Our all-decade starting five for Syracuse basketball

Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) drives against Morehead State guard A.J. Hicks (0) during the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Approaching his forty-seventh year as head coach for Syracuse, Jim Boeheim has seen quite the talent come through his program.

Within the past decade the hall of fame coach has seen immense amounts of talent in his players that has translated to the highest levels of professional play.

Syracuse amidst up and down seasons has still been to an impressive six NCAA tournaments and two final fours in just a ten year span. Throughout this time the Orange have seen some of their best players in program history.

This has us wondering what a Syracuse All-Decade Starting Five shapes up to look like.

PG: Tyler Ennis, 2013-14

Despite being in an Orange jersey for only one year, Tyler Ennis is the most explosive and talented point guard in the past decade for Syracuse. Leading the Orange to a 25-0 AP #1 ranked start, Ennis dominated the early transition into the ACC for Syracuse. Ennis averaged 12,9 ppg, 3.4 reb, and 5.5 ast in his freshman campaign, taking complete control over the best team in the country. The shifty guard found the best ways to get teammates involved and will always be remembered for the historic Pitt buzzer beater to stay undefeated. Despite the second round exit in the NCAA tournament, there is no denying the dominance and greatness Tyler Ennis had while playing for Syracuse

Runner up: Frank Howard, 2015-19

Although not the first thought when creating a super team of the past ten years, you cannot look over the role Frank Howard played at the point guard position for Syracuse. Coming in as a freshman Howard barely averaged ten minutes per game. Grinding through the program for two years, Frank Howard became the starting point guard his junior year. Howard took the next step being the true point guard along star Tyus Battle in their 2017 Sweet Sixteen run. Averaging over 14 ppg and 4.7 assists per game that year, Frank Howard needs mention as a true point guard for Syracuse in this debate.

SG: Trevor Cooney, 2012-16

Amongst a talented group of wings that played for Boeheim the past decade none have been more efficient and reliable than Trevor Cooney. The definition of consistency was on display for four seasons with Cooney at shooting guard for Syracuse. While in his second season he shot over 37% from 3 and led the Orange to second place in the ACC, their best finish since joining the league. Cooney would average double digit scoring in his final three seasons with the Orange and was a senior leader on the 2016 Final Four team. Going through Boeheim’s program for four years and coming off the bench, Cooney truly gained a leadership role that he took full advantage of. Throughout this past decade Trevor Cooney has been the most reliable and best shooting guard for Syracuse.

Runner up: Tyus Battle, 2016-19

There was no one Syracuse wanted with the ball on a final possession more than Tyus Battle for the three years he was in Orange. The Jersey native was the go to scorer for Syracuse and led them to two NCAA tournaments in three years including a Sweet Sixteen run. In his sophomore season Battle averaged over 19 points and shot 40% from the field. He averaged an impressive 39 minutes a game through a tough ACC and is known for big shots including Georgetown and Clemson buzzer beaters.

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SF: Buddy Boeheim, 2018-22

One of the largest headlines of the decade for Syracuse has been legendary coach Jim Boeheim coaching his son Buddy Boeheim and later other son Jimmy. Coming in, Buddy had a lot of hype that he lived up to. In four years as an Orange, Boeheim averaged 14.6 ppg and in 2020 shot 38% from three. In his freshman year off the bench he only had a little over six points and one rebound a game. By his junior year, Buddy improved to leading scorer of the Orange with over 17 points a game and propelled the Orange past 3 seed West Virginia into the 2021 Sweet Sixteen. Although some of Boeheim’s years were below average for Syracuse, Buddy still led the ACC in scoring his senior year and is second all time in three pointers made in school history. Everything that was expected and more came out of Buddy Boeheim’s long successful Syracuse career.

Runner-up: Michael Gbinije, 2013-16

There is a fair argument that Gbinije should not even be in this position on this list. No, not because he is a Duke transfer, but because by his senior year the 6-7 forward was essentially the starting point guard for Syracuse. Averaging 4.3 assists a game to go along with 17.5 ppg, Gbinije was dominant during Syracuse’s run to the Final Four. His length and ability to play anywhere in the zone truly shaped the Orange defense for years. Mike Gbinije will always be known for his ability all around the court during the 2016 10 seed underdog Final Four run.

PF: C.J. Fair, 2010-14

Only two years of C.J. Fair’s college career occurred in the decade that is up for debate, however that does not matter because these are Fair’s best years. By senior year, Fair lead a #1 ranked Syracuse team in scoring with 16.5 ppg. Alongside Tyler Ennis, Fair helped the Orange start 25-0 and shot 42.9% from the field while grabbing 6.4 boards each game in 2014. At 6-8, Fair was lean yet tough and became a leader for Syracuse in the 2013 Final Four run and as they entered the ACC.

Runner-up: Tyler Lydon, 2015-17

Creating an impact right away from his freshman stint in Syracuse, Tyler Lydon provided essential length and development for the zone during some crucial seasons of the decade. Primarily known for his outburst during the 2016 Final Four run, as just a freshman Lydon had over 10 ppg and 6 assists per game. Shooting 40% from deep that season, Lydon’s ability to stretch the floor dominated what was a magical season for Syracuse. In just two years at Syracuse, Tyler Lydon made draft attention and an honorable mention in our list.

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C: Rakeem Christmas, 2011-15

Possibly the easiest decision for the starting five, Syracuse has not seen a more dominant center since Rakeem Christmas. Another member of the 25-0 2013 team, Christmas dominated the paint during the first few years of ACC play for Syruacse. In his senior year, Christmas averaged an impressive 17.5 ppg and collected over nine rebounds a game. His senior season the big man was averaging 2.5 blocks a game and controlling the paint. There has been no player since Christmas to set that same tone at center for Syracuse.

Runner-up: Marek Dolezaj, 2017-21

At 6-10 and just 201 lbs, the Slovakian star that Syracuse fans fell in love with over four years played a completely different style of basketball than the dominant center that followed before him in Rakeem Christmas. However, Dolezaj gets the nod for runner up with his ability to adjust with the move to center and command the zone. In his junior year Dolezaj scored over 10 points a game and shot over 55% from the field overall in his four years at Syracuse. Impressively the only time Marek had Syracuse missing the NCAA Tournament was during his junior year which was the 2020 pandemic stricken season that did not see a tournament. Dolezaj was smart with his shots and his playmaking abilities shined even in his post role. Infamously known for his charge on Zion Williamson, Marek Dolezaj never shied away from an important moment and the big man role of the zone.

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About Brett Gustin 71 Articles
Brett is from Canastota, NY, and is currently attending Falk college at Syracuse University studying Sports Analytics. Being a Central New York native, Brett has been passionate about Syracuse sports for his whole life. He covers all Syracuse athletics.