Syracuse ‘09-10 Preview
The Orange supporting cast heads into the spotlight.
Just think of Next Friday without Chris Tucker, The Lost Boys 2 without Corey Haim, and Predator 2 without Schwarzenegger.
Now close your eyes, picture a backcourt that’s been thoroughly cleansed. Picture an upgraded frontcourt with the indispensable pieces to eventually evolve into The Truth.
Will the Syracuse Orange version of ‘09-10 suffer a similar fate as the aforementioned bum-ass sequels that lost their star-studded cast? Big East critics are eagerly awaiting a sequel.
The Orange restore some fireworks in fifth-year senior Andy Rautins, he of the ratchet and ill mohawk—and jumbo forward/center Arinze Onuaku. But is it enough to set off a mammoth pyrotechnic display over Onondaga Lake? Well, let’s see…
Jim Boeheim snared one of the nation’s highly sought after items on the recruiting market by penning local product Brandon Triche. Triche starred at Jamesville-Dewitt HS, Rautin’s alma mater.
Accustomed to a high-octane style, Triche was the Class A Co-New York State Player of the Year. He shared the accolade with Tobias Harris, who’s been hounded down by a buffet-line of major Division-I coaches this summer.
Triche is a bulky 6-4 guard who operates offense like the rest of us wake up in the morning. He’s a major steal for the Orange, as national media outlets did not equate him with the star power of other blue chips.
Expect Triche to get meaningful tick his freshman year. He could potentially float up as one of the elite rookies in the Big East ocean. The gem of Jim Boeheim’s 2009 recruiting class, Triche has the Hall of Fame coach ultra confident in putting the rock in his hands from the get-go. Don’t sleep.
In a Big East front-loaded with gritty, guileful and gully guards, Jim Boeheim seeks to catapult the patchwork gang of tyros and savvy veterans into a challenger.
He’s got Gerry McNamara back on the bench. Fans will witness G-Mac’s No. 3 jersey morph into a dapper suit this season, as a new eon in his ‘Cuse life unfolds. The Orange wouldn’t have won 10 f*cking games in ‘05-06 without McNamara, and he should help don Triche and push his development.
Another key addition is Wesley Johnson. Johnson could be an All-Big East performer next season, as Boeheim publicly opined. JB isn’t losing any sleep with Johnson playing the wing after the departed Paul Harris.
A highly decorated transfer from Iowa State, Johnson sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Riding the pine all of last season makes shaking off rust a societal standard for Johnson, who averaged 12.4 points and 4 boards in an injury filled sophomore season. Johnson was runner-up in the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year voting as a freshman to some cat named Kevin Durant. Heard of him?
OTHER KEY RETURNEES/NEWCOMERS:
Rick Jackson | 6-9 | F | Junior
The rangy forward showed promise in the Big East tournament. Jackson turned in a superb showing against Marquette, dropping 17 points and ripping down 8 boards. His presence was truly felt on the defensive end, however, as he helped put the clamps on the Golden Eagles, recording 3 blocked shots during a three-minute sequence. Look for his numbers (8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpb, 1.6 bpg) to steadily spike in ‘09-10.
Arinze Onuaku | 6-9 | F/C | Senior
At 6-9, 275, this cat is like Oliver Miller in his golden age. An exact replica of DEBO from Friday in the paint, AO shot a blistering 66 percent from the floor, connecting mostly on dunks, put backs and easy lay-ups. One problem with AO, however, is his Shaq-like antics at the free throw line. He shot a below freezing 30 percent at the charity stripe this season. Onuaku has the immense size and interior skill to up his numbers (10.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) in nearly every category next season if he can stay healthy, which was not the case last year in Big East play. If he can rectify his free throw shooting problem, AO could evolve into a double-double cyborg his senior year. He must stay healthy for this to happen.
Andy Rautins | 6-5 | G | Redshirt Senior
A fifth-year senior, Rautins has the potential to become one of the nation’s elite outside snipers. The kid who couldn’t miss during a storied stay Jamesville DeWitt HS, Rautins enjoyed his best collegiate season in ‘08-09. He established a new high-water mark for the program, draining 9 three-pointers against DePaul. On given nights, Rautins can go off. He bagged crucial three-pointers in the Big East tournament, but he must be more consistent as he’s thrust into a leadership role. Rautins is also a presence in the passing lanes, averaging 3 dimes per. He’s playing point guard for his father, Leo, on the Canadian national team this summer and the experience will help ease the loss of both Devendorf and Jonny Flynn.
Kris Joseph | 6-7 | F | Sophomore
The forward proved his worth early in the season after turning-in a 10-point, 5-board, 3-dime performance in a pivotal win over Florida. He poured in 13 points and snared 6 boards in a 20-point shellacking of Oakland. His minutes dwindled as the season progressed, but this Canada-bred cat has plenty of upside for ‘09-10 and has the look of a prototype Orange forward.
Mookie Jones | 6-7 | F | Redshirt Freshman
Previously a rail-slim 6-7 shooting guard who brings a versatile game to the floor with some savvy beyond his years, the Peekskill High product (see Brand, Elton or Armstrong, Hilton) found slim minutes behind the experienced backcourt veterans last season and lost much of the season to a hip injury that resulted in a medical redshirt. Now, it looks as if he has packed on to his paper-slim frame. If it is good weight and slim is healthy this season, Jones could see meaningful burn.
‘Scoop’ Jardine | 6-1 | G | Redshirt Sophomore
After recovering last season from a stress fracture, Jardine will compete for starting point guard role, but ideal position seems to be more of a combination guard. Scoop also must knock off some rust after a year away from competitive Big East action.
James Southerland | 6-6 | G/F | Freshman
Wiry but glossy-smooth, this three-star recruit needs to pack on pounds to his spindly frame. The freshman’s got a dependable, feathery jump shot and can finish strong in transition. Has made strides in increasing his explosiveness, as he proved at traditional baller breeding ground Notre Dame Prep last year.
Dashonte Riley | 6-11 | C | Freshman
A spring addition to the recruiting class after re-opening his recruitment. A high-potential shot-blocker, Riley is still sushi-raw offensive end and might be better of easing into the rotation behind veterans Onuaku and Jackson.
On paper, the Orange face the music of a transition season following the loss of a propofol-potent triumvirate in Flynn (17.4 ppg, 6.7 apg), guard Eric Devendorf (15 ppg, 3 apg), and pit bull small forward Paul Harris (12 ppg, 8.1 rpg). The trio accounted for more than half of Syracuse’s offensive output in ’08-09, averaging a combined 45.1 points per.
Flynn’s ascent to the Big East’s upper-echelon constantly elicited more saliva than Pavlov’s puppy from NBA scouts last year. The newly minted T-Wolve’s emergence as a top-flight guard ran parallel to ‘Cuse’s unpredictable run to the Big East championship game.
As for Devo… Remember that quote from the classic comedy American Pie, when Paul Finch is commenting on Stifler’s plan for hopeless ‘ol Jim to finally lose his V-card? It was something on the lines of: “I don’t like the kid, but he’s got a point.”
That defines Devendorf’s final season at Syracuse. Hated on by the masses, Devendorf got it done on the court. He hit timely treys and played with a savvy emblematic of Big East guards.
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.