Chris McCullough has been a lightning-rod topic for Syracuse basketball in recent weeks, as the freshman's production has shown a steep drop in the Orange's last five games. The TNIAAM staff weighed in on what might be wrong. So did Jim Boeheim. And of course, everyone else weighed in on Boeheim weighing in because 'internet.' To-date the one person we hadn't heard from regarding McCullough's slump was the player himself. Until today.
Syracuse.com's Donna Ditota grabbed some time with the freshman to try to get to the bottom of whatever's been ailing him. The answer? A lack of aggression. As he told Ditota:
"I haven't been very aggressive, like I was when the season first started. When the season first started, I was very aggressive. Now I'm not really active. I'm trying to get back to that."
Boeheim has encouraged him to be more active on the boards and be more aggressive toward the rim, and in the article, McCullough dismissed any thoughts of him being physically tired by the rigors of playing some big minutes in the paint early on. He chalks some of it up to mental exhaustion, too. But at the end of the day, he says, "Maybe I'm not being aggressive enough about getting the ball. I'm going to look for my shot now."
So what does all of that really mean? He acknowledges he's a freshman and that he'll have good and bad games. And he acknowledged that he needs to be more aggressive. At what point do the freshman training wheels come off? And at what point does the desire and direction to be more aggressive actually translate to action? This isn't a question for McCullough, as much as it is to college basketball players everywhere. When do words turn into actions on the court?
Perhaps we find out today against Cornell, an opponent that Syracuse should beat without much issue at the Carrier Dome. While McCullough's minutes have dropped from nearly 35 per game in his first eight contests to 25 in the last four, that could be a good thing for him this evening. If he's going to play aggressive, he can channel it all into a smaller section of the game, use all of that energy and go after an inferior foe. To be honest, there should be enough garbage-time minutes available in this game where he only needs to play 20-25 minutes. And if he can get himself out of whatever funk he's in today, perhaps that translates to a return to form heading into conference play... we hope.