First, it addresses what I thought was the biggest concern for next season, which was the lack of experience and depth at the power forward and center positions. I’m not an expert on Ongenaet; I’ve never seen him play, but Orange Fan has done his normal thorough research and analysis on Syracuse recruits, and I like what I’m reading. A big guy who plays tough defense and loves to rebound; plus he has some college basketball experience, even if it is at the Junior College level.
The second reason is Ongenaet allows me to delve into many other historical perspectives and comments. I mean, not only is he a junior college transfer, but he’s also an international player (from Belgium).
As far as I know, there have been only three junior college transfers to Syracuse during the Jim Boeheim era; two were significant contributors and one was an interesting side note. Michael Lloyd played for the Orangemen in the 1994-95 season with solid success at the point guard position, with 12.5 points and 5.2 assists per game. An irregularity in his transcript forced him to leave school after that season.
Jason Cipolla is probably the most notable junior college transfer for the Orangemen. He was a vital part of the 1995-96 team that made a run at the national championship. Cipolla brought some hard nose play and more importantly a nice three point shot. He would score 7.7 ppg that year and 13.2 ppg his senior season.
The third transfer I’m aware of is walk-on Tyrone Albright. Albright played basketball at Onondaga Community College for two years before coming to Syracuse for an opportunity to play. He would be a 26 year old senior on the 1995-96 team, providing some maturity on the team. His playing time was that typical of most walk-ons, playing in the last minutes of lopsided games.
The other aspect of Ongenaet is that he is from Belgium. As far as I can tell, he’s the first Orangemen to be born in Belgium, the sixth from Europe. There are been 14 Orangemen born overseas, and they have met with varying success at Syracuse. Leo Rautins, Rony Seikaly, Joe Schwarzer and John Barsha were college All-Americans. Kueth Duany and Marius Janulis was vital contributors to Final Four teams, and Elvir Ovcina was a decent role playing center/forward the later part of his collegiate career. Clinton Goodwin was a decent player at the turn of the century, and Marc Guley was team captain his senior year and later the head coach for the Orangemen for 12 seasons, taking the Orangement to their first NCAA tournament. Hank Piro was a football player who played a little basketball (and would go to the NFL), and Joel Katz was a walk-on.
There really have been three foreign players who did not succeed at Syracuse: David Patrick was a speedy guard who transferred after his freshman year; John Karpis and George Papadokas were Canadian big men who didn’t work out and transferred elsewhere. So the international experience, while somewhat limited, has been pretty successful for the Orangemen over time.
The third reason I like the arrival of Kristof Ongenaet is his last name. He is going to create nightmares for college hoop announcers. According to Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, the correct pronunciation of this name is OH-Jah-Naut. And I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but everytime I see his last name, my mind transposes the letters and I see ‘Orange Net’. That’s got to be a good sign.
Kristof Ongenaet is going to join the list of Syracuse players with unusual names such as Ernest Uthgenannt, Clarence Houseknecht, Zangwill Golobe, and the legendary Wilmeth Sidat-Singh.