By Sean Fernandez
The Syracuse basketball team may have lost a talented, decorated group of players to graduation and the NBA draft, but the future still looks bright. Part of the reason for this is the trio of freshmen that will play at the collegiate level for the first time. We’ll examine each of their games and give some insight into what kind of impact they’ll have.
A native of nearby Dewitt, NY, DaJaun Coleman chose Syracuse over Kentucky and Ohio State in late October (see picture above). He has a massive 6’10” 280lb frame that will cause serious match up problems for opposing big men. He rebounds consistently on both the offensive and defensive glass, and has the strength to muscle his way to the rim. He's also shown the ability to score from the low block, which is something that will come in handy given the fact that the Orange struggled in that area last season. Improved conditioning is a must but I'd expect him to see playing time right away regardless. He'll find himself in a battle with Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita for the starting spot at center, so get your popcorn ready.
Orange fans were disappointed to see Nerlens Noel sign elsewhere, but I have a feeling that everyone will be perfectly happy with Coleman. Don’t be shocked if he has an immediate impact this year. Coleman was the 4th rated Center (13th overall player) in the Class of 2012 according to ESPN.
Joining the big fella as part of the freshman class is 6’7” wing Jerami Grant. He hails from Hyattsville, MD, and committed to the Orange over Maryland and NC State, among others. Grant’s athletic ability and versatility will allow him to play multiple positions on both ends of the floor. He was a member of the USA U-18 basketball team that went undefeated at the FIBA Americas Championship. With Kris Joseph around no longer, Grant will have an opportunity to see playing time as a freshman. James Southerland and C.J. Fair will both be ahead of him on the depth chart but that doesn’t mean Grant won’t gain experience this year. I'd expect him to score a few points here and there, however, being patient and waiting for Grant to develop could yield huge dividends in the future.
The third ‘freshman’ on the roster is 6’4” guard Trevor Cooney. He was a part of the recruiting class of 2011, but he still has 4 years of eligibility remaining (Boeheim decided to redshirt Cooney because of the surplus of guards on last year’s roster). He’s been hard at work with Orange great Gerry McNamara on perfecting his shooting and improving his suspect ball-handling, and as a result, he’ll see quality minutes behind senior SG Brandon Triche. A three-point shooter of Cooney's caliber will always be in demand, so look for him to see the floor fairly often.
When you think of the great shooters in SU history, McNamara and Andy Rautins are two names that come to mind. Don’t be surprised if Cooney’s shot lands him in the same category as those two before it's all set and done.
In terms of who will have the biggest impact, it’s tough to tell at this point. All three will contribute to what is sure to be another talented SU roster with an obscene amount of depth. Coleman will provide Boeheim will another big body in the middle to grab rebounds, Grant’s length and versatility will be useful from day one, and Cooney will stretch defenses by making them defend his lethal 3 point shot.
While we're all struggling to get through the next few brutally long basketball-deprived months, this article should give a little insight into what you should expect from each of the freshmen on the SU basketball roster.