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Hey gang. That was a fun ride, wasn’t it? I mean, outside of the offensive struggles and the rest of the world shouting that we didn’t belong and that we sucked the fun out of basketball, that is. But now, the ride is over. The offseason begins. And Syracuse fans – you know that I love you, or at least might throw you a life preserver while you’re drowning – I just feel like I need to remind you… don’t be a dick.

I tweeted this sentiment right after the loss to Duke, but I wanted to expand a little bit now that I’ve actually got a short window to do a little writing.

Look, I get it. You, like me, look at how loaded next year’s roster could be if everyone returns. You, like me, have been burned by some early entries into the NBA Draft that, to at least some degree, left you scratching your head. You, like me, want to see Syracuse be as successful as possible, and that means keeping as much talent as possible.

But we all need to accept a couple things when it comes to Syracuse players at least testing the waters: 1) it’s inevitable, particularly in the case of Tyus Battle, and 2) it’s none of our goddamn business.

Tyus Battle, in all likelihood, will at least compete at the NBA Draft Combine to get a feel for where he stands as a prospect. No, he hasn’t been on many draft boards throughout the season, but NBA scouts have certainly been watching him. And what they see is a 6-foot-6, 205 pound player who can drive and finish, anticipates well in passing lanes, steps up in big moments to hit tough shots, and can create for himself against top-tier defenders.

You know what else they see? They see a kid who is 20-years-old, and will be 21 in the fall. That means that, if he comes back for his junior year, he’ll be 22 as a rookie if he declares after the upcoming year.

While it’s not fair, and I’m guessing most NBA front offices won’t admit to it, a player’s age is held against him – at least, in comparison to other prospects. Would you rather take an experienced 22-year-old who may already be nearing his ceiling, or a raw but gifted 19-year-old whose ceiling is years away? It’s unfair, but that’s the way things work. Experience is often ignored, and juniors and seniors frequently slip to the late first round, or even into the second round and undrafted.

It may very well be in Tyus Battle’s best interest to go pro right now. There are obviously things he can improve – particularly the consistency on his perimeter jumper – but for the most part, what you see is what you’re going to get with him. He’s close to a finished product. If he comes back next season, his shooting numbers would likely go up, but the rest of his numbers may actually go down a bit as the Orange will have more offensive weapons, like Darius Bazley and Jalen Carey.

A good example to look at for a player who probably made a mistake coming back to school is Grayson Allen. Allen was an All-American as a sophomore at Duke, and he was pegged as a likely first round selection. Now, in the latest ESPN mock draft, he’s projected as a second rounder. While it worked out well for Duke that he returned, his stock most definitely did not improve – it declined. Who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen for Tyus Battle? As much as I want Battle to return, it genuinely may be in his best interest, in terms of draft potential, to leave now. Could be become a lottery pick in a year? Maybe. But who knows?

And then there’s Oshae Brissett.

Look, I will just say this right now: I think it’d be pretty foolish for Brissett to go pro at this point in his development. He’s not quite a small forward, and he’s not quite a power forward. He puts up solid scoring and rebounding numbers, but he really struggles to finish around the basket, and his jumper isn’t yet as consistent as it could be. I can’t imagine a lot of NBA scouts are going to be willing to use a first round draft pick on a kid who doesn’t yet have a true NBA position and who shot just 35.4% from the field.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Oshae Brissett and I think his potential is phenomenal. But I think it’d be a mistake for him to declare.

But you know what? I still think he may at least test the waters to see where he stands, and I’m ready to accept that fact. It’s not my choice, and it’s not my life. He and Battle are actual human beings, not just avatars playing basketball for my amusement. I still fully expect him to return and form a dominant forward duo with Darius Bazley next year, but I certainly won’t begrudge him at least checking in on where he stands with NBA front offices.

And I really hope you won’t begrudge him that, either. These players don’t owe us anything. They live and breathe Syracuse basketball. We just enjoy watching it and rooting for them. Sure, I get wanting to root for them for as long as possible, but how long they stay is not our call.

I love Twitter, but it’s such a haven for bad behavior. Unfortunately, a lot of it winds up being directed at Syracuse basketball players when they go pro before the “experts” in our fanbase deem them ready. These are the people who seem to take great joy in the failures of players who wind up playing in the G-League (which is a pretty common occurrence with rookies, but they’ll seldom mention that because it doesn’t fit the narrative).

So with all that said, I’m begging you, Syracuse fans: don’t be dicks. Appreciate our players while we have them wearing Orange, and wish them well when they decide to pursue their dreams. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s one that many seem to really struggle with. But this isn’t a video game, and you aren’t controlling your favorite players. They’re living, breathing people with real life problems, real life families, real life desires, and real life goals. Encourage them in their pursuit, and realize that, hey… there’ll be another player or two you can root for just as hard next year. Syracuse basketball isn’t going anywhere, even if the players do. Remember that, and try not to be an asshole.

Deal?

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including Cracked.com, Spike.com, TheSportster.com, Gunaxin.com, and TopTenz.net, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He's got a wife, and a toddler he's brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff's a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish

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