This feels like about the longest recruitment cycle in Syracuse basketball history, doesn’t it? It seems like years ago that Matt Moyer first pledged to the Orange. I can barely remember back when Tyus Battle first picked Michigan, and then backed off of that choice and flipped to SU. And things aren’t even done yet, and may not be for some time.
So that begs the question: what will the Syracuse basketball roster actually look like next year?
Well, we know a few things with absolute certainty. Tyler Roberson, Dajuan Coleman, and John Gillon will be on the roster as seniors – or in the cases of Coleman and Gillon, graduate students. There will be no juniors on the roster, and the sophomore class will be comprised of at least Tyler Lydon, Paschal Chukwu, and Frank Howard. The freshman class, for now, contains Tyus Battle and Matt Moyer.
That leaves some question marks, with only eight players currently confirmed to be on next year’s roster. I don’t expect things to remain the way they currently stand, but I also don’t anticipate Syracuse filling all of its remaining roster slots (which are capped out at 11 scholarships this coming year).
The name most of us are waiting on at this point is Malachi Richardson. The freshman guard who lit up Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, torching ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon in the process, is on his way to the NBA Draft Combine, which begins tomorrow. By Sunday or Monday, we should know whether Richardson will be back for his sophomore season, or keep his name in the NBA Draft.
At this point, based on multiple tips I’ve received, to be honest I’m not anticipating him being back at Syracuse next year. Now, things can obviously change. Smartly, Richardson has refrained from hiring an agent, keeping his options open. But if the buzz I’ve been hearing is correct, we should probably start planning on heading into next season without the 6-foot-6 scoring guard.
Right now, that would leave three roster spots open with a few names currently in the mix to fill them. The one most people know is Taurean Thompson, the 6-foot-10 forward who played last season at Brewster Academy, and who has trimmed his list to Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Michigan State. The Spartans were a late addition to the party, offering only a couple weeks ago, and are trying to get the big man from New Jersey to visit.
Thompson’s is an interesting recruitment. He’s a talented kid, and one of the few top 100 prospects in the class of 2016 who remains uncommitted. Many thought he would commit to Syracuse a full year ago, but that obviously didn’t happen. Time kept grinding on and it was stated that he was planning on making his pick after his season ended.
And then, the end of the season came and went, and he still hadn’t made his pick. Frankly, it may not come until the very last moment at this point. And when is that last moment, you may be asking? Technically, he doesn’t need to decide until it’s actually time to enroll and start getting ready for classes to begin.
Yes, the National Letter of Intent deadline is next Wednesday, May 18. But at the end of the day, that deadline is essentially meaningless. Within the actual NLI, it states that a recruit is not obligated to actually sign the form in order to receive athletic aid or participate in athletics. Which, in turn, means that there simply is no deadline for when Thompson has to decide, other than “before he actually enrolls.”
Get cozy, folks. This recruitment may go on for at least a few more weeks.
That said, I anticipate Thompson visiting Michigan State, but for his decision to, ultimately, come down to Syracuse and Seton Hall. Location, I believe, is going to be a factor, as is playing time. There’s obviously more playing time at a place like Seton Hall, but playing at Syracuse also puts him on a bigger stage. When it’s all said and done, I believe Thompson will be wearing Orange.
So, who else is left on the horizon?
Well, assuming for a moment that Malachi does indeed remain in the NBA Draft, guard depth will continue to be an issue. Enter Mike Bibby, Jr., who I wrote about a couple weeks ago as having gained some interest from Syracuse. At this point, Bibby remains a backup option but could quickly emerge as very real option to give Jim Boeheim a fourth scholarship guard, behind Gillon, Battle, and Howard.
Like Thompson, Bibby is a class of 2016 player but I don’t anticipate him bothering with a letter of intent, meaning he’s another player who will be a late addition to whichever school’s roster he likes, and has room. That’s where Syracuse having so many scholarships to play with comes in handy, because the Orange are one of the few national programs with this much flexibility, this late in the game.
The other recent name to emerge is Omer Yurtseven, the 7-footer out of Turkey who recently visited campus. Yurtseven is viewed as a potential 5-star talent, and is currently projected as a probable one and done player who will likely wind up either in, or just outside of the NBA Draft Lottery in 2017. He will be an immediate, impact player wherever he lands – assuming the NCAA actually clears him to play. That’s certainly not a sure thing, given the similarities between his situation and that of Enes Kanter.
It could be a risk to take on Yurtseven for Syracuse, particularly if bringing him in might wind up scaring away Thompson, who already has a loaded front court ahead of him if he picks the Orange. Would Boeheim be willing to risk alienating Thompson by bringing in a 7-foot stud who the NCAA could very well declare ineligible? That’s the big question.
Obviously, other names could emerge to join these three to get into the mix for Syracuse. The Orange could choose to pursue another graduate transfer, should any more viable options emerge, but chances are the roster will wind up with Thompson, and potentially Bibby. I would not be remotely surprised to see Syracuse head into the 2016-2017 campaign with nine scholarship players, with Bibby being the wildcard because of the fact that, while there’s interest on both sides, exactly how much is currently unknown and largely dependent, at least from Syracuse’s perspective, on what Richardson decides.
No matter how things shake out, I do anticipate the picture becoming a little more clear beginning early next week, as some noteworthy things could (and probably will) happen to give us a better picture of what next year’s roster will look like.