Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of speculation about where Buddy Boeheim would wind up playing his college ball. His older brother, Jimmy, is set to suit up for Cornell this season, and the general public started wondering whether Buddy would end up at a similar level. And then, after a scintillating junior campaign, Buddy’s profile began to soar on the EYBL circuit. Last night, he announced that he’d been offered by Gonzaga.
Suddenly, the idea that Buddy Boeheim is headed for an Ivy League school, or someplace like UMass (which offered early) or Iona (which offered just recently) seemed farfetched, and appeared to be setting the bar low.
And now, somewhat amazingly, it turns out that one of the most important pieces for the 2018 recruiting cycle for the Syracuse Orange is a potential walk-on. Previously, some of the more glass-half-empty types believed that if Buddy wound up at Syracuse, it’d be simply because his dad is the coach, and that he wouldn’t be able to compete at the ACC level for any meaningful minutes.
Now, that’s looking to be more and more of a false narrative. For starters, the idea that Buddy Boeheim would only wind up on the Syracuse roster because of his dad is verifiably untrue; how else can you explain the fact that Jimmy Boeheim – an excellent player in his own right – headed to Cornell, when he certainly could have walked on for the Orange? Obviously, Jimmy wants to play, and he’s going to get a phenomenal education. Buddy no doubt wants to actually get on the court at the next level, as well. If he comes to Syracuse, it’s because he expects to get on the floor not out of nepotism, but out of merit.
Fathers have been coaching their sons basically for as long as there’s been basketball. Homer Drew coached Bryce Drew, Greg McDermott coached Doug McDermott, Steve Alford coached both Kory and Bryce Alford, John Beilein coached Patrick Beilein, and so on. Heck, from a personal standpoint, my dad coached both me and my brother in AAU ball.
At the college level, there can be way too much side-eye given when a coach brings in his own kid. If the kid gets on the floor there’ll assuredly be people moaning about favoritism – at least, from the stands. The players on the bench know who can and can’t play, and Buddy Boeheim is continuing to prove he can play.
He also comes along at the perfect time, if Syracuse is fortunate enough to land him (and Gonzaga will likely not be the only big-time offer he winds up getting, so really, who could blame him if he chose to take a scholarship and avoid the added spotlight and expectations of playing for his Hall of Fame dad?). The 2018 recruiting cycle is the last one in which the Orange coaching staff faces serious hurdles due to NCAA sanctions. After the 2017-18 season, the Orange move back up to 12 scholarships, and then in 2018-19 the roster is back to full strength with 13 scholarships.
That means that by the time the 2019 recruiting cycle kicks in, Boeheim and his staff will be looking to fill a full 13-man roster again. I’ve gone over the potential scholarships available in the past for the 2018 class, and at this point most Syracuse fans are fully aware that as the roster currently stands there won’t be much room for additions, at least in terms of scholarship additions.
Geno Thorpe will be gone, freeing up one scholarship. The program gets one more back from the NCAA, and Tyus Battle is in all likelihood headed to the NBA following the upcoming campaign. That makes three scholarships likely, with the potential for a fourth. Syracuse has already landed Darius Bazley, and Jalen Carey remains an extremely high priority. Adding another big man seems likely, which would bring the class to three players. Let’s say that the Orange do land Carey, and pick up a commitment from Dimon Carrigan, the 6-foot-9 rebounding and shot-blocking machine.
That’s an excellent class… but where’s the shooting? Carey is a hell of a scorer, and can shoot with range. Bazley has a developing perimeter game, but at this point isn’t exactly known as being a long range bomber. Carrigan is a physical specimen at the center position whose offense is still catching up to his defense and athleticism.
And that’s what makes Buddy Boeheim so crucial to the Syracuse recruiting class of 2018. The Orange are going to need shooting, and they’re going to need it badly. Thorpe and Battle look to be the top perimeter threats this upcoming season, but again, Thorpe is definitely gone and Battle is likely gone. Howard Washington can shoot, but how ready he’ll be to contribute substantially in his second year remains to be seen. Oshae Brissett is a better shooter than he gets credit for, and Matt Moyer has been working hard at that aspect of his game.
But let’s be real, here: the Orange need a knock-down shooter. There aren’t many better shooters in the entire class of 2018 than Buddy Boeheim. And as he continues to prove, emphatically underlined by that Gonzaga offer, he’s not just some coach’s kid who gets added to the roster because of his last name. He’s a legitimate D1 player, and will have a chance to continue proving exactly that as he plays his senior season at Brewster Academy in the toughest high school league in the country, the NEPSAC.
He’s 6-foot-5 and, in the most important difference between he and Jimmy Boeheim as D1 prospects, he’s more athletic than his big brother. Buddy was the CNY Player of the Year, averaging 26.3 points along with 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. His EYBL shooting numbers were off the charts, with a line of 55.7% on field goals, 47.4% on threes, and 89.5% on free throws in 11 games heading into last week’s Peach Jam. In five Peach Jam games, the numbers were every bit as good, and even better: .538/.556/.857. And yes, in case you need that highlighted – he shot 55.6% from three against some of the best high school players in America.
His final EYBL shooting line was .535/.483/.852 in 17 games, averaging 12.2 points per game. If people continue to be skeptical as to whether or not he’s a legitimate Division 1 talent, well… I just don’t know what to tell them.
And again, that’s what makes landing him so critical. He comes along at the perfect time, when Syracuse is short on scholarships and in desperate need of guard depth and shooting. He gives the Orange both, without taking up a scholarship, if he does choose to play for his dad. Let’s all hope that’s exactly what he decides to do.