When news came out that Syracuse is hosting East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes in a couple weeks, it left some Orange fans asking questions about what kind of impact it could have on the team’s recruiting efforts. And indeed, with a limited number of scholarships available and a ton of prospects that look awfully enticing to Jim Boeheim and his staff in 2018, it’s worth taking a closer look.
First things first, let’s push the reset button for what we know about the 2017-18 roster:
- Frank Howard / Guard (Junior)
- Paschal Chukwu / Center (Junior or Sophomore, depending on medical redshirt)
- Tyus Battle / Guard (Sophomore)
- Taurean Thompson / Forward (Sophomore)
- Matthew Moyer / Forward (Redshirt Freshman)
- Oshae Brissett / Forward (Freshman)
- Bourama Sidibe / Center (Freshman)
- Howard Washington / Guard (Freshman)
Now, let’s take a look at those final three spots. The first two are obviously being reserved for Eric Ayala and Jordan Tucker. Tucker is a player we should get an answer on sometime this week. Mike McAllister from CuseNation.com reported that he’s taking an unofficial visit to Georgia Tech on Wednesday, and should decide shortly after.
Obviously, it’d be nice if Kevin Knox would go ahead and pick Duke already, to take that option off the table as a team that could come swooping in at the last second and pluck him from the Orange. Still, for now let’s assume Tucker is deciding between Georgia Tech and Syracuse. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say he picks Syracuse.
And also for the sake of discussion, let’s say Eric Ayala – who once again said he’s still open to joining the class of 2017, after first saying so last week – ultimately decides to reclassify and picks the Orange. So that puts the Syracuse roster at 10 players.
And that also leaves that 11th spot up for grabs. That’s where a guy like Elijah Hughes comes in, or potentially a more mysterious prospect like Marek Dolezaj, or even a graduate transfer. Or, it could simply be left open.
After all, go back and take a look at this upcoming year’s roster. What do you notice? Not a single senior in the bunch. That means that the Orange won’t be gaining any scholarships back in the traditional way when it comes time to sign a 2018 recruiting class.
Now, here’s the good news: Syracuse will be getting one of its scholarships back from the NCAA beginning with the 2018 recruiting class, meaning the Orange will have a roster of 12 scholarship players (or at least, could have a roster of 12 players) next year. So that’s one open scholarship right off the bat.
But where else will open scholarships come from? Well, the obviously answer is Tyus Battle’s scholarship. Somehow, Syracuse’s dynamic shooting guard flew under the radar throughout his freshman season but by the end of the year was turning some heads. He’s not under the radar anymore, and will be getting plenty of attention from NBA scouts. Frankly, I’d be surprised if he chose to come back for his junior year. So for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume he’s going to go pro.
That leaves us with two open scholarships for the class of 2018, if we wind up using all three of our open spots this year. If we choose to leave that 11th scholarship open, or even give it to a graduate transfer, that would leave us with three open scholarships for 2018.
Now, one other potential scholarship that could open up is Taurean Thompson’s. Obviously, the 6-foot-10 big man has plenty to work on with regard to rebounding and defense but it’s hard to ignore what a polished offensive game he has for a kid his age. He’s got good range out to about 17 or 18 feet, and is crafty around the bucket. He’s going to get his points. There’s certainly a possibility that he could wind up going pro after this upcoming season.
And I know, I know – we’ll certainly hear cries of “he’s not ready!” from the masses. Newsflash, folks: to paraphrase Will Munny, “ready’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
So barring any big surprises, at the most, we’re looking at four open scholarships in the class of 2018. More realistically, we’re looking at either two or three. And that’s where the way Syracuse closes out this year’s roster and recruiting class becomes so important. Obviously, Syracuse would like to bring in at least two more players. Again, that’s hopefully Tucker and Ayala.
The question then becomes: do you use that last scholarship this year? Is it better to take a grad transfer, in order to free it up once again next year since it’s such a deep and talented class, and we’re involved with so many good players right now? Or do you take a run at a guy like Elijah Hughes or Marek Dolezaj?
And let’s get one thing straight: while Hughes would need to sit out this upcoming season, it’s really not that much different than bringing in a kid like Dolezaj, who probably wouldn’t be physically ready to contribute in a meaningful way and who, in a perfect world, would get a chance to redshirt anyway. So the 2017-18 season is basically a wash whether you’re bringing in a bit of a project or a transfer who’s going to be sitting out anyway. When’s the last time Jim Boeheim put his 11th man into a game that didn’t feature six overtimes, anyway?
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m certainly intrigued by Hughes, a former teammate of Matt Moyer’s at South Kent who, while his shooting percentages were low this year, looks like a very good athlete with a solid shooting stroke, who could develop into a good player at the ACC level.
Whatever happens, I think we can all agree that it just goes ahead and happens quickly. This whole “waiting until the end of the summer to see a final roster” thing is not a trend I’d like to continue much longer, am I right?