It feels like Syracuse is among the only programs yet to receive a pledge for the hoops recruiting class of 2017. The Orange are battling for some of the biggest names in the nation, but with the early signing period rapidly approaching (in early November) it sure would be nice to get that first domino to fall, wouldn’t it?
With that in mind, let’s take a stab at predicting what the class of 2017 will wind up looking like. This is based on a combination of some conversations I’ve had with folks “in the know” as well as my own gut feeling on a few prospects, but it’s obviously far from scientific. With that in mind, yesterday I tweeted out what I think a realistic class for Jim Boeheim and his staff would look like:
Realistic class for SU hoops: Quade Green, Brandon Randolph, Jordan Tucker, Hameir Wright, Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe. I'd be happy.
— OttosGrove.com (@OttosGrove) September 28, 2016
And you know what? Nothing has changed for me in the last day or so, other than perhaps holding out the hope that Lonnie Walker remains a realistic possibility. However, my gut is telling me that Walker – along with 5-star center Nick Richards – will wind up at Kentucky. The other question mark in that class I projected is Hameir Wright.
Wright’s situation is a little bit confusing right now, because he started out in the class of 2017, reclassified to 2018, but then it was clarified that he may not actually stick in that class, either. He could potentially wind up back in the class of 2017 before it’s all said and done.
The other option we’ll obviously have to monitor is whether or not Jim Boeheim opts for another graduate transfer or two next season. Obviously, that’s not something we can project right now, and in fact we can’t even be fully certain of just how many open scholarships will be available. It could be up to seven, assuming both Tyler Lydon and Tyus Battle go pro. Or, if both players (unrealistically) opt to stay, we could be looking at only five open spots on next year’s roster.
But all that said, here’s what I see happening:
Green will get the ball rolling for Syracuse, committing sometime in the next few weeks. He’s been hinting at a forthcoming commitment on Twitter. A week or two ago, he hinted at November being a good time to commit, and as recently as last night he was dropping hints such as, “Am I next?” and indicating that he’s currently making a difficult decision. The end of his recruitment would appear to be rapidly approaching, and right now Syracuse is the clear frontrunner.
Duke and Kentucky were long thought to be the two biggest threats, but Duke has moved on and it looks like Matt Coleman – another SU target – is who they’ve got their eyes on. Kentucky, meanwhile, is focusing on either Trae Young (who has announced he won’t decide until the spring) or Tremont Waters. Chances are, the Wildcats will land one of the two, eliminating them from the Quade Green sweepstakes. So that effectively leaves Syracuse as far and away the leader for the elite point guard’s services.
By the way, I’m going in order of how I think the dominoes will fall. Green will be first. Next up: power forward Oshae Brissett. The Canadian import, who plays his high school ball at Findlay Prep, will be cutting his list down to four tomorrow. It would be stunning if Syracuse is somehow not included, and right now the indications are that the Orange lead for Brissett’s services.
Brissett is a little bit more of an under the radar prospect than some of the other players Syracuse is recruiting, but has a chance to be a strong contributor for 3-4 years for the Orange. The fact that he’s got ties to Tony McIntyre – who you may remember is Tyler Ennis’s stepdad – can only help Syracuse’s recruiting efforts here. The Orange have a history with Canadian players, and I think Brissett becomes the latest, and he does so by the early signing period.
Outside of Quade Green, I think that Brandon Randolph is the player I’m most excited about potentially landing. Randolph has a top four that includes Syracuse, Arizona, Wake Forest, and Oregon. He’s also got ties not only to Quade Green, but to a couple other players Syracuse is heavily involved with on the recruiting trail. Randolph plays his EYBL ball with Green and Mo Bamba. Not just that, but Bamba, along with elite 2018 prospect Cam Reddish, play their high school ball together.
Randolph is an athletic, sweet shooting guard with deep range to go along with a 6-6 frame. He’s an ideal addition to this year’s class, since the Orange will be losing virtually all of their outside shooting heading into 2017-2018 with the departures of Andrew White, John Gillon, and likely Tyler Lydon as well. Randolph has long been one of the top priorities for Syracuse, and I think once Quade Green is locked up, his PSA Cardinals teammate will follow suit.
Now here’s a guy I haven’t ever really talked about, because Syracuse was more focused on guys like Nick Richards and Mo Bamba for the center position. Well, Richards is trending to Kentucky – big-time – and Bamba is one of the hardest players in this class to get a read on. Bamba is probably the best player in the class of 2017, and can go anywhere he wants. Syracuse made his top seven, but it seems unlikely he winds up playing for the Orange. It’s certainly a possibility, but I’m leaning toward him going elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if he winds up at Harvard, of all places, though Duke seems the likeliest candidate to snag him at this point.
That said, Bourama Sidibe is not a bad fallback option at all. The 6-foot-10, 225 pound center from St. Benedict Prep in New Jersey is a tremendous athlete who’s still a little raw in terms of fundamentals, but the good news for Syracuse – and why I think Sidibe would be a heck of a pickup – is that the Orange will have Paschal Chukwu and Taurean Thompson on the roster. Center isn’t exactly the most pressing need for the Orange in this year’s class, so even if we miss out on both Richards and Bamba, a guy like Sidibe would be a fantastic way to add depth. He’d also be the future of the position, taking over the middle of the zone once Chukwu either goes pro or graduates.
I’m kind of back and forth on what I think will happen with Jordan Tucker. Right now, it looks like he’s pushing his decision back to the spring. And from what I’ve been hearing, he’s fallen down Syracuse’s board a bit over the past couple months. I spoke to someone with great connections to the recruiting scene yesterday who indicated that Louisville is the frontrunner for Tucker, but I think that’s also in part because the Orange have backed off.
If Syracuse decides to prioritize Tucker again, I think they leapfrog the Cardinals and become the frontrunner for the 6-foot-7 small forward with deep range and a smooth stroke. Syracuse is going to need depth on the perimeter, with the very real chance that only Frank Howard will return as the only guard. Matthew Moyer is more of a power forward right now than a small forward, but will have the upcoming year to work on his perimeter skills to become more of a combo forward. But the Orange need help on the outside, and they need shooting.
Tucker, I think, depends quite a lot on what happens with Hameir Wright and Lonnie Walker. If Syracuse is able to get Wright into the class of 2017, or land Walker in addition to Randolph, then I don’t think Tucker winds up playing for Syracuse. However, if the Orange miss out on Walker and Wright stays in 2018, I think that Tucker rises back up the coaching staff’s board out of necessity as much as anything else. Of the five players I’ve talked about, I think he’s least likely to actually wind up in this year’s class.
So there you have it. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the world of recruiting, and I haven’t talked about players like Hami Diallo (who I’m not convinced ever plays a second of college ball) or Billy Preston (a tantalizingly talented, 6-foot-10 prospect who Syracuse is suddenly in the mix for, but who I think is highly unrealistic at this juncture).
I don’t believe Syracuse will fill its entire class, because I think we’re likely going to have seven spots to fill, and there’s a high probability that Boeheim and Mike Hopkins elect to round out next year’s roster with another graduate transfer or two. But landing Quade Green, Brandon Randolph, Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe, and then potentially Jordan Tucker or Lonnie Walker would make for one hell of a nice class.