Saturday, November 17, 2007

2007 Orange Debut

The youthful Syracuse basketball team is off to a solid start, going 3-0. The wins against Siena, St. Joseph, and Fordham probably aren’t going to be impressive come March Madness selection time (though Siena did just beat #20 Stanford), but these are the games you must win so you 1) don’t have those bad losses come March, and 2) advance into the NIT semi-finals where you can meet higher quality opponents and improve your schedule. I don’t want to but too much weight into what I’ve seen so far this season, but it is always a good sign when the statistical indicators are positive, regardless who you are playing.

The Orange offense looks to be clicking well behind freshman star Jonny Flynn, who is averaging 7.7 assists a game. Flynn made me nervous after his first game with five turnovers. But he seems to have tightened up his game with fourteen assists and 1 turnover in the last two games; those are impressive numbers regardless of whom you are playing.

Donte' Greene has clearly established himself as a big time scorer early in the season, averaging 19.0 ppg, along with 8.0 rpg. While he had a high school reputation for shooting three point shots, I thought coach Jim Boeheim would want to keep Greene near the hoop to get the rebounds and inside points. So far, it appears I was wrong, as Greene has taken 19 three point shots, making 8 of them. With Eric Devendorf, Greene, and Flynn (7 of 10 from three) shooting well from perimeter, perhaps my concern for perimeter shooting will be non-existent.

Devo has been ‘quiet’ so far, putting up a very solid 16.0 ppg, with 3 rpg and 4 apg. It looks like he is fitting in well into this new group of players. He’s a proven player, and its comforting to know that he’s not having to carry the team early in the season.

Paul Harris, as we all knew, is showing the rest of the world that he is a rebounding monster, with 11.7 per game, including 15 and 14 in his first two games. His ball handling as been sloppy with 13 turnovers, and his shooting off at 44.4%.

I had been concerned that Arinze Onuaku was going to get himself into foul trouble often, but so far that has not been the case. He’s been positioning himself well in the low post, making 2/3 of his shots, and scoring 13.7 ppg. His rebounding totals are a little low, but then again, if Greene and Harris are getting a lot of them, there is not a lot left to pick up.

The Orange do need to focus on cutting down the team turnovers. Flynn has protected the ball well two out of the three games, which is very positive from your top ball handler. The team, however, had high turnover counts in the first two games, and that almost cost them against St. Josephs. For all the spectacular plays Greene has made so far, he needs to cut down on his 10 turnovers (too high of a number for a power forward), and as mentioned before Harris has been sloppy too.

The Orange have had breakdowns on defense, and appear to have some difficulty adjusting to Boeheim’s schemes. Fortunately, that one of the benefits of the out-of-conference schedule, where you can work out the kinks in your game.

The team needs to pay more attention to Boeheim, who after 31 years as a head coach. Apparently at the end of the St. Joseph’s game, a couple of subtle breakdowns occurred. Boeheim had wanted Harris to miss his last free throw, so time would expire before St. Joe’s had time to get the rebound and take a shot. Instead, Harris made the shot. This may have been more of a case of poor execution instead of not listening; Harris may have accidentally made the basket. After the made free throw, Boeheim had also instructed Jonny Flynn to foul St. Joe’s so they could not get a three point shot, but that two did not occur. But these are things the players will hopefully learn and grow from.

Speaking of a debut for the freshman, Jonny Flynn and Dante Greene both had impressive efforts in the opening game versus Siena. Greene had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, while shooting 5-10 from the floor. A very solid first game for the frosh.

Jonny Flynn had the single best debut of any freshman in Syracuse history. His 28 points was a record for a freshman debut (eclipsing Carmelo Anthony’s 27 in 2002). He shot 10 of 13 from the floor, and an outstanding 6 of 7 from three point range. Oh yeah, he also added 9 assists and rebounds to the effort. The only blemish on his debut was the 5 turnovers.

Flynn’s effort was the best ever for an Orangemen in his debut. How have other Orangemen done?

