Battle, Brissett and Syracuse basketball’s 41 year streak of NBA talent

Syracuse guard Tyus Battle looks to shoot. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Recently, ESPN’s Rachel Marcus (a former columnist at The Juice Online) ranked Syracuse as the fifth best school in producing potentially impactful NBA players.

While Syracuse has not had the success in producing All-Star caliber players outside of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Coleman, Jim Boeheim has maintained an incredible streak as head coach of the Orange.

Since he took over the basketball program in 1976, he’s had at least one player on his roster who would go on to play in the NBA up until at least 2017. That’s a streak of 41 years.

The below chart demonstrates this remarkable run. Note that this chart is not every single player who has played in the NBA under Boeheim, but an illustrative chart showing the unbroken chain of NBA talent that Boeheim has had during his tenure at SU.

Player SU Tenure
Louis Orr 1976 – 1980
Leo Rautins 1980 – 1983
Pearl Washington 1983 – 1986
Derrick Coleman 1986 – 1990
Billy Owens 1988 – 1991
Lawrence Moten 1991 – 1995
John Wallace 1992 – 1996
Jason Hart 1996 – 2000
Damone Brown 1997 – 2001
Hakim Warrick 2001 – 2005
Arinze Onuaku 2005 – 2010
Dion Waiters 2010 – 2012
Rakeem Christmas 2011 – 2015
Tyler Lydon 2015 – 2017

» Related: Could Syracuse basketball legend Carmelo Anthony join Boeheim’s Army?

There are some lean years in this group where the streak nearly ended. John Wallace was the only NBA player on the 1996 team that made an incredible run to the title game before losing to an absolutely stacked Kentucky team. The 2000-01 season also was a difficult one, with Damone Brown as the only NBA player on that particular roster.

As we have painfully acknowledged, since Syracuse was hit with sanctions back in 2015, its recruiting has taken a downturn. This has not only produced disappointing results on the court, it’s affected Syracuse’s ability to place players in the NBA.

Two weeks ago in the 2019 NBA Draft, no Syracuse player was taken for the second straight year. That’s the first time it’s happened since the 1997-99 season (the gap between John Wallace and Jason Hart/Etan Thomas).

That also means Boeheim’s streak of having at least one NBA player on his roster is also in serious jeopardy. Though Oshae Brissett (LA Clippers) and Tyus Battle (Minnesota Timberwolves) found their way on to NBA Summer League rosters, it’s a difficult path to go from undrafted rookie to a 15-man NBA roster.

The 2017-18 team may be the team that finally breaks Boeheim’s streak if neither Battle or Brissett play in an NBA game. On that team, only the two of them have a real shot at making the NBA.

On the 2018-19 team, I could see Jalen Carey and Elijah Hughes developing into NBA prospects, though there are certainly no guarantees there. Things would’ve been a lot easier had Darius Bazley not bolted for the G League, and eventually a well-paid internship with New Balance.

It’s just one more reason why Syracuse fans should be rooting for Battle and Brissett as they begin their professional careers.

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About Wes Cheng 2677 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.