Less than 24 hours after visiting the Syracuse campus, East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes has decided to commit to the Orange basketball program. He’ll have to sit out this season, but still has three years of eligibility remaining.
BREAKING: Elijah Hughes just committed to #Syracuse basketball per source. Will not visit Iona. Story coming.
— Mike McAllister (@McAllisterScout) May 11, 2017
— Eli (@elijahhughes4_) May 11, 2017
Hughes is a highly intriguing addition, with a 6-foot-6, 220 pound frame and a good all-around skillset. He flew under the radar coming out of high school, due in large part to the fact that he never played on the AAU circuit and was a dual sport athlete. However, his senior year was spent at South Kent, where he teamed with Matthew Moyer. In one game, he reportedly went head to head with Hamidou Diallo, scoring 24 points while holding the potential 2017 NBA Draft pick to just four.
In his one year at ECU, Hughes averaged 7.8 points and 2.3 rebounds while missing a little bit of time with a foot injury, and came on strong during the AAC Tournament. Over the final two games, against Temple and SMU, he averaged 16.0 points and knocked down 6-of-11 three pointers.
Hughes is a terrific athlete with a nice shooting stroke, making his 27.3% success rate from long distance as a freshman in all likelihood a product of some struggles transitioning form high school ball to the college level. Some of his stronger games his freshman season came against the likes of Cincinnati and UConn, against whom he scored 18 and 14 points, respectively. He also scored a career-best 19 points against South Florida and potential SU grad transfer target Geno Thorpe.
With the addition of Hughes, Syracuse now has two scholarships remaining to use for 2017. Jordan Tucker is almost certainly bound for Duke, but would take up one of those two spots should he shock the recruiting world and pick the Orange. The other looks to be reserved for Marek Dolezaj, the 6-foot-9 Slovakian forward who visited campus earlier this week. Should Tucker pick Duke, and Dolezaj pick Syracuse, then the final roster spot would likely then be reserved for either Eric Ayala, who remains open to reclassifying to 2017, or someone like Thorpe.
From my perspective, bringing in Thorpe makes good sense. The 2018 recruiting class is loaded, and the Orange are involved with a number of good players, but have limited scholarships available with no seniors graduating. Bringing in Thorpe would, in essence, be just like keeping one spot open, while the Orange also gain back one more scholarship and will be up to 12 next season.
Assuming Tyus Battle goes pro, that would then give Syracuse three scholarships to work with. Having Hughes on board gives the Orange a talented, athletic shooting guard who will be two years removed from high school, and will have been competing head to head with Battle for a full year, learning the 2-3 zone, and presumably sliding right into the starting lineup in Battle’s place. Having a shooting guard in the program and ready to step in gives the staff a little more freedom on the 2018 recruiting trail, since they don’t necessarily need to focus on bringing in a starter-level shooting guard.