On Monday, I wrote about what to expect from Syracuse basketball’s projected starters this season. That group included Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim, Quincy Guerrier, Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe.
With as many as 13 players possibly in line to receive minutes, this could be one of coach Jim Boeheim’s deeper teams. However, it seems like that is said every year and Boeheim finds his 7-9 guys he trusts and plays no more than that.
In fact, only once in the last 20 years has a Syracuse basketball team had 10 players that averaged at least 10 minutes per game.
Here’s what to expect from each one of those bench players:
Alan Griffin. It’s possible the best option for Syracuse’s sixth man is a guy who may not even suit up for them next season. Griffin, a transfer from Illinois, has applied for a waiver to play next season. With so much in flux due to COVID-19, the NCAA has yet to decide whether some (or all) transfers will be allowed to play immediately or if they will have to sit out the customary season for changing schools.
But, if Griffin is allowed to trade in his Illini orange for Syracuse orange and play, he would be the best option coming off Boeheim’s bench. In just 18 minutes per game coming off the bench last season, Griffin (no relation to Syracuse assistant coach Allen Griffin) scored nearly nine points per game and shot 41 percent from 3-point range. While he probably is not capable of filling the scoring void left by Hughes, what Hughes did in his first season with Syracuse after transferring from East Carolina (13.7 points per game) may be the blueprint for what the Orange will look for from Griffin.
Kadary Richmond. The first of the incoming freshman on this list is Richmond, a 6-foot-5 guard who routinely shows up on national Top 100 recruiting lists. Richmond has good size for a combo guard and is supposed to bring some scoring and playmaking to Syracuse this season. If he shows he can handle some point guard duties, he will see some increased playing time in his first season.
Woody Newton. Newton was the first freshman to commit to Syracuse. Tell me if you have heard this about a Syracuse recruit before: 6-foot-9, athletic, can shoot, rebound and needs to fill out physically. The likes of Hakim Warrick, Damone Brown, Chris McCullough and others come to mind immediately. He should be in the rotation to compete for minutes at the bottom of the 2-3 zone and somebody who can try and do some damage at the rim offensively.
Frank Anselem. The newest incoming freshman to join Syracuse, Anselem re-classified just last week and decided central New York was the place for him to be. If Newton reminds Syracuse fans of Warrick and Brown, Anselem will remind folks of Rakeem Christmas. At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Anselem certainly has a body to compete right away. He could see minutes at both power forward and center. Anselem projects to be more ready as a defender and rim runner. But, his offensive game is not empty by any means.
Jesse Edwards. Edwards probably is the cutoff point between guys who will probably see significant minutes for Syracuse this season and those that will not. Had Anselem not joined recently, Edwards would be in position to be a backup center as a long defender and rim runner himself.
In his freshman season last year, Edwards saw double-digit minutes in seven games. In a career-high 14 minutes against Bucknell, Edwards had 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. But, overall, in the seven games he logged more than 10 minutes, he averaged just over three points and just under three rebounds.
There is some potential in his game. But, will he ever get the floor time to realize that potential? Not sure. We may look back and see his ceiling being something like that of Jeremy McNeil’s.
Robert Braswell. Braswell entered the transfer portal in March, but is still not sure whether he will remain at Syracuse or will follow the paths of transfers Carey and Goodine. He appeared in just seven games last season before redshirting with shin issues. Braswell is a lanky shooter that most likely will return, but will most likely not see much game action with the constitution of the current roster.
Howard Washington. Washington’s career at Syracuse has been a tumultuous one, from surviving a stroke and then enduring frustration about a lack of playing time last season.
He, like Braswell, Carey and Goodine also entered the transfer portal. Like Braswell, Washington has not decided whether he is staying or leaving. However, if he does stay, he is the only true point guard on the roster other than Girard and somebody that Boeheim could trust, seeing how long he has already been in the program.
Richmond may intrude some on his point guard minutes, but there could be less desirable positions in college basketball than the backup point guard at Syracuse.
John Bol Ajak. During a redshirt campaign last season, Ajak packed on 20 pounds and took a year to learn the Syracuse system. He weighed 198 pounds entering college last year and has said he wants to weigh 235 pounds by the time next season rolls around. It seems doubtful Ajak sees a lot of time this season. But, if he could compete for minutes at center, that would be considered a success for him in the 2020-21 season.
To be sure, Boeheim will have options to tinker with different lineups. At last check, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Syracuse as one of the “Last Four In” and a No. 11 seed in his bracket for next year’s tournament. However, there is certainly upside on the roster to become more than that and a force in the ACC again.