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Three Targets & Two Scholarships


In terms of the 2014 recruiting class, Syracuse was lucky to strike early by nabbing a commitment from five star power forward Chris McCullough on November 5th of 2012. As Syracuse tries to fill out the class, it appears that three recruits in particular have emerged as the school's top targets: PG Kaleb Joseph, combo guard Isaiah Whitehead and PF/C Goodluck Okonoboh. While it would be great if Syracuse could land all three of these recruits, unless someone leaves the program to either enter the NBA draft or transfer to another school, there will only be two scholarships available. Division I teams are allowed to have 13 players under scholarship at a time and Syracuse would have Ennis, Gbinije, Cooney, Patterson, Roberson, BJ Johnson, Grant, McCullough, D. Coleman, Christmas & Obokoh as eleven of those players, leaving only two scholarships. For purposes of this post, lets assume each players has Syracuse as their respective #1 school and each would attend Syracuse if given the opportunity, which two of the three best fit Syracuse's system and their needs?

The Roster:

Syracuse's starting lineup would probably look something like Ennis at PG, Gbinije at SG, Grant at SF, McCullough at PF and Christmas or Coleman at C. While I know JB doesn't like starting freshman, especially over upperclassmen, I think McCullough will be too good to leave out of the starting lineup, especially when neither Coleman nor Christmas are great fits on the wing of JB's zone. The bench would look like Cooney, Patterson, Roberson, Johnson, Obokoh and the non-starter between Coleman & Christmas. As we know heading into the 2013 year, PG depth is the biggest need. SG is overcrowded between Gbinije, Cooney & Patterson, none of whom are ideal back up PGs, although Gbinije looks to fill that role in 2013. SF is overcrowded too between Grant, Roberson & Johnson. Syracuse is already bringing in a PF in McCullough, but my concern is how long does he stay? Could he be a one & done? While Grant, Christmas and maybe Roberson could all see minutes at PF, none of them are good fits long term. Grant and Roberson are really SFs and are undersized for the PF position, Christmas struggled playing outside the paint in the zone. So even with McCullough coming in 2014, I think don't think that does much for the long term future of the position. At Center, in 2014, Christmas would be a senior, Coleman a junior and Obokoh either a sophomore or a red-shirt freshman (because he'll be 4th on the depth chart in 2013 and should redshirt). So, to me, the biggest positions of need are PG & PF.

The Recruits:

Kaleb Joseph is a 4 star PG ranked 51st in ESPN's 2014 recruit rankings. He's 6'3" with a long lanky frame. I couldn't find his wingspan anywhere but wouldn't be surprised if it was in the 6'6" range from watching him in action. His length would make him a terror at the top of zone and his is a good facilitator running the offense. He has previously referred to Syracuse as his dream school.

Isaiah Whitehead has been rated a 4 star but some recruiting sites and a five star by others. He is a 6'4" combo guard who has primarily played shooting guard but has the handle and vision to play the point as well. He may be one of the best pure scorers in this class along with Rashad Vaughn and Stanley Johnson. He is the ultimate competitor and volume scorer who lead his team to the PSAL championship this past year as a junior.

Goodluck Okonoboh is also a 4 star on some recruiting services and a five star on others. He is a 6'9", 220 lbs. shot blocker extraordinaire. He previously attended the same prep school as Noel, but transferred to another school to get more minutes. He's listed as a center, but is a little undersized for the position. His offensive game is no where near as developed as his defensive game, largely living off of offensive rebounds and dump offs.

The Results:

While there are no wrong answers, there will be a wide variety of opinions. To me, getting a pure PG to back up Ennis and prepare to take over whenever Ennis leaves (I doubt he stays all four years) is the biggest priority. Unless Whitehead is prepared to commit to being a PG, much the same way Carter-Williams did, I don't think Whitehead alone can fill the need. So with McCullough & Joseph in the fold, to whom, if anyone, should the last scholarship go? As I indicated, SG is overcrowded, but maybe Whitehead is too good of a prospect to turn down. Okonoboh would be the second PF of the class, but would be a defensive compliment to McCullough's offense (not that McCullough is a defensive slouch by any means) and long term insurance if McCullough opts to leave as early as after his first year. Maybe one or more of these recruits choose to attend a different school and Syracuse isn't faced with this problem. Another option may be to leave one of the scholarships vacant and bank it for the 2015 year. If no leaves early after both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 season, Syracuse would only have one scholarship player leaving after the 2015 season (Rakeem Christmas), so saving an additional scholarship for that offseason may have value as Syracuse is already eyeing Ennis' former teammate Isaiah Briscoe, Obokoh's former teammate, Rochester product Thomas Bryant as well as Chiek Diallo, another defensive specialist who is beginning to develop an offensive game. So if Syracuse had their pick of the litter, who should they choose?

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