Back in August, we reached out to Syracuse hoops recruiting junkie Dean Francis to give us some updates on where Syracuse stands on the recruiting trail. Well, it’s been a few months and we thought it was as good a time as any to touch base with Francis again to get some updates on current commits, and some more players who are on the radar this year and moving forward.

OG: What are you hearing about this year’s incoming class (Lydon/Howard/Richardson/Diagne)? Who has really been shining so far in their senior season?

DF: So far all of the recruits in the 2015 class have started their season really well. I think the biggest eye openers that stand out are Moustapha Diagne and Frank Howard. Diagne has led his Pope John team to an early undefeated record with several big wins over quality opponents. His production has been tremendous with averages around 18ppg, 14rpg, and 3bpg. Frank Howard and his Paul VI squad hasn’t had the same kind of luck when it comes to wins, but that is no fault of his own. He has been very impressive bouncing back from injury and not playing last year to lead his team with averages of 17ppg, 6rpg, and 6apg. Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon have been productive in the early goings as well, scoring in the double figures in all of their games.

OG: Of those four, which one is set to make the biggest jump in the rankings before he gets on campus, in your estimation? Which ones have a realistic shot at being a McDonald’s participant?

DF: Frank Howard, due to the fact that his PVI team will play in several national tourneys this season, and he’ll have the opportunity to catch numerous scouts eyes and possibly get a little bump. Personally I think Moustapha Diagne should be a consensus ranked top 50 player, but unfortunately he doesn’t seem to get enough love from the national scouts. When it comes to the McDonald’s game, I believe Malachi Richardson is SU’s best chance of being a rep. Usually a top 20 player would be considered a lock. Richardson is ranked around the 21-30 range by most services, putting him around the bubble of making it.

OG: As far as the rest of this class shakes out, obviously it’s based on available scholarships, but what are you hearing on Thomas Bryant and, to a lesser degree, Jamal Murray? Is Murray legitimately still an option, or has that ship sailed?

DF: I have stated this for a long time and still strongly believe this to be the case that Thomas Bryant has always been SU’s to lose for the longest time. Obviously whenever Kentucky gets involved and throws it’s hat into a race nothing could be considered a lock. Barring being hammered by the NCAA when a final ruling is made, or for some strange reason a scholarship doesn’t become open, I’m confident that Bryant will choose Orange. When it comes to Jamal Murray, if he stays in 2016 then yes he would be a realistic option. With the 2015 move expected to be made in the spring, it just doesn’t seem possible that things will work out. Which is tough because anybody that follows my work knows that I’m a huge fan of Murray.

OG: Looking to the future, the biggest name on the board for the coaches it Tyus Battle. Any updates on him? How’s he faring this season, and what do you expect from him in terms of a timeframe for his decision?

DF: Right now Kid Mamba has been sidelined with an ankle injury and has not played at all this season yet. As far as his recruitment goes, SU is still strongly in the mix with the big dogs such as Duke and Kentucky. His Dad recently stated that they could make a decision after the season.

OG: SU came in on VJ King recently, and he’s playing with Frank Howard this season. Do the Orange have a realistic shot at VJ? What’s your take on his game, and his situation?

Anything is possible but with Matt Moyer, who is another forward that is already committed, I just don’t see where the fit and room for VJ King comes from at the moment. Right now there is only room for two more players in 2016, and if the staff gets its wish with Battle then it leaves it to one. I have to believe that a big man would be targeted for the last spot. When it comes to his game, he’s extremely talented and has a lot of upside. Right now he’s not a complete player and mostly shows his best only in spurts during most games this season. To be fair it could be due to the fact that he’s still finding his way playing on a new team this season.

OG: Harry Giles is one of the most promising players in the country at any age – what’s your honest impression of what’s going to happen with him, and what kind of odds would you give the Orange right now?

DF: Harry Giles is no doubt in my opinion the #1 player in the 2016 class. Unfortunately I think he’s a very, very long shot for SU to land. I just think at the end of the day it’ll be hard for him to leave the state of North Carolina. I’ll put our percentage at a very generous 10% of landing him. Best hope is to get him on campus for a visit and see what happens.

OG: You know we love our local boy, Malik Zachery. What are you hearing on him in terms of a growing reputation outside of just the CNY area? Who are some other point guard prospects the Orange will be looking at down the road?

DF: Malik Zachery is another prospect that has started his season off well. Averaging about 14ppg and 6apg in the early goings. He’ll have the opportunity to boost his national profile during the spring/summer in the AAU season. He plays for the Albany City Rock, which participates in the Nike EYBL, and it’ll give him the chance to compete against the top players in the country. Some other point guards to look out for are targets such as 2016 Kobi Simmons and 2017 Trevon Duval (recently offered). Another personally favorite of mine in the 2017 class is Matt Coleman, who reminds me of an old Cuse favorite, Jonny Flynn.

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