Wednesday, June 17, 2015

All-Syracuse International Team

Twenty five international players have played basketball for the Syracuse Orange.  Clinton Goodwin, a 5’8” guard born to American missionaries in Calcutta was the first in line.  Chino Obokoh, a reserve center for the Orange last season, is the latest in the line of international players.

Rony Seikaly
Rony Seikaly
Rony Seikaly is probably the greatest international player for the Orange.  The 6’10” center helped power the Orangemen to the championship game in 1987.  He was an outstanding shot blocker and rebounder, and by his senior year had developed into a strong offensive threat.

Two early All-Americans for the Orangemen were born overseas. John Barsha was born in Russia, while Joe Schwarzer was born in Austro-Hungary.  The two partnered to lead the Orangemen to the 1918 National Championship (as voted by the Helms Foundation).  Schwarzer was a 5’11” center, considered the best center in the East, and Barsha was an outstanding defensive guard.  Due to the evolution of the game, both would probably be too small for today’s game, but they were outstanding athletes in their own era.

If I were to create an All-International team for the Orange, I would start with Seikaly at center. That’s probably the easiest selection to make.

The team wouldn’t have a true power forward, but I would put Montreal’s Kris Joseph in that position.  Joseph was very adept at driving to the hoop, and liked playing near the basket. He would be undersized, but speedy.

Leo Rautins
Leo Rautins
Toronto’s Leo Rautins would be an excellent small forward.  Rautins was a triple-double threat, a gifted passer who preferred to play away from the basket, and would be a good fit at the three position.

Freshman phenom Tyler Ennis would be my starting point guard.  He would ensure we have a controlled offense, and would keep the turnovers to a minus. With Ennis and Rautins both on the court, there would be lots of opportunities for low post passes to Seikaly and Joseph.

The shooting guard position is the toughest spot to fill.  It comes down to sharp shooting Marius Janulis versus the versatile Kueth Duany.  Janulis was a sniper on the perimeter, and a great free throw shooter. He was not a strong defender, and was merely adequate handling the ball, but he sure could shoot.  Duany was a very good three point shooter; not in the same class a Janulis, but he could make the open three when defenses focused on other players on the court.  Duany’s benefit to the team is that he was long armed, and played very good zone defense, along with being a decent rebounder and ball handler.  I would likely choose to start Duany, and have Janulis come off the bench. Duany could of course also rotate to small forward.   Both played in the national championship game with Duany getting the edge with the championship win.

Fab Melo would be my top reserve center, and he would be a solid defensive replacement to spell Seikaly. There would be an offensive letdown with Melo on the court, but Melo was a good passer, and the team would not be hurt having him on the defensive end.

My eighth player would be Donte’ Greene.  Greene was a 6’11” three point shooting power forward. I wasn’t always crazy about his game particularly because he tended to care more about what was in his best interest as opposed to the team, but having a tall gifted athlete come off the bench who could hit the long ball is an invaluable asset on the team. 

My ninth player would be Baye Moussa Keita, who would provide some much needed energy off the bench to back up Seikaly, and to replace Melo if Melo was indifferent that night. Keita was very limited offensively, but he could play inspired defense, and get key rebounds.

The tenth, and final, player on my team would be Tom Huggins.  Huggins was a forward for the Orangemen in the early 1950s.  Huggins was a mature player having been a veteran of World War II; he would be 28 when he graduated from Syracuse.  Huggins was a solid rebounder and a tenacious defender, and his maturity would help with some of the younger guys.

Finally, the coach would be Marc Guley. Guley was born in Czechoslovakia, and coached the Orangemen from 1950-1962.  Guley’s career started out well as a coach, leading the Orangemen to the National Campus Championship in 1951, and to their first NCAA bid in 1957.  The team would also hit rock bottom after a steady decline in Guley’s last few years.  However, as the Orangemen have had no other head coaches born overseas, the job is his by default.

So we’re looking at a starting five, with really an eight man rotation, as follows:

  • PG-Tyler Ennis, 
  • SG-Kueth Duany, 
  • SF-Leo Rautins, 
  • PF-Kris Joseph
  • C-Rony Seikaly.
  • Bench: G-Marius Janulis, F-Donte’ Greene and C-Fab Melo

That team would be an NCAA bound team in this era, and possibly an elite eight team, and with some luck a Final Four. A strong power forward on the team would make me more confident.  The team could definitely play big with Rautins taking over the point for periods of time, Duany at the shooting guard, Greene and Joseph up front, and Seikaly down low (or put Seikaly at forward, Melo at center, and drop Joseph).