Even after the departure of Kris Joseph and his 13.4 points/4.7 rebounds per game to my beloved Celtics, the Orange will still boast one of the more versatile and athletic forward combos this season. Now my guess is that freshman big man DaJuan Coleman will start at power forward, but for the purposes of this discussion I am going to include him in the next article with Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita.
At media day earlier this month I had the opportunity to talk to C.J. Fair, who looked confident and excited about the coming season. He said that the team spent much of the summer are fall playing a lot of pickup ball together, getting a chance to bond as a team and get to know each other better on and off the court. He said that he worked on all facets of his game, but concentrated on ballhandling and shooting as he makes the transition from a backup forward to a starter at the 3. He says he plans to look for mismatches whenever possible on the offensive end of the floor, using his size to out-muscle smaller players and his quickness on the perimeter against bigs.
Fair mentioned how time has “flown by” now that he’s a junior, and he’s ready to become one of the team’s leaders. He said every player is ready to step up and take on a larger role, specifically mentioning Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland as key players who will get a chance to show everyone what they can do this year. He said everyone is motivated because of the team’s preseason rankings, and wants to show the college basketball world that Syracuse is not to be taken lightly despite the loss of four key contributors from last season.
Southerland echoed those sentiments, and said he looked forward to an expanded role in his senior season. He said he wanted to take advantage of his athleticism and shooting touch to contribute to the team on offense and defense, and hoped to be able to provide a scoring punch in whatever role the coaches ask of him.
Jerami Grant is going to be an interesting player to watch this season. He is very long and athletic and I think will be a terror on the back line of the 2-3 zone, but I don’t know how long it will take him to adjust to the physicality of major college basketball. I don’t think he will get as much playing time as his fellow freshman Coleman, but I think in the right spots he could be a huge asset in a full court trap defense where he can use his range and quickness to make plays in the open floor.