Syracuse basketball ushered in May in a major way, when they snagged dynamic Colorado State point guard and fifth year graduate transfer John Gillon. A 6-foot speed merchant, Gillon adds depth and experience to an Orange team that should have plenty of answers in 2016-2017.
One huge question is whether Malachi Richardson will stay in the NBA Draft. Regardless of Malachi’s decision, Jim Boeheim will now be able to mix and match in a backcourt that will also include incoming freshman sensation Tyus Battle, and talented returning point guard Frank Howard.
Gillon averaged 13.2 points and 3.8 assists for the CSU Rams, while showing deep range and ability from three-point land. Dillon is adept at knifing through opponents and finishing in traffic despite his lack of size. As you’ll read, Gillon also doesn’t lack for confidence.
Congratulations on your commitment to play for Syracuse for your last year of eligibility. What did you initially find attractive about SU and Orange hoops?
I just know its background. That basically it’s a great place and I was looking forward to playing there.
You committed to Syracuse right after touring the campus and facilities, what made the biggest impact to you that you saw that weekend?
Just talking to Coach Boeheim and him telling me what role he wanted me to play on the team and how good of a situation it was for me. You basically couldn’t write a better script for an up-and-coming basketball player. I just thought it was perfect, and what else could I possibly be looking for.
If you could elaborate a little, what did Coach Boeheim and the staff tell you about your role next season?
They just basically said they needed me to play my game and just attack the basket, get people involved, shoot pretty freely – as long as it’s a reasonable shot. And that I’ll get good minutes – assuming that I come in every day and work hard.
You were predominantly a starter this past season at Colorado State [Gillon started in 26 of 32 games] after being named the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year the prior season. Does it matter to you whether you start or come off the bench for Syracuse?
I always have seen myself as a starter. I make the most of it when I do come off the bench but this is my last year and I want to have the best role I can. In my eyes that’s being a starter and (playing) big minutes.
Do you feel you’ll have to adjust your game at all, coming from the Mountain West to the ACC?
I’ll have to change it from a standpoint of getting adjusted to playing a good team every single night. I think that some Mountain West teams aren’t as strong as others but from a defensive standpoint, there’s nobody better than, like, a San Diego State. With that length and speed, I think that (SDSU) probably would give me the best indicator of what I’ll be facing every night. You have to have a certain focus when you play a team like that. The consistency of playing someone so defensively stifling, I think I have to adjust.
John, you’re listed at 6-feet tall. You’re obviously not a big guard but you are very fast, so how do you use your quickness to be effective?
I just try to keep people off balance. I try to use my speed however I can because I know I have a disadvantage when it comes to my size. I mean, I don’t see it as a disadvantage but I understand that I’m not a big guard. I have to play at a fast-paced; I can’t play as slow as everybody else does because I’m not as big.
You said your preferred style is a fast pace. Has the coaching staff given you any indication they’ll play a little more up tempo next year?
Yeah, Coach said he hasn’t had a guard like me in a while. He’s been playing people who are pretty big, like Michael Gbinije played the one last year. He did a great job but Coach wants to push the ball a little bit faster this year, I think, and he thinks I can help with that aspect.
You’re a point guard who can shoot the three ball, what gives you more satisfaction: draining a three with a hand in your face or making a really nice assist to set up a dunk for a teammate?
I like what gives us the most points, so if I hit a three, I’d rather that. I know normally a point guard usually says they’d like to pass first; I love to pass but there’s nothing like scoring.
On the other side of the ball, a staple of Syracuse Basketball is the 2-3 zone. Everyone tends to focus on your offense. Can you talk about what you’ll bring to that end of the floor?
I just bring quickness. I can get in passing lanes. I have fast hands. Normally there are longer guards up there (in the Syracuse zone) but I can contest shots. Just whatever they need. I definitely won’t be a liability.
No one knows what the final roster will be, but what are your early expectations for the team next year?
Expectations? I want to win the National Championship. I think that’s what the whole staff wants. I think we definitely have the pieces to do it. I mean, I know that’s aiming high but I believe in the system and I believe in my new teammates.
Let’s go off the court, you are getting your degree in economics from CSU [John told me he graduates in a week and a half]. Do you know what you plan to study at Syracuse for your graduate year?
I think I’m going to do Business.
What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Probably being a point guard for the (Houston) Rockets. (John is a Houston, Texas native.)
What about at the end of your NBA career?
If the opportunity presented itself, I’d like to coach but if that didn’t work, I’d want to go into some sort of sales.
Do you have a message for Syracuse fans, who are obviously looking forward to next season?
I’m going to definitely give them my all every night. I’m going to play hard from buzzer to buzzer and I hope they enjoy it. And I’m a winner.
Are you looking forward to playing in the Carrier Dome in front of 30,000?
I definitely am. I love how the fans have already embraced me, showing me a lot of love on social media. I really appreciate it.
Follow Vince on Twitter @IommiCuseFan