Syracuse Basketball Roster: Looking Forward To 2013-14

Kevin C. Cox

The 2012-13 Syracuse basketball season came to a close on Saturday in Atlanta. Sure, it sucks, but now we can actually talk about NEXT season and the roster that will help Syracuse make the move to the ACC.

Unless a National Championship is involved, the end to any Syracuse basketball season stinks, as there's a lot of looking back and wondering what if.

However, for some Orange fans this is the best time of the year because all the talk about NEXT season is officially warranted. (Yipppeee for you guys!)

To open up the discussion, yours truly decided to rundown what the 2013-14 roster will look like entering preseason camp -- assuming C.J. Fair returns (please C.J. return!).

Returning starting five (presumably)

Rakeem Christmas, Center: The 6-foot-9 forward/center will be a junior and everyone involved in the Syracuse basketball program will want to see a massive leap in production. If Christmas can't improve both offensively and defensively in the 2-3 zone, then there's a good chance he loses playing time because there's going to be a lot of competition in the front court.

Entering the season, it was expected Christmas could make a Fab Melo-like freshman-to-sophomore leap in production. That did not happen.

With that said, however, history has consistently shown that big men take at least three seasons to develop into an all-around productive threat.

There's so much potential here, so cross your fingers and hope next season is the one Christmas decides to unwrap his gifts.

2012-13 stats: 12.7 minutes, 5.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

Jerami Grant, Power Forward: OK, all. Now, you can start talking about the potential of Grant's sophomore season, which should feature a lot more playing minutes and opportunities to shine.

The 6'8 forward was James Southerland's backup in his first season, and when he played he usually played well.

Grant's defensive lapse in the 2-3 zone should be less frequent in year two and his offensive game should improve.

Already, we know the DeMatha grad can provide high energy, rebounding and great athletic ability, so he should plug-in nicely to a starting role.

2012-13 stats: 14.3 minutes, 3.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.

C.J. Fair, Small Forward: When new Syracuse football head coach Scott Shafer said the Orange were going to storm the DAMN ACC!, there's a good chance he was just talking about Fair doing it by himself.

If the multi-skilled, 6'8 forward decides to return for his senior season -- a decision he should make -- he should enter the season as the front-runner to win the ACC Player of the Year.

Fair's 22-point performance in Saturday's semifinal loss to Michigan showcased his ability to do nearly everything offensively. Well, everything but the ability to take defenders one-on-one off the dribble (something many NBA small forwards can do).

If the All-Big East Second Teamer can improve that skill, while fine-tuning his jumper, 2013-14 will be a special season for the Orange's most popular player.

2012-13 stats: 34.9 minutes, 14.5 points*, 7.0 rebounds*, 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Trevor Cooney, Shooting Guard: The debut season of one Trevor Cooney, who entered the season as presumably a 6'4 marksmen, was rough. Really rough.

It was so poor that there are many Orange fans already writing-off the former 3-star recruit as a bust.

However, fans with cooler heads will remind the critics that despite his shooting struggles, Cooney provided a lot of solid defense, always played hard and showed signs of what-could-be production in the postseason in his first full season of playing time.

It should be expected the gym rat will work extremely hard in the offseason to refine his shot (STOP LEANING BACK!!) and be ready to be a backcourt leader in 2013-14.

2012-13 stats: 11.2 minutes and 3.4 points per game.

Tyler Ennis, Point Guard: There could be some freshman growing pains with the 6'2, five-star floor general, but Michael Carter-Williams replacement is expected to have just as much ability and potential.

If you checked out Ennis' gutty performance in Saturday's ESPN National High School Invitational Championship game loss to Florida's Montverde Academy, you'd agree.

Ennis, who made a late game-tying and go-ahead 3-pointer in the two-point loss, all with a bum shoulder, ended his career at St. Benedict's Prep (NJ) averaging 20.8 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals in his final season.

Ennis' season was highlighted by a 54-point performance in a 116-65 victory over Eastern, which came a few hours after being snubbed from the McDonald's All-American Game.

