We’re not sure where this version of Marek Dolezaj has been, but in Syracuse’s 89-67 win against Seattle University, it appears that he’s back.
Dolezaj finished the night on 7-8 shooting for 19 points, just one point shy of his career high (20) against Wake Forest in 2018. Add to that two rebounds, four assists, and three steals, and you begin to get a picture of Dolezaj’s signature style: unselfish, smart, and tough when he needs to be.
“We had three guys out there who could shoot,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “That’s why Marek had some holes in there.”
Seattle prioritized guarding SU’s perimeter offense in an attempt to stymie sharpshooters Elijah Hughes, Joe Girard III, and Buddy Boeheim—who finished the night with 15, 24, and 10 points respectively. However, just as SU’s shooters continued their work, Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Quincy Guerrier (14, 7) did theirs.
Dolezaj in particular dazzled, taking advantage of the opportunity to draw the defense, change the direction of the play, or attack.
At one point early on in the first half, Syracuse was up 26-15 and Dolezaj anticipated a pass, cheating up on the swing side. As a lob pass went over the top of Buddy Boeheim, Dolezaj snuck up and stole it away, streaking down to to the other end of the court for an easy bucket.
As the showiest moment in his play last night, it’s the most memorable, but where Dolezaj really contributes to the team’s win is his energy, and in his ability to create the play that needs to be made. That doesn’t often show up in the stats, but Saturday’s four assists and three steals show in this small way how Dolezaj can make the team better.
“Marek is a really smart player, a really good passer,” Girard said. “We’ve always known that… Every open shooter, he’s going to find them. Every time he’s going to be able to make a play he’s going to do it. To have a 6-10 guy who can do that, it’s pretty amazing.”
That’s something that Syracuse will need more consistently this season if the Orange wants to play in the NCAA Tournament. After a freshman campaign where Dolezaj averaged 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, he had a sophomore slump, dropping to 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.
Those days appear to be behind him.
The sample size is small, but Dolezaj seems poised for a breakout junior year. He’s started all three games, and he’s up to 10.0 points, 5.7 rebounds 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals so far, including Saturday’s performance.
Said Boeheim: “This is the way we need him to play.”