Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is the second winningest coach in the history of the NCAA, and a major reason for that has been his ability to recruit top line talent. For most of his 46 (going on 47) seasons, he’s had NBA talent around him.
In fact, up until the 2020 pandemic-shortened season that featured Elijah Hughes, Boeheim has had at least one NBA player on his team.
There have been some lean times. In the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Syracuse memorably went all the way to the championship game, where they faced off against a star-studded Kentucky team that had nine future NBA players.
But what most Orangemen fans may not remember is that John Wallace was the only NBA player on that Syracuse squad.
Not surprisingly one of SU’s most talented teams was the 2009-10 team, perhaps the most talented team Boeheim’s ever had that didn’t make it to the Final Four. That team had five future pros in Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson, Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph and James Southerland.
Starting from Boeheim’s first season in 1976 and running through 2020, the below table shows that he’s always had at least one NBA caliber player on his teams. (***Note: I did not include every single player who has played in the NBA under Boeheim. This chart is just to illustrate the unbroken chain of NBA talent that Boeheim has coached while at SU.)
|Louis Orr||1976 – 1980|
|Leo Rautins||1980 – 1983|
|Pearl Washington||1983 – 1986|
|Derrick Coleman||1986 – 1990|
|Billy Owens||1988 – 1991|
|Lawrence Moten||1991 – 1995|
|John Wallace||1992 – 1996|
|Jason Hart||1996 – 2000|
|Damone Brown||1997 – 2001|
|Hakim Warrick||2001 – 2005|
|Arinze Onuaku||2005 – 2010|
|Dion Waiters||2010 – 2012|
|Rakeem Christmas||2011 – 2015|
|Tyler Lydon||2015 – 2017|
|Oshae Brissett||2017 – 2019|
|Elijah Hughes||2018 – 2020|
Unfortunately, this streak may be coming to an end. I posted the same chart around this time last year, and noted that Syracuse had several players that might play on future NBA rosters: Quincy Guerrier, Buddy Boeheim, Alan Griffin and Kadary Richmond.
Each of these players has seen their NBA stock drop over the course of the past season.
- Quincy Guerrier: Guerrier’s stats dropped across the line following his transfer to Oregon. An All-ACC Third Team performer with the Orange, he averaged just 10.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg. The transfer hurt both Syracuse’s win total and Guerrier’s NBA hopes.
- Buddy Boeheim: Around this time last year, Buddy was on the radar of NBA scouts. In fact, as of January, he still was. But his 3-point percentage dipped from 38.3 to 34.1, and he’s not currently listed on any mock drafts.
- Alan Griffin: Griffin was not drafted in 2021, and has bounced around the G League, most recently for the Westchester Knicks. He averaged 7.2 ppg across 10 games, but was waived in January.
- Kadary Richmond: Richmond was a prime candidate to become SU’s next combo guard in the NBA before transferring to Seton Hall. His numbers were up slightly with the Pirates, averaging 8.8 ppg and 4.1 apg this past season, but those numbers don’t particularly scream NBA draft pick.
Boeheim’s best shot at keeping the streak going has several different possible paths:
- The emergence of Jesse Edwards as an All-ACC caliber center could earn him some NBA attention next year. Edwards was the fifth option on Syracuse this year and still averaged 12.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg before breaking his wrist. He should be a featured piece of the offense next year, which could catapult him into NBA discussion in the 2022-23 season.
- Another path is Buddy Boeheim having a great NBA pre-draft camp, and working his way back into the late second round, or perhaps earning a spot in the G League system and eventually earning an NBA roster spot.
- A third option would be a combination of Richmond (or, less likely, Guerrier/Griffin) making the NBA, and having one of SU’s newcomers this season make the league. Cole Swider could have a similar scenario that I described with Buddy Boeheim, and find himself in the right role as a stretch-4 for an NBA team. Or perhaps Benny Williams will tap into his potential as a former 5-star recruit and work himself back into an NBA prospect.
With Boeheim’s career winding down, potentially at the end of the 2023 season, it’s also worth looking at the current roster, as well. The best NBA prospect on next year’s roster is likely Judah Mintz, who is ranked 35th in ESPN’s top 100.
Incoming freshmen Chris Bunch, Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland are also rated four stars and top 100 prospects depending on what recruiting service you ask.
Any of them making the NBA would bookend an incredible coaching career for Boeheim, filled with top basketball talent.