Syracuse basketball’s 2017 recruiting efforts got a big boost today when news came out that 6-foot-9 Slovakian star Marek Dolezaj has pledged to the Orange. Dolezaj becomes the fourth member of the class, joining Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe, and Howard Washington.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) May 23, 2017
The news started to trickle out Sunday night when the European basketball site Eurohopes.com tweeted about Dolezaj’s commitment, and that report was confirmed this morning by multiple outlets.
I’ve talked a little bit about Dolezaj in the past, but to quickly recap, he’s a tall, athletic player who should be able to play either forward position for Jim Boeheim. While he’s not the elite shooter that Jordan Tucker – who chose Duke over the Orange – is, he’s still got enough range to keep defenses honest. Over the past year, he’s shot around 30% from three point range in his current league. Plus, by all accounts, that’s an emerging part of his game, which has been steadily improving.
While Dolezaj is very thin, he’s aggressive and loves to attack the rim, and finish with authority. He’s an interesting addition to the roster, in that he’s a little bit unique from previous players Boeheim has brought in over the years. He’s got a solid handle, his court vision appears to be strong, and while he’s going to need to get stronger to compete on the boards in the ACC, he looks like a pretty good shot blocker who will compete hard on the glass as well.
Obviously with an international player, the next step is making sure he gets through the NCAA Clearinghouse. That’s always fun. I haven’t heard anything to suggest Dolezaj will have any eligibility issues, but with the NCAA you never want to count your chickens. And don’t expect Dolezaj to be on campus anytime soon, either: he’s expected to play with his home country’s national team at this summer’s FIBA European championships, which take place midway through the summer. Last July as a member of Slovakia’s U18 team, he averaged 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds in eight games.
Either way, this is a terrific addition for Syracuse. Dolezaj – who visited Syracuse a couple weeks ago – adds plenty of length, athleticism, and versatility. Between he, Brissett, and Matthew Moyer, the Orange have some intriguing options at the forward positions (I’m heading into the new season under the presumption that Taurean Thompson will spend a lot of time manning the center position), and enough combined skills to hold down the fort at small forward in particular.
Look for Syracuse to add one more player to the roster, with Eric Ayala still a possibility, while graduate transfer Geno Thorpe is the other leading candidate.