It’s the time of year where Syracuse basketball fans decide to panic. The early signing period for high school seniors is drawing to a close, and a decision from an important recruit is looming. The outlook isn’t brilliant.
This year, the recruit in question is 5-star point guard Quade Green. His decision is between Syracuse and Kentucky.
For a long time, the Orange was perceived to be the favorite to land Green. SU’s coaching staff has been pursuing him for more than two years. They can boast they were prioritizing him long before he proverbially “blew up” on the AAU circuit this past summer, causing the other college basketball blue bloods to jump into the fray. Heck, as of yesterday 247Sports’ Crystal Ball system of expert guesses was tilted 95 percent to Syracuse.
But that was before Green took a visit to Madison Square Garden to watch Kentucky beat Michigan State. Ben Roberts with the Lexington Herald-Leader then reported that Green’s coach said Green woke up the next morning with his mind made up.
That’s when all hell broke loose in Orange Nation — or at least enough to cause Kentucky Sports Radio to blog about the “huge meltdown over on the Syracuse message board.” All over Twitter and message boards “sources” were coming forward with “inside knowledge” that it was a done deal and Green was headed to Kentucky.
That might well be the case. Although he won’t announce his decision publicly until Saturday night, it is reported that Green has signed his national letter of intent and informed the school he chose. It doesn’t look great for SU.
But regardless of what happens on Saturday, Syracuse will be just fine. Don’t panic.
This would not the first time Syracuse courted a highly ranked recruit and made it into his final list only to be spurned on the decision day. Remember Nerlens Noel and Tobias Harris? Thomas Bryant was the most recent example, but you could go back further to Julius Hodge in the early 2000s or Kenny Anderson all the way in 1988.
Would the Orange have been better with these players? Perhaps. But Syracuse still fielded good teams. The loss of Hodge made room for Hakim Warrick. That turned out ok. Bryant cooling on the Orange resulted in Paschal Chukwu transferring to SU just in time to provide a massive defensive presence on this year’s loaded squad.
Oh, by the way, Syracuse made the Final Four after missing Bryant. Indiana did not. Syracuse made the Final Four after missing on Noel, too. Kentucky didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament.
The point is: don’t panic. Things will be fine.
“But Syracuse needs a point guard!” I can hear you complain.
Yes, it would be nice to add an additional floor general for next season, but it’s unlikely to be absolute necessary. Frank Howard will almost certainly be back. Even if he plays as well as he did against Colgate the rest of the season he’s unlikely to go pro. He will be splitting time with John Gillon and the 2017 NBA Draft is expected to be stacked with talent.
Jim Boeheim has shown that he is happy to play a single point guard for 35-40 minutes per game every game if that’s what it takes to win. That may be the case for Howard next year if Green doesn’t select SU.
But there is a chance that Tyus Battle will return also. It has been a foregone conclusion in some circles that he will enter the NBA Draft because he’s a 5-star talent on a great team. But the same reasons mentioned above also apply to Battle. The Draft is deep, and he is splitting minutes with other good players. This doesn’t guarantee he will stay, but it’s hardly a certainty he will leave.
And what about the fact that SU only has one recruit for 2017 thus far, you ask? Wasn’t Green supposed to be the domino that causes all the other recruits to fall into place?
That was the plan, but, again, Syracuse will be fine.
The 2017 class is an unusual one timing-wise. There’s no denying that. Oshae Brisset’s commitment last Saturday was the 7th latest commitment of any SU recruit in the last 15 years – let alone the first recruit of the class.
But late commitments are becoming normal for high-ranked high school recruits. And this offseason Syracuse has shown that it can fill roster holes in other ways. If the 2017 freshmen class doesn’t fill out like the coaching staff wants, they can hit the graduate transfer market and find the next John Gillon.
But Brissett should not be overlooked. Despite his modest ranking among scouting services, he will be a star. Other recruits will follow – not all Syracuse’s first choices but quality players will come.
The one thing Syracuse can’t afford to do is give a scholarship to a player who is not good enough to play at SU because the coaches whiffed on their top choice. The Orange has learned the last few years that these reaches often end up with the player relegated to the bench for a year before transferring. That’s not going to help Frank Howard if he needs a breather the next two seasons.
Green still might well choose Syracuse. The winds are blowing toward Kentucky, but the experts have been wrong before. Orange fans would be better to stop worrying about it and enjoy the current team, which is looking like one of Boeheim’s best.