Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Deep in Deep?

How deep is the real depth of Syracuse’s basketball team in 2011-2012?  Two things validate that it is indeed a very deep squad.  Mookie Jones, a senior who has a lifetime 41% three point shooting percentage isn’t even part of the ‘second team’ (i.e. the first five bench players).  Freshman Trevor Cooney, who some have said is the best pure shooter Syracuse has ever had, and surprised many with all-around game in practice and in the exhibition games is going to redshirt the year because he would not be in the top 10.

So there is a lot of depth.

Further bolstering the perception of depth is that three of the bench players easily could replace a current starter on the Syracuse lineup. C.F. Fair has an excellent all around game and could be one of the starting forwards, though Rakeem Christmas does offer the bigger body up front.  Dion Waiters is probably the most explosive offensive player on the team, and it is easy seeing him replace either Scoop Jardine or Brandon Triche.  Baye Keita actually outplayed Fab Melo for most of last season, and played far more minutes than Melo.

James Southerland, buried deep on the bench, is one of the team’s top scorers four games into this season, and has one of the sweetest three point shots on the squad, on top of a very athletic 6’8” frame. 

Freshman Michael Carter-Williams is a McDonald’s American, with tremendous size and reach for a guard (6’5”), and a reputation for a complete game at guard.

Unlike many other seasons, I expect that Jim Boeheim will not shorten his bench too much. I think situational play may dictate who plays in which games, and how many players see action each game.  The five ‘reserve’ players all have their strengths, and also have their weaknesses.

Waiters was a tad bit selfish last year, and was not committed to the defensive scheme.  Fair had no perimeter shooting.  Keita was very raw on basketball fundamentals, especially on the offensive end of the court.  Southerland was woefully inconsistent. And Carter-Williams is a freshman with no NCAA experience.

The starting five for Syracuse has a lot of experience, especially by today’s standards.  Brandon Triche is a third year starting guard. Senior Scoop Jardine is a 2nd year starter who is in this fifth year in the program. Senior Kris Joseph is a second year starter who has logged three seasons worth of starting time. Fab Melo has a year under his belt. Rakeem Christmas is the inexperienced player as a pure freshman, though with a McDonald’s All American pedigree, that is the best type of freshman to have.

However, Syracuse has a lot more ‘potential’ this year than ‘actual’ on the court.  This year’s team could be great.  As fans we can dream about how good each of these players would be if they reached their potential.  Some of the players have shown that they have improved upon their weaknesses from last year; but we need to see this play out over several more games.

The starting five for Syracuse this year is talented, and the bench is very deep. But I don’t think, right now, there is a starter as talented as the 2008-2009 Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku or Wes Johnson. Nor anyone as talented as the 2009-2010 Rick Jackson.  At least not yet.

And because of that, it makes it easier for Boeheim to go to his bench. The drop off from the starter talent level to the bench talent level is not that great.  I do not think there is one starter on the team that would be a devastating loss to the Orange if an injury were to occur (unlike the loss of Onuaku in 2008-2009 to the team).  A loss of any player hurts a team, but many can be overcome with other players stepping up and I believe this year’s team has that ability.

Boeheim has had other deep benches before.  The 1977-1978 squad had senior forward Kevin James on the bench, with sophomore guard Hal Cohen, freshman center Danny Schayes, and freshmen guards Eddie Moss and Marty Headd. 

The 1979-1980 squad, that went 26-4 and won the first Big East regular season title, may have had the deepest bench in Syracuse’s history.  Senior guard Hal Cohen was on the bench, along with junior Danny Schayes (who would play in the NBA for 17 seasons), sophomore forward Ron Payton, highly touted freshman forward Tony Bruin, and junior forward Chris Jerebko.

The 1987-1988 team did not go ten deep, but the first four off the bench were pretty impressive led by sophomore guard Earl Duncan and sophomore forward Keith Hughes.  Junior forward Herman Harried and senior Derek Brower rounded out the bench. Both Duncan and Hughes would transfer to Rutgers and start for the Scarlet Knights.

The 1992-1993 team had the shot blocking junior Conrad McRae, the dynamic freshman guard Anthony Harris, the sweet shooting freshman forward Glenn Sekunda, former starting point guard junior Michael Edwards, and freshman forward Luke Jackson.

The 1999-2000 team went nine deep, but bear mentioning as the four off the bench included sophomore swingman Preston Shumpert who scored in double digits, dynamic freshman guard DaShaun Williams, former starting point guard junior Allen Griffin, and freshman swingman Kueth Duany.

