Item: As always, players and coaches are pop full of optimism at the annual preseason conference media days, and it was no exception Tuesday at the 58th edition of the ACC’s Operation Basketball event in Charlotte, that for one day anyway put ACC hoops in the fall focus instead of football.
As most folks on hand, including both the media and team coaches, players and conference officials, were discussing in Charlotte this week, how does the league shape up after another national championship in the books courtesy of Virginia, heading into the debut of its new 20 game regular season schedule, with game one right off the bat early next month?
One team name that kept being mentioned as somewhat of a mystery was Syracuse. Sure, everyone knows the Orange lose four starters, but the returning Elijah Hughes, in attendance at Charlotte, is going to be the dynamic scorer on this team, with some experience in the backcourt and off the bench, and significant contributions by season’s end among the freshmen class.
“I think the thing with Elijah, last year he really was about our fourth option offensively, (and) he’s our second leading scorer, which tells you a lot about what his ability is to score,” Boeheim said at the SU press conference Tuesday. “His role is different this year. He’ll have the ball more.”
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To Hughes himself, he knows his leadership role for a team full of freshman and sophomores is as important as putting up points game-in and game-out. Not only did the team’s summer trip to Italy provide him with his first trip out of the country, but the built-in bonding experience and watching the new talent unfold in front of him made for an enjoyable summer.
“Coming in anywhere as a freshman is kind of difficult, especially coming to our zone and stuff like that, but everyone, they’re all special, real special, talented group, Hughes beamed Tuesday talking about the five ‘Cuse newcomers. “They all each bring something different and unique to the table. I’m just really excited to get going with them and everyone else that we have and have a good season.”
One which begins against stout ACC foe Virginia in the Dome in just under a month. For Boeheim and his fellow coaches, initial head-scratching a year ago about such a tough start to a season, has been replaced by the reality of a 20-game conference schedule.
“You have to be ready right away, but you want your team to be ready right away anyway,” was a note Boeheim repeated often in addressing the UVA opener. “It makes you focus and make sure you’re ready. We try to get ready anyway. The trip this summer certainly helped. We had that extra time.”