As Syracuse hoops fans bask in the glow of the team’s magical run to the Final Four, it’s time to turn the page to the 2016-2017 campaign. The final roster is still taking shape, following the recent departures of transfers Kaleb Joseph and Chinonso Obokoh. SU is in the mix for several unsigned freshmen, as well as a few fifth-year graduate transfer candidates. Even with three open scholarships to bolster their roster, next season’s squad is shaping up quite nicely. One new face who will definitely wear Orange this fall is incoming freshman, Matt Moyer.
A versatile 6-foot-8 forward from Columbus, Ohio, Matt played his senior year at South Kent School (Conn.), a powerhouse program in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC). South Kent has six alumni currently in the NBA and can also boast that over 60 former players went on to play for D1 programs.
Matt told me in a phone Q&A session that his plan is to make it up to Syracuse next month for the summer academic session that starts May 24. Provided he can work out all the logistics, this would afford Matt a chance to get an early start academically, not that he needs any help in that area, considering he’s a National Honor Society recipient and takes a lot of pride in his work in the classroom.
Also, getting to use the Melo Center this summer will give him a nice foundation for next season, as he joins a loaded Syracuse front court.
Otto’s Grove: For your last year in high school, you decided to transfer to South Kent, and play on the top prep level. How did that experience help you get ready for Syracuse?
Matt Moyer: First and foremost, it shaped me as a person. It humbled me. Back home, almost everywhere I go, I have people coming up to me, asking for a picture or an autograph. Here at school it’s just you and your classmates. You and your teammates, it’s a brotherhood. There are no girls too (laughing).
Plus, I don’t have my parents here, reminding me to do important things like my homework. That will help me because I’m far away from home, so you have to learn to budget your time and take your responsibilities seriously. You grow up fast here. It really helped me get a feel for what I’m going to be experiencing in college.
Otto’s Grove: And on the court…?
Matt Moyer: It’s helped immensely. South Kent faces very tough competition, so I had to step up my game. Some of the guys I played against were older, in their post-grad years. Guys with a lot of experience. Some of them were stronger than I am. I learned that if they were physically stronger than I am, I had to be mentally tougher. And then there were games where I didn’t play as well as I liked. Maybe I didn’t put up great numbers a few times or I had bad stretches during games.
If we won those games, I’d be happy, but maybe not too happy with my own performance. Then I had to shake it off, wake up and go to school. I didn’t have my parents there to lift me up. Yes, I could speak to them on the phone but they were far away from me, so that’s just like what I will go through next season.
Otto’s Grove: You mentioned some opponents being stronger than you, is that an area for improvement for you? Hitting the weights and adding some muscle?
Matt Moyer: Definitely. South Kent has helped me with that. I do lift weights. I’m trying to get stronger without losing my flexibility. I’d love to gain about 15 pounds of muscle but I’m trying to go about it the right way. Syracuse will obviously help in that regard, getting stronger.
Otto’s Grove: Tyler Lydon had a huge impact on the SU team as a freshman forward. What did you learn from watching him and his development?
Matt Moyer: Yeah, Tyler was great this year. In many ways, we’ve taken similar paths too. We both went away from home for our senior year to prep school (Lydon is a New York state native, but played for New Hampton School in New Hampshire his final year). Both of us played in the NEPSAC. Watching him succeed at Syracuse was awesome. Like me, he also started out kind of thin but got stronger too, so that was great to watch.
Otto’s Grove: Speaking of Tyler Lydon, he did have to play out of position at center for long stretches this year, but his natural position is forward. Did you pick up any pointers from watching the forwards in the 2-3 zone? And did you play zone at South Kent?
Matt Moyer: Yes. I actually study the zone very closely. I watch Syracuse games when they’re on and I try to watch some on DVR to see how the zone moves. I’ve even watched some YouTube videos too, sort of instructional videos. I actually think the forwards have the toughest jobs in the zone, with the slides and having to defend inside but also get out on the shooters. I know what Coach Boeheim and the staff expect from me, so I work on that. We did play a lot of zone at South Kent. I actually played a lot of the top of the zone when we played the 1-3-1. And we also played 2-3 zone.
Otto’s Grove: We’ve seen a lot of clips of your offensive game, can you talk about what you bring defensively?
Matt Moyer: Defensive rebounding. Rebounding and aggressiveness in getting out on shooters. I know I’ll be playing in the 2-3 so I work on my footwork. That’s very important.
Otto’s Grove: I know you watched Syracuse’s run to the Final Four and that you got to their first game against Dayton. What were your impressions, especially since a bunch of those guys will be your teammates?
Matt Moyer: It was a great run. Incredible. Wow! I had faith in them all the way. A lot of people didn’t. I think it was a huge accomplishment, getting to the Final Four, especially after the [NCAA] sanctions. It just showed everybody that we’re still Syracuse. We’re an historic program. It’s a great way to sort of kickoff next year, since a lot of those guys will be back and will be my teammates.
Otto’s Grove: Looking ahead, Syracuse is trying to bring players on board for the 2017 recruiting class, including Hamidou Diallo (combo guard, Putnam Science Academy, Putnam, Conn.) and Quade Greene (point guard, Neuman-Goretti, Philadelphia, Pa.). Are you giving them a recruiting pitch?
Matt Moyer: Yes, they are both great talents. I’m always trying to talk about Syracuse to a bunch of players. With Quade, I’m always chirping in his ear (laughing). Hamidou and I both were at Syracuse for the NC State game, so we hung out together and that weekend went very well.
Otto’s Grove: You seem to take pride in helping out with recruiting.
Matt Moyer: It’s not that. It’s really pride in the program. We have an historic program; it’s a blessing to be a part of it. I want to bring in great players and make us even better when I’m there.
Follow Vince on Twitter @IommiCuseFan