The 2003-2004 team had five guys who were going to have to sit and bide their time as the starting five were young and entrenched.  That bench included freshmen DeMetris Nichols, Louis McCroskey, Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins, and senior shot blocking center Jeremy McNeil.

The following year the bench may have been stronger (for a while) with Nichols, Roberts and Watkins now sophomores (McCroskey was now a starter), the enigmatic junior Billy Edelin, and freshman guard Josh Wright.

In hindsight, some of these benches do not look as strong today as they seemed at the time; in some cases they look stronger then they actually were. That is one of the realities of college basketball, in that you most separate the expectations from the reality, along with recognize the opportunity.

I do think we will see a deep bench this year, not because Jim Boeheim has changed his coaching philosophy, but rather because that is what the composition of his team dictates.  He has ‘flawed’ players throughout the lineup, and match-ups will matter. He has a lot of talent on the bench, and the starters are not significantly better, so the replacement value difference is not too costly.

I think as the season progresses we may find a couple of the bench players become more significant, especially if their game has truly improved. If Waiters plays hard on both ends of the court, he would be tough to keep off the court.  Especially if Jardine starts showing his ‘Scoop moments’ late in the game, or Brandon Triche gets in a funk.  If Rakeem Christmas struggles, and James Southerland continues to play consistent basketball sticking his shot, and playing solid zone defense, I would not be surprised to see him leap over many others to start.

I have no expectations about who will do what in 2011-2012. I do like the prospect with so many guys with large upsides, that the competitive factors between the players will drive some to realize their potential, and some true stars will emerge.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

On this Veterans day, as I have done each year past, I would like to thank all those who have served our country, putting their lives on the line to do those tasks that need to be done. The Orange basketball team has had its share of veterans over the decades. And has been tradition at OrangeHoops, I would like to recognize those former basketball Orangemen who did serve. I acknowledge this is not a complete list; only those I know of (each year I add a few more). I imagine more Orangemen were in the service that I am omitting; if so, please post a recognition here! Also please feel free to recognize any other veterans in the comments.

In World War I, the following served:
Albert Ackley
Bradley Barnard
Meyer Bloom
Jim Casey
Ed Cronauer
John Cronauer
Charles Fasce
Russ Finsterwald
Ken Harris
Ted Huntley
Bernie Kates
Ken Lavin
Nathan Malefski
Danny Martin
Walter ‘Dutch’ Notman
Walter Peters
Elias Raff
Billy Rafter
Horace Ruffin
Courtland Sanney
Clifford Steele

In World War II, the following served:
Jim Ackerson
Lou Alkoff
John Balinsky
Dick Casey
Larry Crandall
Wilbur Crisp
Dan DiPace
Les Dye
Alton Elliott
John Emerich
Bob Felasco
Paul Ferris
Billy Gabor
Ed Glacken
Joe Glacken
Marc Guley
Mark Haller
Lew Hayman
Bill Hennemuth
Tom Huggins
George Jarvis
Jim Konstanty
Stan Kruse (Kruszewski)
Glenn Loucks
Guy Luciano
Saul Mariaschin
Tom McTiernan
Francis Miller
Joe Minsavage
Andy Mogish
Roy Peters
Hank Piro
Phil Rakov
John Schroeder
Bill Schubert
Bob Shaddock
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Red Stanton
Mike Stark
Bobby Stewart
Joe Sylvestri
Charles Taggart
Ray Tice

In Korea the following served:
Reaves Baysinger, Jr

In Vietnam, the following served:
Reaves Baysinger, Jr
George Crofoot
Rick Dean

The following were veterans who served but were fortunate to miss a war era:
Art Barr
Mel Besdin
Rudy Cosentino
Roy Danforth
Ronnie Kilpatrick
George Koesters
Tom Jockle
Jack Malone
Frank Reddout

Four of the aforementioned players deserve special note, as they sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was a member of the Tuskegee Airman, and was killed in a training accident when his plane crashed into Lake Michigan in 1943.

Charles Taggart was a member of the US Navy serving aboard the USS Frederick C. Davis, and was killed when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on April 24, 1945. Taggart and 115 crew members perished.

John Cronauer was killed in World War I in 1918.

Joe Minsavage was killed in World War II on June 19, 1943 when his ship was attacked and he was lost at sea.

Friday, November 04, 2011

2011 OrangeHoops Hall of Fame Selection

In 2007, OrangeHoops inducted its charter class into the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame: Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Vic Hanson, and Pearl Washington. The next three years saw the addition of  Billy Owens (2008),  Billy Gabor (2009) and Lawrence Moten (2010).  So the list now stands at 9. Another year has passed, and now it is time for the 2011 inductee.

