With so much uncertainty suddenly surrounding Syracuse University basketball recruiting in the class of 2016, I decided to reach out to our friend Dean Francis, one of the most knowledgable Syracuse recruiting insiders around. Tyus Battle is headed to Michigan, so where will the Orange look next? Well, that’s one of the questions I had for Francis, so check out his answer, as well as an update on Matthew Moyer.
Otto’s Grove: How unexpected was Tyus Battle’s decision, in terms of how prepared Syracuse was in terms of getting backups in place in your estimation?
Dean Francis: The SU coaching staff was definitely caught off guard by the timing of the decision. It wasn’t a shock that he would decide early because that was expected. What wasn’t expected was the decision to commit before making his official visit to SU. Moving on the staff did reach out and made offers to several other backup options during the process, such as Kobi Simmons and Alterique Gilbert. So it’s not like they’re in full scramble mode and have no idea what to do next.
OG: Now that Battle is off the table, who do you think is the likeliest candidate to wind up in Orange, and what do you think about his game?
DF: Out of the two names mentioned above in the previous question, I think Al Gilbert is more realistic than Simmons to get. He has recently chopped down his list to five schools and even though he’s not in a rush to end things, I get the feeling that he won’t hesitate to commit at any moment if he finds the right fit. When it comes to his game, ‘Cuse fans will see a resemblance of Jonny Flynn. He’s about the same height at around 5-foot-11, athletic, quick first step when driving inside, and is the ultimate competitor. Other names to look out for that I think the staff will continue to monitor are Quinton Rose, Howard Washington, and Tony Carr.
OG: How much ground does Syracuse have to make up to have Jamal Murray be a realistic option?
DF: If SU ever shows the desire to finally recruit Murray, then they will have a whole lot of ground to make up in my opinion. Murray has basically been told for two years now by SU that Tyus Battle was the better player and fit. It would seem very disingenuous for the staff to all of a sudden change their tune and think that the Murray family would suddenly say all is forgiven and come running to them. This is recruiting and anything is possible, but at this point I think the SU and Murray ship has sailed.
OG: Other than the names we’ve heard – Simmons, Gilbert, Murray, etc. – who is a player who could conceivably emerge that isn’t really on the Syracuse radar, but could become an impact player?
DF: The player that I have been high on from this past season that is blowing up now nationally is Markelle Fultz from DeMatha High. He’s an explosive 6-foot-4 guard that impacts the game in a variety of ways on both ends of the court. What makes his story even more intriguing is the fact that he was only playing JV ball as a sophomore last year, and now one year later he’s most likely pushing five star status amongst all the scouting services.
(Editor’s note: it was announced today Fultz will soon be taking a visit to Kentucky)
OG: Do you see any way that the Orange decide to shift the rest of their focus in a different direction for ’16 – as in, away from guards, and toward one more “big” to round out the class alongside Moyer, essentially rolling the dice with Joseph and Howard at the point?
DF: I think the staff is basically all in on getting another guard for 2016. What could be interesting is if they miss out on Gilbert and Simmons, what would they do next? Would they reach for a Rose or Howard Washington just for the sake of adding some PG depth? It could be possible that they would just decide on settling for the best big man available, which is another position that could use some depth as well.
OG: Syracuse has swung and missed on its last two big recruits. Who is the next big recruit, either in ’16 or ’17, who could really restore some faith in the fanbase that things aren’t getting as dire as some think they are in the wake of the NCAA sanctions?
DF: The next big time recruit that Cuse fans can hopefully get excited about if they were able to land him is Trevon Duval in the 2017 class. Duval is the type of talent that would make the team instant championship contenders.
OG: And to just end on a bit of a more upbeat note for the program – what are your thoughts on how Matthew Moyer’s game is seeming to take off? Tell me your thoughts on Syracuse’s current ’16 commit and how his game is evolving and emerging.
DF: Moyer’s commitment is probably the last good news that the SU program has had in a long time and his constant public loyalty to the program during the tough times is very pleasant to see. When it comes to his game, we are talking about a long and athletic player who is full of energy and brings it 100% each game. What most fans might not realize is that he handles the ball well for a player his size and that should provide plenty of versatility in half court and transition situations. When it comes to comparisons, I would say he reminds me of a more skilled version of Tyler Roberson. Obviously he’ll need to get stronger and become a more consistent shooter from the perimeter, but he has plenty of time to work on that before he enters college in 2016.