It seems odd these days to look at a Syracuse box score and see a DNP for Jalen Carey. The talented freshman point guard was the most highly regarded member of this year’s freshman class, but as the season has gone on, he’s seen his minutes begin to dwindle.
Obviously, there are a few reasons for that. For starters, Frank Howard is finally back at full strength, limiting minutes at the point guard position. On top of that, Buddy Boeheim has emerged as the deep threat we all hoped he’d be, lighting it up from three over the past several games. And as Jim Boeheim has said, who plays depends on matchups.
Still, it’s hard not to imagine Carey getting discouraged with his lack of playing time, at least a bit. He’s still averaging 15.1 minutes-per-game, but that’s skewed by the high number of minutes he logged early in the year with Howard out of the lineup. Carey didn’t play at Boston College or against Pitt, and in between those games he logged a total of 18 minutes against Duke, Miami, and Virginia Tech.
Now, in fairness, lately Carey has looked a little rattled by strong on-ball defense, no more-so than when the Orange traveled to Duke and Tre Jones picked his pocket a couple times in a row. No matter how talented a scorer he is (or at least will become), if you can’t protect the basketball at the point guard position, you’re probably going to see your minutes dwindle.
Of course, Carey isn’t the first talented freshman guard to see his minutes evaporate as the season goes on under Jim Boeheim. And that’s why patience and perspective are so crucial for Carey, who need only look back at Michael Carter-Williams and Dion Waiters, both of whom played sparingly as freshmen. Waiters averaged about 16 minutes as a freshman, while Carter-Williams averaged just 10. There were rumblings that both thought about transferring out due to frustration about lack of PT, but they both stuck it out, and both became lottery picks after their sophomore campaigns.
Hopefully, Carey takes a look at what happened with both players, commits to tightening his handle and improving his jumper, and gets ready to blow up as a sophomore. With Howard Washington taking a medical redshirt (and don’t be surprised if he winds up transferring) and Frank Howard graduating, the starting point guard spot is Carey’s for the taking next season. Sure, there’s some competition, first from Washington should he choose to remain in Orange, and then from Brycen Goodine and Joseph Girard. But experience, particularly with the 2-3, goes a long way with Jim Boeheim.
And of course, depending on matchups there’s still a chance that Carey could see an uptick in his minutes as the season goes on. He’s a talented player with the potential to be one hell of a slashing scorer and defender at the top of the zone with his long arms and quickness. This season is a learning experience. Next season is Jalen Carey’s time to shine. Fingers crossed he understands that.