All four of Syracuse’s current basketball commits have signed their letters of intent, including possible McDonald’s All-America selection Malachi Richardson, Moustapha Diagne, and Frank Howard. The fourth member of the current class is Tyler Lydon, a springy forward who probably hasn’t been getting as much attention as he deserves. After all, we’re basically talking about Chandler Parsons v2.0 here.
Lydon led his New Hampton Prep team to a 64-48 win over St. Andrew’s School (R.I.) yesterday, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven boards – both team highs – to earn Game MVP honors. He was efficient in how he scored, hitting 5-of-8 from the floor and throwing down what were, by all accounts, some enjoyably emphatic dunks for good measure.
At 6-foot-9, Lydon is a long, rangy small forward prospect who must have Jim Boeheim salivating when he thinks of placing him on the wing of the 2-3 zone. And Lydon is most certainly a small forward, too, with the skill set and perimeter game that is already reminding people of Parsons, the former Florida star and current starting swingman for the Dallas Mavericks. According to our friend Dean Francis, Lydon’s currently averaging about 16.5 points and 7.0 boards per game.
Watching Lydon, even just in highlight reels, it’s hard not to think of the word “bouncy” when describing his athleticism. He doesn’t look like he should be as athletic as he is, because he’s a gangly, lanky, rail-thin kid. But the kid has some serious hops, as you can see in the video above. He showed off that vertical again against St. Andrew’s, at one point catching the ball at the top of the key, easily getting by his defender, and exploding through the lane for a two handed jam.
And that’s one of the reasons that really has me believing that people are sleeping a little bit on Tyler Lydon. Everyone knows his reputation as a three point shooter, and by some accounts he hasn’t helped himself by floating around the perimeter a bit from time to time. But he’s also a kid with the ability to aggressively attack the rim, making him a versatile scorer who could wind up being a big time weapon for Jim Boeheim.
Of course, we’re still probably a little way off from Lydon contributing, based on a couple factors. The first is that, particularly with Chris McCullough’s ACL injury almost certainly meaning he’ll be coming back for a second season, there’s a real logjam at the forward position next season. Between McCullough, Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, and BJ Johnson, right now there’s just not a lot of room for Lydon to sneak in and steal minutes. The player he’s most likely to leapfrog is Johnson, obviously, but even that will leave him fighting for minutes at the small forward spot behind the likes of Gbinije and Roberson.
The other main reason you shouldn’t expect Lydon to step in as a major contributor from day one is a reason that I’m sure he knows all too well: he just needs to get a lot stronger. I mentioned he’s rail thin, and he’s going to need a season working with the Syracuse strength coaches to get himself ready to really compete with the level of athletes playing in the ACC. We’ve seen how much Chris McCullough has struggled to bang with the bigger, more physically developed bodies in high level Division I basketball, and Lydon will have some of the same troubles attacking the basket that McCullough has had.
The one reason why Lydon might be able to find a small role in Jim Boeheim’s rotation next year, however, is his ability to stretch the floor. We’ve seen this year that the Orange are clearly lacking in perimeter threats, and the Orange are loading up between Lydon and Malachi Richardson, two of the best shooters at their respective positions in the country. If Lydon can consistently knock down the three ball, he might be able to earn some playing time as a freshman.
But even if he does need to take that first year to develop his body and get it to the same level as his game, that’s perfectly fine. By the time he adds another 15 or so pounds of muscle in the Syracuse strength and conditioning program, he’s going to be a lethal weapon. I don’t want to overstate things too much, but it’s been a long time since the Orange have had the kind of inside/outside threat that Lydon could wind up being.
Lydon also got invaluable experience competing with USA Basketball, averaging 5.8 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game to help USA bring home the gold medal with a 5-0 record at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championships.
I’m excited about the potential of Tyler Lydon. You should be, too.