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Talking 2012 Recruiting

Now that the draft deadline has come and gone, evaluators have a clearer sense of how the 2011-2012 preseason rankings will stack up, as silly as preseason rankings can be. The short term future looks very bright, with the Orange checking in at the top five of many early rankings for next season. Long-term, however, Syracuse finds itself in unfamiliar territory in that it has no verbal commitments from the class of rising seniors. In fact, you have to go back to 2005 to find a year that was as light on the pipeline as the current state of affairs. Brandon Triche didn’t formally commit until early in his senior year of 2008-09, but he was a cinch all along due to being a local product with familial ties to the program, so I see that case in a different light.

While it’s been comfortable to have some grasp of what the future looks like, I don’t necessarily see the cloudy outlook as a bad thing. There will always be players on the radar, but in order for there to be a good fit, each side needs time to gather as much information about the other as possible; The player needs to be comfortable with what the schools have to offer him and the recruiters need to be comfortable in their assessments. You can see the former in the case of DaJuan Coleman, who has been quoted as saying that he will wait until the spring of his senior year to give a verbal commitment, even though he’s been in SU’s sights for what seems like eons.

As you know, Syracuse has two scholarships available for 2011-2012 with Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine set to exhaust their final seasons of eligibility. There’s a chance that the light bulb turns on for Fab Melo and he realizes his pro potential and there are whispers that DaShonte Riley could follow Rob Murphy back to his native Michigan, but for the sake of this update, we’ll simplify things by working with what’s definite and assume that SU has two scholarships with which to work.

Entering the 2012-13 season, Joseph will be gone and if things go according to plan, CJ Fair will slide smoothly into the wing spot. It sounds a little strange writing about what might come to pass in two seasons, but the truth is that while Fair came off the bench as a freshman last season, James Southerland’s limitations present a need to go after someone at the small forward position. That someone could be the 6’7 Amile Jefferson, who attends Friends Central School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, the prep school that produced Hakim Warrick. Reports indicate that Jefferson is a very smart player with great length and speed that allows him to excel in transition and get past defenders on the dribble. Passing is also a strength of his, which is unusual to see from a wing. The opportunities for development, however, won’t surprise you – he needs to add on some muscle and develop a jump shot, but there’s ample time for him to do so.

If Syracuse happens to fall short on Coleman, Ricardo Gathers could be a great backup plan. Like the 280-lb. Coleman, Gathers, at 240 pounds, has a body that doesn’t need much work and an advanced array of post moves. Since he’s only 6’7, bigger players will be able to shoot over him, but that hasn’t stopped a number of high-caliber programs from coming after him. There’s also the chance that he could grow a few inches during his senior season, which would make him all the more marketable.

In a way, SU is in an unfortunate position in that the team has a young but plentiful stable of big men entering a season where many of the nation’s top high school seniors happen to be centers. If it’s immediate playing time that Coleman and Gathers are after, there will likely be more appealing options than Syracuse, and in Gathers’ case, location could be a factor (he’s from Louisiana), but you never know what the passage of time will present. While I’m looking forward to seeing how SU performs with big expectations as a preseason top-five squad, the recruiting process will always be at the back of my mind.

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