Wednesday, October 04, 2006

High School Recruiting & the Orangemen

I hope Paul Harris is half as good as most Syracuse fans seem to think. You get the impression that anything less than a national championship, and Harris will be considered a failure (or more likely, many Syracuse fans will point at Jim Boeheim and say “See, with a great talent like Harris, and he still can’t win”... but that's another article for another time).

But this will probably be the last time you see me comment on Harris, or any other Syracuse recruit, prior to this upcoming season. For one thing, speculating on a high school kid, or a college frosh who has yet to see any court action has very little interest to me. Another is that its highly speculative, and history has shown me that there’s a lot of hype out there that doesn’t necessarily translate to success at the next level. And finally, I really only care about what a guy does accomplish, not what people thought he would do. There's already enough trash talk and hype in the media; I want some basis in reality.

Sure, a lot of fans will say that Harris is different. His credentials are impeccable. He’ll be the next Carmelo Anthony. Well, two comments there.

First, Harris does have amazing credentials, and some amazing physical capabilities. But then, so did Tony ‘Red’ Bruin, one of the top recruits out of high school, and an amazing vertical leap. Bruin was the MVP of the AAU Men’s junior championship before coming to Syracuse. Amazing credentials. There was talk of him going directly to the NBA, at a time when nobody went to the NBA from high school (unless their name was Darryl Dawkins). Red had a solid career at Syracuse, but never the career expected. Detractors will say that Bruin didn’t have a perimeter shot. Right, he did not and he never developed one. But you know what, Paul Harris doesn’t have one now either. That doesn’t mean Harris won’t develop one, but it doesn’t mean he will.

Or how about McDonald’s All-Americans Rodney Walker who did little at Syracuse before transferring? Or Billy Edelin, who’s off the court issues destroyed his career on the Hill. Ernie Austin was the top rated high school player in the country before coming to Syracuse, was outstanding on the freshman team, and yet off the court issues and injuries hampered his career.

Harris could be the next Dave Bing or Pearl Washington or Carmelo Anthony or Billy Owens. Guys who were as good as advertised (in Bing’s and the Pearl’s case, both were probably better than the hype… if that was even possible). But you just don’t know.

Which brings me to the second point. I see many references of Harris to Carmelo Anthony. I can understand why… high profile players coming to Syracuse, and Melo is in the recent history of SU fans. However, they are much different style players. But more importantly, really think about the SU team that won it all in 2003. That team was good, no doubt about it. Had tremendous poise, tremendous character. Perhaps more character than any Syracuse team I’ve ever seen; an unbelievable ability for a team to come back from behind, and to hold onto leads late in the game. And Melo was a big part of that (as was Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick, Josh Pace, Kueth Duany, Craig Forth and Billy Edelin). But the 2003 team rarely blew its opposition out; it was not a dominating team. The 2003 team was not the Big East #1 seed after the regular season; they went 13-3, but Boston College was better . The 2003 team did not win the Big East Tournament; they lost to UConn by 13 in the semi-finals, and Pitt won the tournament. The Orangemen made a fantastic run through the Big East tournament, playing tremendous basketball, outwitting, outplaying all their opponents, and baffling them with tremendous defensive efforts. And they deserve all their accolades.

But, its not as if the 2003 team was unbeatable, or that Melo made them the greatest team ever. They probably weren’t the best Syracuse team ever (I think the 1988 and 1989 teams were probably better, but had bad breaks / bad luck in the post season); they did win SU’s first tournament championship, and for that they get a great nod towards greatness. But if you want to talk about a collection of players and teamwork, well, some other SU teams could have been better. But we all know the best teams don’t always win the NCAA (North Carolina State and Villanova are the obvious answers there).

So, I’ll stop my digressing, and get back to the point. Even IF Harris was the next Melo, its not as if Melo made SU a dominanting team that scared the rest of the nation. If Melo didn’t do it… then why should you expect Harris to? Unfair to Harris isn’t it?

Two more comments on high school recruiting. Lawrence Moten, generally recognized as one of the best all-around players at Syracuse, a tremendous player from the first day he stepped on the court, was basically unknown to most fans before he played. All he did was become SU’s all time leading scorer and the Big East’s all time leading scorer.

It’s well recorded that Sherman Douglas had only one scholarship offer to a major division 1 school. He didn’t have too bad of a career at SU. One jump shot away from a National Championship; at the time of graduation, SU’s all time leading scorer, and the NCAA’s all-time leading assist man (since broken).

And of course, there are high school legends who go on to infamy. Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindar were legends early in high school, and never disappointed anyone. But it’s a short list of players who were Parade All-Americans and eventually made it to the national basketball hall of fame (and John Thompson made it because of his coaching, not his playing).

So best of luck to Paul Harris. I hope he turns out to be a great player. But, I’ll be celebrating him for what he does do at Syracuse… not for what he might do, or what he could have been.

If you are interested in recruiting news, my blog won’t be the place to go. Try sites such as or I rarely go there, but it could be for you.

Let’s go Orange!


Steve said...

And now look at how much harris did..nothing. He had no great impact on the syracuse basketball team at any point.and like you said he never did develop any outside(or midrange really)game.

Just looking at past posts..thought it was neat that you had said that paul harris wasn't guranteed to be as good as carmelo. and you were right. looking forward to Fab Melo if he can get in shape for 2010 though.

OrangeRay said...

Steve, it is a shame Harris never developed as a player. He's a tremendous athlete and one of the best rebounders Syracuse has ever seen. But he could never play under control, and never seemed to have any basketball sense on the court.

I'm hoping the new recruits are as good as advertised; the departure of the 3 underclassmen last year will hurt. But I also have faith in Boeheim in getting a winning team out of whatever talent he has.