There were three major roster moves that kicked off the Syracuse offseason last week: The commitment of 2022 combo guard Judah Mintz, the announcement from reserve center Frank Anselem that he’s entering the transfer portal, and Cole Swider hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA draft.
Those three moves were major shifts that altered the trajectory and priorities off the offseason. Here’s what else the coaching staff needs to consider as it looks to finalize its 2022-23 roster.
Will Syracuse replace Cole Swider?
First off, the loss of Swider is a huge hit for the Orange. He would likely have been the featured offensive option had he opted to return in the fall. And for all of his shortcomings as an athlete, he was an underrated rebounder and really started to show his comfort in the zone toward the end of the year.
The question now is if Jim Boeheim will look to the portal to find a forward, or whether he will stay status quo with the existing roster.
As of right now, Syracuse has one open scholarship. SU has six incoming freshmen, plus John Bol Ajak, Chaz Owens, Joe Girard, Jesse Edwards, Symir Torrence and Benny Williams for a total of 12 scholarships. If everything remains the same, the Orange has the option of either pursuing a backup center or a wing to replace Swider.
It would seem the need to replace Swider is more of a glaring one. While Syracuse has remained quiet so far in the portal, Swider’s departure should change that approach.
In the new portal era, Syracuse has only recruited players it either previously recruited (Swider), or had local ties to (Jimmy Boeheim, Symir Torrence). If Syracuse were to retake that approach with this year’s portal, then here are some names that the Orange could potentially pursue:
- John Camden (Memphis): Syracuse originally offered the Brewster Academy prospect in the 2021 cycle, but he ultimately committed to Memphis. Camden is coming off a foot injury that limited him to one game last season. He entered the portal last week.
- Bryce Golden (Butler): Golden has one year of eligibility left, and is coming off a senior season where he averaged 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 24.1 mpg. He also shot the best 3-point percentage (34.3) of his career. Syracuse was once considered the favorite for him in the 2018 cycle and could get in touch after he entered the portal in late March.
- Isaiah Cottrell (WVA): Cottrell was offered by the Orange in the 2020 cycle. As a sophomore at West Virginia, he worked his way into the rotation, and played in 33 games, averaging 16.1 mpg, 4.2 ppg and 2.8 rpg. He’s been in the portal since mid-March.
Then again, Syracuse already has four wings on the roster in Williams, Justin Taylor, Chris Bunch, and Maliq Brown. Boeheim had previously stated that “two-to-three” freshman would start this fall, and with Swider leaving, he may only use the open scholarship on a backup center and hope that Williams and one of the three freshman emerge as viable options.
Finding a new backup center
Anselem’s decision makes sense when viewed objectively. He wants an opportunity to play starter minutes in his junior year, and showed that he is an ACC-level center when given the chance. He wasn’t going to get that this year with the emergence of Jesse Edwards as an All-ACC caliber player, who will likely play 35+ minutes a game (as long as he returns healthy and stays out of foul trouble).
Two names comes to mind when looking through the portal:
- Quincy Ballard (Florida State): Ballard, a Syracuse native, was pursued by SU late in the 2020 cycle before he chose the Seminoles. Ballard has only been used sparingly in his two seasons with the Seminoles, appearing in 36 games across two seasons, with averages of 1.1 ppg and 0.9 rpg in 4.0 minutes. Those stats certainly don’t wow, but realistically, the Orange would only be asking him to play 5-10 minutes behind Edwards, anyway. Should Syracuse be interested, they should get involved now as Ballard took an official visit to Wichita State last week.
- Qudus Wahab (Maryland): The other interesting prospect is former Georgetown, and now former Maryland center Qudus Wahab who entered the portal last week.. Syracuse was also among his finalists when he was a four-star, top 100 recruit in 2019. But Wahab to SU would be unlikely. Syracuse needs help for next season, and Wahab will need to sit a year because the NCAA transfer rules only grant one transfer without needing to sit out a year (unless there’s a waiver). Still, he’s a polished center who averaged 12.7 ppg and 8.2 rpg as a sophomore with the Hoyas in 2020-21.
Of course, a plan B if SU can’t land a backup center in the portal would be to try to play Peter Carey or fellow incoming freshman Brown for reserve minutes at that spot. With only one available scholarship at the moment, Syracuse would be best advised use it on a wing forward.
No need for another guard
There were rumblings that Syracuse may use the portal to recruit another guard. There’s no need for that with Mintz’s commitment.
Securing Mintz was important for a variety of reasons. For starters, it gives Syracuse an athletic point guard who can break down defenses and find teammates for open shots. It also allows Girard to shift back to his natural position of shooting guard.
Mintz is also Syracuse’s highest guard commit since Tyus Battle in 2016.
While SU already has another point guard in its 2022 class in Quadir Copeland, it’s widely thought that Copeland needs a season (or two) to fully tap his potential. The arrival of Mintz, who is viewed to be more college ready eases the amount SU would need to rely on Copeland, and gives Syracuse plenty of options in the backcourt.
Torrence vs. Mintz in practice to determine who starts at point guard will be one of the most intriguing storylines to watch this fall.
Other departures pending?
I say that Syracuse only has one scholarship available at the moment, because there could be some more player movement to come on SU’s roster. While there are multiple reports are that Edwards, Girard, Torrence and Williams are returning, Ajak and Owens may choose to enter the portal.
Ajak entered the portal last season before ultimately deciding to return to Syracuse and still saw limited minutes (12 games, 5.1 mpg, .4 ppg, 1.2 rpg). Owens doesn’t appear to have a path to playing time with the Orange and may want to move down in competitive level to gain an opportunity for more minutes.
Either or both leaving would allow Syracuse to mine the portal for more immediate help.