I established my rules for the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame back in 2007 and  you can catch up on them here. 2011 does have eight new eligible candidates (using the fifteen year rule): John Wallace, Lazarus Sims, J.B. Reafsnyder, David Patrick, Bobby Lazor, Elimu Nelson, Jim Hayes and Jim May. Wallace is a solid candidate, definitely one of the top Syracuse players of all time, and carried Syracuse his senior season to lofty heights. Sims was an outstanding point guard his senior season and helped lead the Orangemen to the National Championship game, but he was just a one year starter.  Reafsnyder shared the center duties with Otis Hill, while Nelson, Hayes and May were bench players. Patrick and Lazor would both transfer to bigger and better things at other schools.
I think this year’s viable top candidates come down to the following eight, listed chronologically: Lew Castle, Joe Schwarzer, Lew Andreas, Vinnie Cohen, Roosevelt Bouie, Louis Orr, Rony Seikaly and John Wallace.

Castle was a two time All-American at Syracuse, and was captain and leading scorer of Syracuse’s only undefeated team, the 1913-1914 squad that went 12-0.

Schwarzer was a two time All-American, and was captain and leading scorer of the 1917-1918 squad that went 16-1 and was retroactively named the National Champions by the Helms Foundation.
Lew Andreas coached Syracuse basketball for 27 seasons, including the 19-1 1925-1926 squad that was awarded the Helms Foundation National Championship. He had a career record of 358-134, and he was the Syracuse Athletic Director for 28 years (1937-1964).

Cohen was an All-American, the first Syracuse player to average 20+ points a game in a season, and led the team to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1956-1957.

Bouie was a two time All-American, a standout defensive player who led Syracuse to a 100-18 record in his four years, and part of the famed Louie N’ Bouie tandom that rocketed Syracuse up the polls in the early Jim Boeheim years.

Orr was an All-American his senior year, a talented offensive player who played with intelligence on the court. He was the other half of the famed Louie N’ Bouie tandom.

Seikaly was an All-American, a standout defensive player whose outstanding play in the 1987 NCAA tournament took Syracuse to the brink of its first tournament championship.

Wallace was a four year starter at Syracuse, carried the team to the National Championship game his senior season in 1995-1996.  He graduated Syracuse as the #3 all-time leading scorer and the #3 all-time leader in rebounds, and still holds both distinctions.

It is hard to believe some of these candidates still have not made the OrangeHoops Hall of Fame.  But I designed the criteria so that the selection would be very difficult, and only the best of the best would be represented.  And what good are rules if you do not follow them?

That was not entirely a rhetorical question for in 2011 I am going to break one of my own rules, and induct two players into the Hall of Fame.  And I have to, because you cannot induct one half of the Bouie 'N Louie show without the other.   The 2011 inductees are Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr.

Syracuse had a new basketball coach for the 1976-1977 in Jim Boeheim.  He had recruited Roosevelt Bouie as an assistant, and sent assistant coach Rick Pitino to recruit Louis Orr. The two players, under Boeheim, would take Syracuse to a new level of consistent success, and establish Syracuse as an Eastern basketball power, eventually leading to the formation of the Big East Conference.
Syracuse would go 26-4, 22-6, 26-4 and 26-4 for an overall record of 100-18 during the Bouie N' Louie era.  They would win the inaugural Big East Regular Season championship, and would rise to #2 in the AP polls their senior year.  
Roosevelt Bouie was a fierce defensive player with tremendous shot blocking skills. He was very athletic and could run the court very well, allowing the Orangemen to thrive in their fast break offense favored by Boeheim.  Bouie would graduate from Syracuse as the #2 all-time leading scorer, third in rebounding, and first in blocked shots (since surpassed in all three areas).   Bouie would be drafted in the second round of the NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He felt the Maverick's contract was not good enough and kept up on his promise to go and play in Italy.  Bouie found that he loved the lifestyle in Italy, the pay was very good, and he never came back to the NBA, having a long and outstanding career in the Italian league.  

Louis Orr was a thin rail of a player who was excellent at running the court, and grabbing rebounds.  He was a valuable sixth man his freshman season, and scored 9.4 points per game off the bench.  He would move into the starting lineup his sophomore season, and continued to improve.  Like Bouie, he was named to the Big East First Team its inaugural season 1979-1980.  Orr would be drafted in the first round of the 1980 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers.  He would have eight solid, though unspectacular, seasons in the NBA.

Orr would later turn to coaching, and was an assistant coach at Syracuse under Boeheim, along with being the head coach at Providence, Siena, Seton Hall and Bowling Green. In 2002-2003 he would be named the Big East Coach of the Year while at Seton Hall.

Congratulations to that inseparable due, Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie.