of-all-trades Gbinije is back and ready for a bigger role. The two scholarship freshmen, Joseph and forward Chris McCullough, come in with heaps of expectations.
But, isn’t that the way it is every year?
Even last year, it was Fair and Grant and Baye Moussa Keita and, well, hope that they could live up to the #7 preseason ranking.
And Tyler Ennis was fantastic beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
And Rakeem Christmas provided defense and a touch of scoring.
And Trevor Cooney showed he could carry the team for an entire game.
And the Orange started 25-0 and ended up ranked atop both national polls for three consecutive weeks, two of them unanimously.
And then, well…
You never know.
Assistant coach Mike Hopkins may have summed it up for the team late on Media Day when he said, “You know what’s the greatest thing is when you have expectations that you’ve lost a lot and you have these pieces… You have new guys. That’s the fun thing about college; it’s constantly changing. New guys, new environment, and putting a team together. I love watching my boss put it together. In 2003, when we won a national championship, we were out of the (pre-season) top 40.”
It’s not to say they’re going to win a national title, or can’t, since they eked into the preseason top 25. But, you never know.
The Juice Online Official Quote of Media Day, courtesy of Kaleb Joseph, when asked how much time he spent in the Melo Center during the summer:
“A lot. Me and the janitors have gotten real close.”