In football, there are those players who give you those "No no no no.... YEEEEEEES moments." Guys like Devin Hester and Brett Favre who turn what looks like a ten yard loss or a horrible decision into six in the blink of an eye. They toe the fine line between reckless and genius but have the innate ability and confidence to take the chance and make the play that no one else can make. For all the exhilaration that comes with the great plays, the exasperation that come with the awful plays by these types can leave you scratching your head. Any time these guys are on the field it is a roller coaster of emotions. With that in mind, meet your 2007-2008 Syracuse Orangemen Basketball team.
First, it should be noted that these kids are good. Syracuse brought in the top recruiting class in the land this year and they are no joke. Two of the freshman start, 4 see time and when all's said and done the kid with the most upside (Sean Williams and his 7'9" wingspan) may not even see the floor until next year. The point guard, Jonny Flynn, is Sherm Douglas with range on top of range. After lighting up the senior laden--and likely MAAC champion--Siena Saints for 28 points the previous night, Flynn had a quiet night for 39 minutes and 55 seconds of the St. Joe's game. That was until he knocked down the game winning 24 footer with 5 seconds to play after not hitting a shot all night. Meanwhile, his partner in crime, freshman Donte Greene, began his coming out party with an 18 point game and displayed the range that 6'11" kids aren't supposed to have. The game featured no look passes, deep threes, a ton of steals and strong blocks by hyper athletic kids and when all was said and done the top 3 scorers for 'Cuse were a freshman and two sophomores against a veteran--and very strong--St. Joe's team. But there is a seedy underbelly to all of this flash and excitement.
This Syracuse basketball team is about as reckless and impatient a team as they've ever had... and that's saying something because Syracuse is not known for their methodical and regimented offensive scheme. These guys want to make so many plays all the time they can hardly help themselves but throw an errant pass on a fast break or dribble through three guys rather than make the easy pass. They never run the clock down and play the last 2 minutes of the game exactly the same way they did the first 2. It is infuriating to watch a point guard who has commanded the entire game drive = the lane get a passed picked off in a close game with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. And though their defense (especially their transition defense) was light years better than the previous evening's, they have a ton of trouble recognizing shooters and got tired near the end of the game and gave St. Joe's about half a dozen second chances. Cuse kept letting St. Joe's back in this game via second chances and open looks when they should have put them away with a simple box out. In fact, had it not been for the blown breakaway layup by the St. Joe's dude (his name escapes me), Syracuse would likely have let St. Joe's win this game. And it would have been a deflating loss for these youngsters to swallow, and for me to watch on Tivo (stupid evening Professional Responsiblity class...).
Fortunately, these kids are good. In fact they are really good. Flynn is probably the best freshman point guard in the nation and Greene is just feeling his oats and could go off for 35 on any given night. Onuaku is a man-child in the middle and looks better than anyone could ever have imagined (he may be the reason this team is 2-0 and not 0-2). Paul Harris is the second coming of Charles Barkley and at 6'4" he may lead the Big East in rebounds this year as a sophomore (he's grabbed 14 and 15 in two games so far this year). And we haven't even gotten to Devendorf, who is one of the 50 preseason Naismith nominees and the only player on the court with significant time in the prior to this year. Off the bench they've got a kid in Rick Jackson who if he could break the starting lineup could pump in 15 and 10 a night with ease (he may have the best low post game of any Syracuse player since Seikaly). And Scoop Jardine and Kristof Ongenaet are high upside role players who are finding their way. It's the most exciting team I can remember, even more than the 'Melo and Gerry team because where that team had two great players and little to nothing else, this team has 4 high energy freshman, two physical sophomores and a stud junior leader, all of whom attack the rim like they it just insulted their grandma.
I'm gonna have fun watching this team this year. I'll just have to be sure to keep the Rolaids within reach.