Today marks the first day of the spring signing period for high school basketball recruits. The period lasts for about a month, and you’ll no doubt see plenty of movement on the national scene with prospects deciding on schools and inking their letters of intent. Of course, just like last year, Syracuse fans may have to wait until into the summer to see next year’s roster become complete.
One thing we know for sure is that Howard Washington will be signing his NLI with the Orange (which could even happen today). That would make him the third signed player in the class, along with Oshae Brissett and Bourama Sidibe, who each signed their paperwork in the fall.
Jordan Tucker is likely to be the next domino to fall, whether it’s for Syracuse or not. The 6-foot-8 small forward visited the Orange over the weekend, and SU has to be considered one of the favorites at this point. He would be an incredibly important component for Syracuse next year, and would have the potential to start immediately and provide much needed shooting.
Right now, Georgia Tech has to be considered the biggest threat. Since Tucker spent the last year playing ball in Georgia, they’ve become something of a hometown team, and on top of that they also have a commitment from Tucker’s EYBL teammate Jose Alvarado, and will likely get the last official visit from the sweet shooting swingman.
The other big domino that Syracuse fans are waiting on is Eric Ayala, the combo guard from Putnam Science Academy who, at this stage, we’re still not sure is actually going to be a member of the class of 2017 or not. Frankly, I’m not anticipating that we’ll hear anything from Ayala anytime in the near future, particularly as more teams show interest (like his recent offer from Oregon). With the late signing period now having started, the fact that Ayala hasn’t yet declared his intention to reclassify or stay within the class of 2018 probably means his recruitment could stretch into the summer.
Of course, given the recruitments of both Taurean Thompson and Andrew White last year, that’s something Syracuse fans have grown accustomed to.
As I mentioned at the top, the Orange probably won’t have a complete class until sometime this summer, and one of the most intriguing names left out there for Syracuse is playing ball over in Slovakia. That’d be 6-foot-9 forward Marek Dolezaj, a rail-thin player whose game likely translates to a combination forward at the Division I level. I know, some places show him as a potential shooting guard, but… well, those places are wrong, at least at this stage of his development.
The almost impossibly skinny Dolezaj does have some very significant talent, however, with some serious athleticism and an above average handle for a guy his size. His shooting stroke needs a little work, starting his shot a little bit low and away from his body, which could make it difficult for him to get his jumper off against ACC-caliber athletes.
That said, he’s got the tools to become a fairly reliable perimeter threat, particularly if he turns into a stretch four. If he’s able to bulk up, and fine tune his perimeter game a bit, he could become a serious matchup nightmare for opposing defenders.
Syracuse is reportedly one of the schools in pursuit of the Slovakian star, though until he actually makes his way to the US and begins taking some visits, it’ll be hard to tell just how serious the Orange are about him, and just how serious he is about Syracuse (or any other schools, for that matter). Still, he’s one of the more interesting prospects left that Syracuse is known to be in contact with, and a player worth monitoring going forward.
Personally, I’d prefer to see Syracuse wrap up the class with Tucker, Ayala, and Dolezaj, as opposed to being forced to raid the graduate transfer market again. As much as I liked John Gillon and Andrew White, having to replenish your roster year after year is no way to build any sustainable success. By adding guys who will be in the program for multiple seasons, you’re able to better lay the foundation for the future.
Syracuse will be getting back another scholarship to use toward the class of 2018, and Tyus Battle is likely gone to the NBA, with Taurean Thompson also a very real possibility to jump into next year’s draft. That would leave the team with three open slots, which, personally, I’d greatly prefer to having to fill four or five, or even six spots yet again. Getting guys who are going to be in the program for multiple years as the foundation for the program – guys like Bourama Sidibe, and Howard Washington, and potentially someone like Marek Dolezaj – is necessary to getting the Orange back to the top of the ACC. Then you plug in some one and done or two and done guys around those guys as juniors and seniors, and we’re in business.