SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has seen it all in his long career, so retooling the lineup is old hat as he gears up for his 44th season at his alma mater.
“It’s the same every year. You’re starting new,” said Boeheim, who got a head start on the season by taking the team on a four-game exhibition tour in Italy in August. “I’m looking forward to what this team can do. It’s new challenges every year. It’s fun.”
The Orange lost four starters from last year’s 20-14 team, which lost to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Gone are guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, forward Oshae Brissett, and towering center Paschal Chukwu, who together provided 58% of the scoring. Small forward Elijah Hughes, second on the team in scoring last season (13.7), is the lone returning starter. Also returning are forwards Marek Dolezaj, Robert Braswell, and Bourama Sidibe, and guards Howard Washington, Jalen Carey, and Buddy Boeheim, the coach’s youngest son.
There’s a lot of new raw talent with five freshmen — guards Joe Girard III and Brycen Goodine, forward Quincy Guerrier, and centers John Bol Ajak and Jesse Edwards.
Carey and Buddy Boeheim likely will be the starting backcourt when the season starts. Buddy Boeheim had a solid freshman season after a slow start, averaging 6.8 points, while the speedy Carey, a 6-foot-3 point guard, appeared in 25 games, averaging 3.5 points, his glaring weakness a penchant for turnovers (41 with 25 assists).
The Orange do have experience with Hughes, Dolezaj, and the often-injured Sidibe, an important factor with such a young roster.
“We’re fortunate that we have three juniors who have played a lot, had a lot of game experience, a lot of practice experience,” Jim Boeheim said. “They’re going to be key for us.”
With Battle and Howard in the backcourt and Brissett a driving force in the middle, the offense the past two seasons was slow-paced with that trio on the floor almost all of the time and too often shooting with little time on the shot clock. The goal is a faster-paced attack.
“I think this year we can do some different things to try to get good offensive positions,” Boeheim said. “Hopefully, we can get it up quicker. We’d like to do that. We have guys that can shoot.”
There’s plenty of room to experiment, too, with five guards and all those minutes to spread around, and the 6-foot-10 Dolezaj likely will see more time at center.
Guerrier, a native of Montreal, is the latest Orange recruit from Canada, following in the footsteps of some pretty solid players — Leo Rautins of Toronto, Montreal native Kris Joseph, point guard Tyler Ennis, of Brampton, Ontario, and Brissett, now on the roster of the NBA’s Raptors in his hometown.
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Guerrier is a nice replacement for Brissett and already is being mentioned as NBA-bound sooner rather than later. He scored 15 points in the team’s first scrimmage.
Don’t expect the Orange to shy away from the 3-pointer, even with the line pushed back a little bit. Hughes had a team-high 87 3-pointers last season, Buddy Boeheim hit 47 and shot at a 40 percent clip in ACC play (39 of 96), and Girard is New York state’s all-time leading high school scorer (4,763 points).
“Up and down. A lot of 3s. Offensive rebounds. Can’t wait,” Hughes said.
UNDER THE RADAR
Syracuse, which finished 10-8 in the ACC last season, is being picked for the middle of the pack again and not one player was selected for the preseason All-ACC list. That’s OK with the Orange.
“There’s nothing wrong with being the underdog,” Buddy Boeheim said. “That gives us a chip on our shoulder to come out and compete from the start. This is a group of guys that want to prove people wrong.”
Syracuse can try to begin building its resume for March with its season opener. Reigning national champion Virginia visits the Carrier Dome on Nov. 6. Though they lost considerable firepower, the Cavaliers are ranked 11th in the preseason AP Top 25. The Orange received three votes, tied with North Carolina State and far behind No. 25 VCU (193 votes).
The opener is followed by four more home games, including Bucknell in the NIT Season Tipoff. Early December has Iowa visiting as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and also includes road games against Georgia Tech and Georgetown before ACC play begins in earnest with Notre Dame visiting Jan. 4.
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