Syracuse got their 2018 recruiting class off to a rousing start in July when they secured a commitment from multi-talented forward Darius Bazley. Coming off a sensational summer playing for AAU program Meanstreets, Bazley is now firmly entrenched as a top 25 player in the class of 2018 and has attained a gaudy top 10 rating by ESPN’s recruiting gurus.
After Bazley de-committed from Ohio State last spring, newly minted Orange assistant coach Allen Griffin forged a solid relationship with the silky smooth 6-foot-9 forward. Griffin and the Syracuse staff were tantalized by Bazley’s length, athleticism and ability to play inside and out. A senior at Princeton High School in Cincinnati, Bazley has one more year to polish his formidable skills and build up his lanky one hundred and ninety pound frame.
“Nobody can guard me. Wherever you put me, I’m just gonna dominate.”
Talking with Bazley, I found him to be a self-assured young man, who rightfully oozes confidence in a skill set that looks to be a perfect fit for Syracuse on both ends of the court. He also is quite enamored with the SU coaching staff, a feeling that was echoed by 2019 Brycen Goodine when I spoke with him a few weeks ago. As the Orange staff looks to lock in commitments from high school seniors Jalen Carey and Nate Roberts in the next few weeks, there is no doubt the prospect of playing with a special talent like Bazley could be appealing. Bazley has become a big asset to Syracuse well before he is officially Orange.
VB: Would you talk a little bit about the relationship you forged with lead recruiter Allen Griffin after de-committing from the Buckeyes and how that led to your commitment to Syracuse?
DB: He was at Dayton so he kind of already knew me. When I re-opened up [my recruitment] he started talking to me. From the first minute we talked, it was like we were best friends, so it felt like we kind of already knew each other. We started talking every day and eventually I went to visit and committed.
VB: What opened your eyes when you visited the Syracuse campus for the first time?
DB: It wasn’t really the campus for me. It was the guys on the team, the coaching staff and that was it. The most important thing to me were the coaches. From the minute I got there everybody was super cool and welcoming.
VB: When Coach Boeheim was making that final push for a commitment, what was his pitch to you?
DB: He didn’t really have a pitch. I sat down and talked to him and he said he’d love for me to come and that I’d obviously fit in great, being long and stuff. He told about all the guys who recently went to the league and guys he’s had in the league before. I just trust him and the staff to make me better and get me to the league, which is my ultimate goal. With Syracuse being my dream school, he didn’t really have to pitch anything.
VB: Syracuse wasn’t recruiting you before you de-committed from Ohio State. When you say Syracuse was your dream school, did you grow up an Orange fan?
DB: I started being a ‘Cuse fan I’d say when I was a freshman in high school because that’s when I first started paying attention to basketball and college basketball. But like you said, they weren’t recruiting me before I committed to Ohio State, so that’s why I jumped for it [the Syracuse scholarship offer].
VB: Watching you play, what’s most impressive is your ability to play inside and outside. How do the coaches envision you fitting in on the team, considering Syracuse has a lot of talented forwards in the fold?
DB: That’s who we are. We are a long forward team. Bringing me in is another piece of the puzzle, it’s not going to create any havoc. When I come in, I’ll continue to do what I’m doing now: rebound, score, be a leader defensively and offensively. I’m not going to change up my game. I’m looking forward to it.
VB: If you had to describe your game to someone who hasn’t seen you play, what would you say?
DB: [long pause] I’d just say I’m really, really versatile. I get the job done. It’s kind of hard to do that [describe his own game].
VB: Are there any pro players you’d compare your game to or whom you’ve modeled your game on?
DB: A guy I’ve liked to watch in high school and college is Jayson Tatum [former Duke standout and Boston Celtics rookie]. He hasn’t played a [pro] game yet but watching him in the summer league and how he played in high school and college, I think his game carries over to the NBA and that’s someone I want to model my game after.
VB: Do you consider yourself a 3, a 4, or do you think Syracuse will be able to plug you in anywhere you’re needed?
DB: Yeah, me, I’m a player. Nobody can guard me. Wherever you put me, I’m just gonna dominate. They put me at the 3, I feel sorry for the 3. They put me at the 4, I feel sorry for the 4. If they put me at the 5, it’s going to be a long night.
VB: Why can’t they guard you? What about your game makes you tough to handle?
DB: Because I’m so versatile. I can shoot it, don’t get wrong, especially off the dribble. And then getting to the rack, I’m just so long. And because I’m getting stronger, that’s just building more confidence and of course, it makes it easier for me to get to the basket and finish. So because I’m so versatile and can handle the ball, it makes it hard for defenders to guard me.
VB: Defensively you’ll be playing in the famous 2-3. Please talk about what you’ll bring on the defensive end.
DB: I bring length, I can rebound and block shots. I think I’m a great rebounder. Because I’m so long I can block shots and if I don’t, I can alter shots.
VB: What did Coach Boeheim and the other coaches tell you to work on before you get on campus?
DB: Getting stronger. That’s it.
VB: When you visited Syracuse a few weekends ago, Buddy Boeheim committed and Jalen Carey was there for a visit as well. Can you talk a little bit about your impressions of them and how that went?
DB: I had talked to them before a little bit. Buddy briefly on another visit and Jalen on social media before that. They’re both cool. We played against City Rocks [Buddy’s AAU team]. Buddy can play. He’s not just a shooter. He can get to the rack.
VB: On Jalen, have you been giving him a Syracuse recruiting pitch?
DB: I’ve been talking to him but I haven’t been talking to him every day like I’m recruiting him myself. Especially when he was on the visit I was talking to him and a few times after that. I have been putting in the word but nothing crazy.
VB: As you get ready for Syracuse, where do you envision yourself in five years?
DB: Five years? In the league. I’ll be an NBA All Star and hitting the peak of my career. Most guys hit their peak at, what, 28? I’m going to be an early bloomer. The way the game is changing, I’m gonna come out early because I feel the more I play, the better I get. Every time I step on the court I get better so the more I get used to being in that league and that tempo, I’ll get comfortable, I’ll take over and do my thing.