The Orange center future was the biggest headache for Jim Boeheim in this season and might continue in the next one. With the injury of Bourama Sidibe, the key player in the position, the plans for the season had to be rebuilt. Some universal players changed their spots on the court, young prospects had some more minutes than they could in other conditions.
Nevertheless, the team pulled together and responded to this incident correctly. Meta. reviews took a look at the potential Syracuse center situation in the club:
Marek Dolezaj – in the light of Bourama Sidibe injury this undersized forward had to move to the center position. Slovak was a temporary stopgap, but with the Sidibe meniscus injury, he needed to become much more than that.
As always, the extremely universal player keeps delivering. He was fourth or higher in all major categories besides 3-point shooting last year on the power forward position. Problem is, now 6-foot-10 Dolezaj have to cover the center of the 2-3 zone, which is not his natural spot. He already had difficulties against bigger NCAA forwards, and the head coach of the Orange acknowledges that.
Syracuse reserve center trio is not still ready to make a big influence on the match. It is the main reason why Boeheim can’t entrust them more time on the court yet.
Sadly, a week ago Dolezaj announced that he’s not going back to Orange for his final season and going to seek to play professionally. He wrote in his farewell tweet that years in Syracuse was the greatest times of his life, thanked the coaches, teammates and fans. He’s full of hope about starting a new chapter in life and said that he: “will be forever Orange.”
Jesse Edwards – Jesse seem to be the most promising out of the young Edwards/Ajak/Anselem trio so far. His size (6-foot-11, the stats you can always find at Telecomasia.net) helps with blocks and rebounds. If we want to see the strongest SU, the coach has to trust either of three, then Dolezaj will play his natural position.
Boheim thinks, that his centers aren’t ready yet. These players are not at the point, where he can let them get to the court. As for Jesse, Boheim believed that he needed another two years to develop.
But the team can’t wait for them to “get ready”. It’s still unclear if Sidibe will be 100% ready for the next season. Players like Dolezaj are most useful in their natural positions. So even if Edwards doesn’t look like a finished product in his 98 minutes this season he needs to gain more experience on the court. Not only in training sessions.
John Bol Ajak – this redshirt freshman still has no clear position in a team, but has shown his best qualities in the middle. John started as a forward, the coach later told that he strived there, so he tried him in the center position. The player is both agile and vocal there but produced only 2 points, 4 rebounds and 7 fouls in 50 minutes he had. With just 2 blocks he needs to work on his defensive awareness if he wants to earn his place in a starting lineup.
However, in some situations, he had the advantage exactly because he is better at defending the corners. The coach preferred him because of this quality in the match against the Eagles, and you can find additional publications on that at Centreforum.org.
Frank Anselem – a 6-foot-10 player have the most troubled season among all freshmen, we must admit. He couldn’t play since Dec. 12 because of the Covid protocol clearance, and when he got his time on the court it was the shortest amount from the young trio Anselem/Ajak/Edwards: 26 minutes in total. This is all considering that center is his main position, unlike Ajak, who already played twice the time he had.
When Boeheim was asked about his prospects in the team he replied that the player should probably stay in high school for a bit, because he just played 3 seasons on that level, while being the 198th in his class.
Sidibe was a huge part of a plan for this season, where he should’ve played center with Slovak. The coaching staff did not count at all that they’ll have to seek the assistance of young players, but they must. These 5 minutes of rest for the leaders could be crucial. Especially when your leaders play 35 minutes in each match on the court. Next season would be even tougher when the team might lose the opportunity to use both Sidibe and Dolezaj, who already announced retiring from the club. Boeheim and the club has two options here: either they find someone who can close this position for them, or start using one of the young options he already has. The experience we had this season suggests that most likely the coach will choose the first option, giving Edwards, Ajak and Anselem 5 to 10 minutes per game.