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Syracuse Nets First Commitment of 2012

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Friday afternoon’s news of Jerami Grant’s commitment to Syracuse means a number of things for the Orange. The most significant aspects don’t have anything to do with Grant himself or what he’ll bring to the Orange, but rather the mindset regarding Syracuse’s future in the big picture and Adrian Autry’s ability to follow in the footsteps of Rob Murphy.

Most importantly, as you probably know, it signifies the first commitment from the 2012 recruiting class. After going all of last season without a verbal commitment, fans were starting to get antsy. As we discussed earlier this month, it had been several seasons since Syracuse entered an academic year without a verbal from a high school senior. On message boards and Twitter, Jim Boeheim’s ability to keep up on the recruiting trail was questioned despite the fact that the program’s 2011 recruiting class has more McDonald’s All-Americans than non-McDonald’s All-Americans.

When Rob Murphy left the team to take Eastern Michigan’s head coaching job*, the level of nervousness took an uptick. The 2011-12 team was (and is) talked up in preseason rankings as one of the nation’s best, but the future remained murky. Grant’s pledge should sharpen the lens on that picture as the staff turns its efforts to other recruits like Dajuan Coleman, Tyler Cavanaugh and Nerlens Noel.

*The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy has a terrific article on Murphy hiring Victoria Sun, a Newhouse grad-turned-sportswriter-turned-basketball-administrator at Eastern Michigan. While Sun isn’t the first woman to work in a men’s college basketball office, it’s still a bold and interesting move.

Nabbing Jerami Grant is also the first, and hopefully not the last, DC-area win for Adrian Autry as a Syracuse assistant. The nation’s capital and outlying areas make for a deep pipeline of talent, which Autry is well-suited to court, considering his connections to the area as a former AAU and high school coach and assistant with Virginia Tech. Considering Grant’s bloodlines (his father and uncle played in the NBA, his older brother just finished a stellar career at Clemson, and another older brother is about to begin his collegiate career with Notre Dame), securing a commitment was going to be no easy task. Mission accomplished for Adrian Autry.

Getting away from the rental cars, living rooms and high school gyms and circling back to the Carrier Dome, what I especially like about Grant is the depth he should provide in his freshman year. The trope of this year’s Syracuse team is the experienced guard play of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche mixed with rising talents like Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams, but the frontcourt picture of life after Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph was hazy until Friday. Followers of this blog know I have an almost irrational love of CJ Fair and confidence that he’ll do great once Kris Joseph graduates, but the team will need some insurance at the wing in 2012-13. It’s too early to completely rule out the idea of James Southerland ever being anything more than a sparsely-used shooter with some rebounding chops, but you can’t slide him in behind Fair for 2012-13 with much confidence, either, at least not at the moment.

Grant’s ability to attack the basket and hit jump shots from the elbow is a skill set that’s very different from Southerland’s. By the time he comes to Syracuse, his versatility could be even greater. If Southerland improves this season, the coaching staff may be saddled with one of the classic good problems to have in deciding between the two.

With the official start of practice under a month away, the Orange have the makings of a very good player in tow for 2012.

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