Last night after Nate Roberts chose Washington over Syracuse, it got me thinking about the current state of Orange hoops recruiting. Here was a case where losing a recruit didn’t particularly sting, for a couple different reasons.
First is the fact that Roberts would have been more of a luxury than a necessity for the 2018 class. And then there’s the second reason: the 2019 class is loaded with big men, whereas the 2018 class was pretty sparse in that department. Now, the Orange could certainly still look go bring in a post player, with the most likely target being 7-foot-1 Majur Majak, as first noted yesterday by Mike McAllister and then talked about a bit more today by Mike Waters.
For me, personally… I’d honestly rather pocket the scholarship and either use it on a grad transfer in the spring or just save it for a stacked class of 2019. It’s unclear at this point how many spots the Orange will have to fill in next year’s class, though it’ll be a minimum of two and more likely three or more, depending on who stays and who leaves.
Frank Howard’s scholarship will certainly come open, as he’ll be a senior next season. Paschal Chukwu will be a senior as well, though considering he’s going to earn his degree this year, there’s a chance he could choose to take it and walk, leaving a year of eligibility at Syracuse on the table. But let’s presume for the moment that Chukwu stays. That makes two scholarships from him and Howard available for 2019.
One of those scholarships is already filled by Brycen Goodine, the super-athletic guard from Massachusetts. Still, it’d be naive to think there will only be one more open spot in the class of 2019 to fill, particularly considering the fact Darius Bazley is probably a one-and-done caliber player.
Then there’s Oshae Brissett, who has the size, athleticism, and talent to be an early entrant into the NBA Draft. Who knows what will happen with the mysterious Marek Dolezaj, other than the fact that Euro players are often wildcards. Dolezaj could surprise and wind up going pro early, or he could conceivably head back to Europe to play pro ball. Elijah Hughes, with his outstanding physical talent, could turn into a gem and have a fantastic year filling Tyus Battle’s role after Kid Mamba leaves after the upcoming season. And Jalen Carey, who is an electric scorer and will be handed the ball as soon as he gets on campus, could in theory become a one-and-done kid.
But however things shake out, let’s just presume, for the moment, that the Orange will wind up with five open slots in the class of 2019. With Goodine on board, that would leave four more scholarships to fill.
So what’s the ideal class for Syracuse look like, if everything were to fall into place absolutely perfectly?
Well, first of all we have to talk about the guys who are probably long shots. As much as it pains me to say it, Aidan Igiehon is unlikely to choose the Orange. The 6-foot-10 post player originally from Ireland is an absolute beast, but I’d be shocked, at this point, to see him pick Syracuse. The same goes for Jalen Lecque, just based on my own gut feeling.
For me, the most realistic guard (and Syracuse will certainly bring in one more guard in the class alongside Goodine, particularly if Carey is as good as the coaching staff thinks he is) is Khalif Battle. Tyus’s younger brother is a terrific athlete who can shoot the ball, and at 6-foot-4 (and potentially still growing) he can play either guard position, just like Goodine. They’d make a dynamic backcourt pairing down the road for the Orange, as both offer versatility, length, explosiveness, and the ability to score at multiple levels.
So in this ideal recruiting situation, let’s say that our backcourt is done with Goodine and Battle on board. We’re off to a good start.
Next we move to the forward spots. One player that the Orange will continue to pursue heavily is Precious Achiuwa, the ultra-athletic wing from New Jersey and former teammate of current Syracuse freshman Bourama Sidibe. Achiuwa is about 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 right now, but could conceivably grow to 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11. Considering he’s got a strong handle and developing perimeter game, Achiuwa has about as much upside as any player in the class of 2019.
It’s going to be a tough recruiting battle, but again, for the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the Orange land Achiuwa, and that he grows to be 6-foot-10. He’d give the Orange an athletic wing at the back of the 2-3 zone who can play either the small forward or power forward position on offense, and now we’re really starting to cook with this class.
But we need another wing, particularly if both Bazley and either Brissett or Dolezaj are gone. Enter Kahlil Whitney, the Roselle Catholic star (and former teammate of Majur Majak, who spent last season at Roselle). The 6-foot-6 Whitney is another exceptional athlete who right now does most of his damage around the bucket and in transition, but has a solid handle and developing perimeter game that will only continue to get better. Whitney attended Syracuse’s Elite Camp in August, and is a major point of focus for the Orange in 2019.
Adding Achiuwa and Whitney to the 2019 class would give Syracuse one of the best pairs of freshman forwards the program has had in ages, and when you factor in Goodine and Battle, the athleticism of this quartet is simply off the charts.
So now we need to round out our theoretical Fab Five. As I mentioned, I don’t think Aidan Igiehon is a realistic possibility. The Orange are involved with Kofi Cockburn, but something tells me that’s not likely to happen, either. And besides – that’s not who I want to fill out my ideal class of 2019.
Instead, let’s bring it back closer to home. Specifically, let’s bring a former Rochester kid back closer to home now that he’s playing his high school ball in Indiana. I’m talking, of course, about Isaiah Stewart. It’s going to be tough to win the recruiting battle for Stewart, who has a strong relationship with Georgetown and was recently offered by Duke. But while, at 6-foot-9, he may not have ideal height to man the middle of the zone, his 7-foot-4 wingspan and remarkable brute strength would more than make up for a couple inches in height.
Stewart is arguably the best rebounder in the class of 2019, and has been a high priority for Syracuse for a very long time. He’s a ferocious competitor who played his EYBL ball with Buddy Boeheim and the Albany City Rocks, so he and the Orange are extremely familiar with each other. And considering what a high level talent he is, despite the fact he’s no longer playing in New York, it’d be awfully nice to keep a local kid home.
So, there you have it. My ideal basketball recruiting class of 2019: Brycen Goodine, Khalif Battle, Kahlil Whitney, Precious Achiuwa, and Isaiah Stewart.
Do I think that’s going to happen? Not really. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. Those are five players the Orange could get, and together they’d constitute one of the strongest recruiting classes Syracuse has ever brought in.
Again, there are a lot of moving pieces here. We still have no idea how many scholarships will actually be available for the class, and we won’t know for quite awhile. But with the class of 2018 basically finished at this point (depending on what happens with Majak, and that final scholarship in general), it’s never too early to start looking ahead and dreaming about the possibilities of a monster class.