Where should Syracuse head after missing on Quincy Ballard?

18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey hosted a Sports Leadership Seminar with Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University men’s basketball head coach at the Pentagon, May 7, 2014. DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp.

Syracuse’s 2022-23 roster remains in flux, with Florida State transfer Quincy Ballard spurning the Orange for the second time in his college career. Ballard, who had SU in his final two teams after he entered the portal in March, chose Wichita State over the Orange on Saturday.

In 2020, Syracuse was a late entrant for his services before he ultimately picked the Seminoles. But the 7-0, 240 pound center entered the portal following his sophomore season after being a bit player, appearing in 18 games and averaging just 4.7 mpg, 0.9 ppg and 1.2 rpg. He has three years of eligibility remaining. He was a three-star recruit and the 336th ranked player according to the 247 Sports composite.

Syracuse only has one scholarship available, with the addition of six scholarship freshmen in the offseason. Other returners reportedly include Joe Girard, Symir Torrence, Jesse Edwards, and Benny Williams. The only other two scholarship players that are unaccounted for at this point are Chaz Owens and John Bol Ajak, though with each passing day, it becomes more unlikely they would choose to leave Syracuse.

If Syracuse decides to recruit the remaining scholarship, the roster appears to have two needs: (1) A backup center that can provide 5-10 minutes a game depending on if Edwards gets in foul trouble; (2) A veteran wing that can provide experience to a group that has Williams, a sophomore, and three unproven freshmen in Maliq Brown, Justin Taylor and Chris Bunch.

Perhaps Syracuse can kill two birds with one scholarship. Here are some names worth tracking as the Orange mulls its next move:

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  • Akok Akok: In the 2019 cycle, Syracuse was one of Akok’s finalists before he chose UConn. In three seasons, Akok has seen a diminished role because of injuries, and last year, averaged just 3.4 ppg and 3.2 rpg. Still, at 6’9″, 220, he has the versatility Syracuse needs to play at wing and can also slide to center when Edwards is on the bench. Akok entered the transfer portal last week.
  • Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: Syracuse was among the schools to have offered Huntley-Hatfield in the 2021 cycle. He was rated a five-star recruit by ESPN and the 21st overall player in his class, and ultimately committed to Tennessee. He appeared in 35 games for the Vols last year, averaging 3.9 ppg and 3.0 rpg and is now in the portal. At 6’10”, 246 pounds, he also has the flexibility to play wing and center. Syracuse wasn’t involved when he announced his decision to enter the portal, and he’s since named a top 5 of SMU, Auburn, Wake Forest, Louisville and Arizona State.
  • Franck Kepnang: Kepnang is more of a true center, so he doesn’t fit the hybrid wing/center role. Still, Syracuse offered him back in the 2021 cycle, and Kepnang put his name in the portal after he averaged 4.7 ppg and 3.1 rpg with Oregon last year. Syracuse may be late to the game after over 10 schools reached out to him the day after he entered the portal, and SU can really only offer him a guaranteed 5-10 minutes of playing time unless Jim Boeheim gets creative with his rotations (Edwards at wing?).

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.