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Ennis, Cooney Impress as Syracuse Defeats Holy Family

The Syracuse Orange took to the Carrier Dome court Friday night for their opening exhibition game of the 2013-14 season. For many fans it was the first chance to see SU play this year, and their first look at old and new faces alike.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Here is my report card from SU’s 79-41 victory over the Holy Family Tigers of Philadelphia.

Head of the Class

Tyler Ennis: The freshman point guard acquitted himself well in his first Carrier Dome contest, notching 12 points on 4-7 shooting from the floor and 3-4 from the line in 18 minutes. He also chipped in 3 assists and a steal (with only 2 turnovers). On a couple of occasions he tried to force a pass where he shouldn’t, but I chalk that up to an overeagerness to share more than a lack of passing skill. After the game Boeheim even gave Ennis a compliment – at last a Boeheimian compliment – when he said Ennis did “fine” and Boeheim “didn’t think about him” much during the game. I had a boss tell me once that if I never heard from him I was doing a good job, so if Boeheim is anything like that then Ennis has little to worry about this season.

The one thing that bothered me was Ennis’ inability to notch a near-quadruple double in his first home game… but I guess we can cut him some slack.

Passing Grades

Trevor Cooney: After getting the starting nod, Cooney went out and made the most of the opportunity by putting up 9 points on an all-important 3-4 from deep in 17 minutes. Cooney was the very definition of a shooting ‘specialist’, at least on offense, as his 0 rebounds, 0 assists, and 0 free throw attempts will attest. But that one skill is really what the Orange need from him this year, and if he can give them an honest threat from long range it will afford teammates like C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant so much more room to do what they do best.

Jerami Grant: Speaking of Grant, I can see him settling into a key role for the Orange very early on. He came off the bench at the outset, as expected, but tied with Fair for the team lead in scoring with 13 (3-5 FG, 7-9 FT) while chipping in 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. I think in a typical game he could stand to get a couple more rebounds, but that really wasn’t an issue tonight given SU’s general dominance in the paint and the overall nature of a blowout win. But Grant showed flashes of what to expect this year… a super-athletic drive here, a nice defensive rotation there, that tell me he may be SU’s second best player this year and capable of living up to the high expectations that have been placed upon him.

Stay After Class

DaJuan Coleman: Let me preface this by saying that I’m really nitpicking here, and it’s only been one measly exhibition game – not exactly a lot to go on. However, Friday night Coleman fell into many of the same bad habits that plagued him last year. He had a nice night on the boards, grabbing 9 to tie him for second with Fair (Baye Keita had 10), but he still brought the ball down to his knees, dribbled in the paint around smaller players, and tried to bowl over his smaller defenders. He also went 1-5 from the free throw line and turned the ball over 3 times. I think he needs to somehow figure out a way to turn his brain off when he gets the ball, and I mean that in the best way possible. I think he thinks too much and tries too hard to fight his way to the basket for the absolute closest shot, instead of relaxing and taking what the defense gives him.

Final Grade: B

The exhibition did what it was supposed to do. Every scholarship player save for Chinonso Obokoh (who is redshirting) played at least 14 minutes, and no one played more than 24. Everyone scored at least two points, and no one scored more than 13. None of the freshman seemed intimidated, and Tyler Roberson, B.J. Johnson, and Ron Patterson in particular look hungry to make contributions right away.

However, there are still plenty of questions to be answered:

Can Michael Gbinije play meaningful minutes as the backup point guard? (5 turnovers in 24 minutes, but 5 rebounds and 4 assists)

What is Johnson’s best position? (Boeheim openly said he didn’t know if B.J. could play shooting guard)

Can Rakeem Christmas play power forward regularly? (He looked active on defense, but nondescript on offense despite shooting 3-4 from the floor)

Realistically, SU has at least until the Minnesota game on November 25 before they see any major competition, so they have some time to sort these things out. But I want to know now, don’t you?

For a more detailed recap of the game and Boeheim’s news conference, check my Twitter timeline.