Need more convincing that Ennis will fit right in, well, here's what Boeheim had to say about him after Saturday's loss to Michigan.

Don't forget about

Baye Moussa Keita, Center: "The Matrix" will never be an All-Conference selection, but he proved late into this season he can anchor the 2-3 zone if asked.

Do not expect a huge boost in offensive production from the 6'10 center in his final season, however, the Orange will not be asking him to become a beast just provide quality minutes off the bench.

This season, Keita proved he can do that.

2012-13 stats: 16.8 minutes, 3.7 points, 1.1 blocks and 3.6 rebounds per game.

Dajuan Coleman, Power Forward/Center: It came as a surprise, but it shouldn't have, that the McDonald's All-American struggled in his first collegiate season.

Behind Christmas and Keita, the soon-to-be sophomore played sparingly. How much was his limited production due to a banged up knee that caused him to miss nearly a month of playing time? Nobody will really know.

What we do know is that the off-season battle between Christmas, Kieta and Coleman for the starting center spot and playing time next season should spark development in the 6'9, 288-pound brute.

2012-13 stats: 12.7 minutes, 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Michael Gbinije, Guard/Forward: The transfer from Duke is maybe the most intriguing player entering next season because little is known about the 6'7 sophomore.

What is known is Gbinije chose to transfer to SU after averaging 1.9 points in 19 games for the Blue Devils, who, before his departure, was excited about his size and inside-outside versatility.

Coming out of high school Gbinije was a 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com, which rated him the ninth-best small forward and 35th-best prospect overall.

If the offseason goes well for Gbinije, he could push Cooney and Grant for playing minutes and possibly a starting role.

Incoming recruiting class

Tyler Roberson, Small Forward: Other than Ennis, the 6'8, 210-pound Roberson is the most touted recruit in the 2013 class.

In his final season at Roselle Catholic (NJ), Roberson averaged 17.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game in a NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title run.

His final-season performance helped him snag The Star-Ledger's Player of the Year honors.

Of course, Roberson will need to battle for playing time with Fair, Grant, Gbinije, Christmas and Coleman in his way. But competition and depth is always a good thing to add coming off a Final Four season.

Ron Patterson, Shooting Guard: The former Indiana Hoosier commit, who's listed at 6'3, 195-pounds, could be the biggest sleeper of this class.

The Indianapolis native has a confusing recruiting story, which forced him to spend last season at Brewster Academy (N.H.) before committing to Syracuse.

However, despite the roller-coaster journey, Patterson helped lead the Bobcats to the NEPSAC Championship by sinking a game-winning shot. The heroics helped him snag NEPSAC Player of the Year honors.

B.J. Johnson, Small Forward: The 6'7, Pennsylvania native should complete for the starting quarterbacks position -- I mean, that's what recruits from Pennsylvania do right?

All jokes aside, the forward seems to the prototypical Jim Boeheim, 2-3 zone recruit -- tall, lanky and athletic.

He may not be able to play right away, but if we've learned anything about Syracuse's ability to develop players, Johnson should be a key contributor later in his collegiate career.

Chinonso Obokoh, Power Forward: The 6'10, 220-pound Rochester hoopster, who's a native of Nigeria, is coming off a New York State Class AA championship season with Bishop Kearney.

Obokoh -- pronounced Chee-NO-so Oh-BOW-koh -- averaged 11.3 points, 15.6 rebounds and seven blocks for Kearney, which like Syracuse got hot at the right time and ending up beating New Rochelle (yes, that New Rochelle) in Glen Falls.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle's Jeff DiVeronica, Obokoh takes pride in his shot blocking and is able to knock down 15-foot jump shots.

However, Syracuse's loaded backline may force Boeheim to use a redshirt on the project.

Prognosis

Just like after last season, SU will be able to reload with seemingly a more talented/athletic group of youngsters that should have no problem competing in the ACC.

The Orange may not be the favorite to win a conference crown, but they have a chance to develop throughout the season and by March could be ready for a second consecutive Final Four run.

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