The departures of starting point guard Scoop Jardine and Big East Sixth Man of the Year Dion Waiters left a pair of holes in the Orange roster, in terms of both playing time and production. The pair accounted for a combined 17 points and 7.5 assists over 49 minutes per game, shoes that won’t be easy to fill for this year’s backcourt. However, the returning players told me at media day that they feel like they’re up to the challenge.
I first spoke with Michael Carter-Williams, who was very excited to see more playing time and a greater role this season. It’s strange to think that he averaged more than 10 minutes a game last year, but most of that was in the early season before Jim Boeheim’s rotation tightened up and his playing time dropped off. MCW told me that he actually looked to Dion Waiters as a role model on how to deal with frustration as a freshman, and he hopes to be able to remember how he felt last year when he’s out on the court. He says last season taught him how to be patient, and never take playing time for granted no matter how well he is playing.
When our conversation shifted to this season, Carter-Williams said he’s ready for the pressure of increased playing time and ballhandling duties this year. He says he wants to be the team’s primary point guard, and concentrate on traditional PG roles like being unselfish and finding teammates for open shots. Boeheim agreed with that to a degree, but also told me that the Orange have the luxury of two guards who can handle the ball (Carter-Williams and Triche) and doesn’t necessarily like to label them as PGs or SGs.
MCW says the team is going to have a "great" defense this year, which will jump start the offense and allow him to get out in the open court and create easy shots for his teammates. His teammate, Trevor Cooney, echoed those thoughts, saying "not a lot of teams can run with us" and they expect to push the tempo to take advantage of their speed and athleticism. He says the famous 2-3 zone takes time to learn, but the coaches make the players work hard and refuse to allow the defense to become passive.
Switching topics to his redshirt season, Cooney told me that he is "very anxious to get out there" and sitting for all of last season was tough. He said the coaches looked at the numbers last year, and he agreed that it would be best for both himself and the team if took a redshirt year. He said he expects to be able to contribute toughness, defense, energy, and outside shooting and will likely get ample opportunity to show off what he learned last year as the primary backup for both Triche and MCW.
I wasn’t able to talk to Brandon Triche one-on-one, as he was one of the more popular players at media day. However, he did say that he was excited for the season to start, and was looking forward to the "Battle on the Midway" game in San Diego to tip off the regular season next month. He was especially excited for the freshmen to experience that opportunity, which I think speaks to his selflessness and willingness to deflect the spotlight onto his teammates even as a senior and unquestioned star of the team. He said this season is important to him, because he "hasn’t reached his goals yet" and wants to go out a winner. He says he just wants to be whatever type of player the team needs, but I think we all know that he’s going to have to be much more than just a ‘glue guy’ in order for the squad to go far in 2012-13.