Carmelo Anthony played very well in his first game, leading the Orangemen with 27 points and 11 rebounds. His shooting was off, hitting only 10 of 23 points, and making only 5 of 12 free throws, which proved to be costly in the loss to Memphis 70-63. But a strong effort none-the-less.

Gerry McNamara debuted in that same game, and he too had mixed results. He scored 14 points, but was 4 of 15 from the field, including 4-13 from three point range. He did have three assists and only one turnover in his unexpected debut as a point guard.

Preston Shumpert came off the bench and played only 15 minutes in his first game back in 1998. He made the most of it with 15 points, shooting 4-8 from the floor (2-4 from three point range), going perfect in his five free throw attempts, and getting 5 rebounds.

The much hyped Pearl Washington did not disappoint fans in 1983, when he went six of eight from the floor to score 16 points, and added 6 assists, all in only 25 minutes of play. George Papadakos, who would have a disappointing collegiate career, started out strong with 10 rebounds and five points in his debut.

Lawrence Moten came off the bench in 1991, and quietly, as he always did, put up 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. His much ballyhooed classmate Anthony Harris had a strong debut with 14 points on 6-7 shooting.

Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr started their era off in style back in 1976 showing flashes of what would make them dominant college players. Bouie had 7 blocks and 10 points in his debut versus Harvard, while Orr pulled down 9 rebounds with 7 points (from the bench).

Derrick Coleman had a strong start in 1986, with 13 points in 26 minutes. DC shot 5-10 from the floor and had 7 rebounds. Stephen Thompson did not fair as well that game going 1-3 from the floor, and 1-6 from the free throw line (this latter stat an unfortunate indicator with how his charity shooting would be for his career). In 9 minutes of play, Matt Roe would score 9 points that day, as would fellow frosh Keith Hughes.

Billy Owens would play only 22 minutes in his debut in 1988, and had a quiet 9 points, 6 rebounds, on 4 of 5 shooting.

John Wallace made some noise in his 1992 debut, with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He would shoot 7 of 13 from the floor that day.

In 1996, the big freshman debut was LeSean Howard for scored 12 points and had 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 20 minutes from the bench. Jason Hart had mixed results that day with 7 assists and 7 points to go with his 4 turnovers. Etan Thomas played only 16 minutes that day, and had 6 rebounds, 8 points, and 3 blocked shots.

Michael Edwards came off the bench in 1989 and had 10 assists and 5 points in only 24 minutes of play. It would take until middle of that season until he would earn a starting berth. In 1990 Adrian Autry had a solid debut with 11 points and 3 assists.

Paul Harris gave us a blueprint of his early career in his 2006 debut. Harris would scored 6 points, with 11 rebounds and 4 turnovers in 22 minutes of playing time.

Erich Santifer and Tony Bruin had strong efforts in their 1979 debut. Santifer had 12 points and 3 rebounds on 6 of 10 shooting, while ‘Red’ had 15 points, also going 6-10 from the floor, plus 3 of 4 from the charity stripe.

Many freshman had trivial debuts, in many cases because they were unheralded reserves or had little playing time. Andre Hawkins started in 1981, but split time with Peter Wynne, and Hawk ended up with 7 points and 4 rebounds. Raf Addison had 4 points in his debut in 1982, and classmate Wendell Alexis had 6 pts.

Dale Shackleford put up 7 points in his 1975 debut, and Otis Hill 8 pts in 1993. In 1997, Eric Williams had 6 points, Damone Brown played 2 minutes and Allen Griffin played 1 minute, as both went scoreless. Eric Devendorf scored 6 points on 1-7 shooting in 2005.

In 2003, DeMetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins and Terrence Roberts all went scoreless in their debut, each with limited playing time. Roberts had a pretty poor debut: in eight minutes, he picked up 4 fouls, had 2 turnovers, shot 0 for 3 from the field, and had 3 rebounds. Syracuse would lose that game 96-92.

Hakim Warrick would score 2 points in his 2001 debut, which lasted 13 minutes and included 5 turnovers. Craig Forth would give the Orangemen 5 blocked shots, 5 rebounds, and 5 points that same day.

So there have been some big freshman debuts, and many not-so-memorable. Jonny Flynn made sure his was the best.

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