The Atlantic Coast Conference held its annual Media Day on Wednesday in Charlotte, and representing Syracuse Orange were SU head coach Jim Boeheim, shooting guard Trevor Cooney and guard/forward Michael Gbinije. Here are some of the more noteworthy things that each said:
Freshmen will play and shoot
Syracuse has three scholarship true freshmen on its roster -- Franklin Howard, Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson -- and Boeheim said that each will play this season. He added that the Orange will need minutes from all of them, likely because SU, with only nine scholarship players, won't be a very deep team in 2015-16.
"(The freshmen) all bring something unique, but basically they're good shooters and that's something we lacked last year," Boeheim said.
Last season, SU shot only 30.1 percent from 3, which ranked just 324th-best among all Division I teams. But with "five or six guys" capable of shooting -- Cooney, Gbinije, Kaleb Joseph and those three freshmen -- Boeheim expects that to change this season.
Better looks for Cooney?
Boeheim said that, as one of Syracuse's best shooters, Trevor Cooney always has the green light. But the coach wants to see Cooney shoot less this season, since unlike last season, he won't be asked to shoulder as much of a burden offensively. Boeheim said Cooney will ideally not take the "40 or 50" low quality shots he took a season ago.
"He had to take (those shots last season), and I wanted him to take them because he had the best chance," Boeheim said. "His percentage on the bad shots was better than some of the other guys that were shooting about 17 percent. This year I hope he will not have to do that."
Boeheim called Gbinije "one of the most improved players" he's ever coached. After scoring just 3.4 points per game in 14.6 minutes of nightly action in 2013-14, Gbinije blossomed into one of SU's best players last season. He averaged 14.8 points per game during ACC play and shot 42.2 percent from 3 in those games.
But Boeheim said that even though Gbinije figured things out last season, he still wasn't as confident of a player as he is now. Going into the 2015-16 season, Gbinije believes he's one of the conference's best players, Boeheim said.
"He's improved his shooting skills, his ball handling skills, which is obviously why he could be in that position," Boeheim added. "... He could have a big year this year."
Boeheim said he hasn't set any specific goals for Syracuse this season in regards to the number of games it should strive to win. He made sure to note that he likes his team, but he's not quite sure how high its ceiling is.
"I think we can be a good team," he said. "But it's 'can be.' We're not there yet for sure. But I don't think too much about past tomorrow. I don't think about all those things that I think people do think about but I don't."
About midway through conference play last season, Syracuse self-imposed a 2015 postseason ban. That meant not only could SU not participate in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, but it also couldn't partake in the ACC Tournament.
This season, though, Cooney and his teammates know they'll play in the ACC Tournament and at least be eligible for the NCAA Tournament.
"It's big," Cooney said. "It would be really tough going into this year knowing that you couldn't go to the postseason, but we control that, and you've just got to go out there and play well and win games and prove to everyone that we deserved to be there last year, deserve to be there this year."
Last season, Cooney played 38.5 minutes per game in conference play, something that possibly contributed to his decreased efficiency; the guard shot just 27.6 percent from 3 in ACC play after shooting 30.9 percent in 2013-14.
Gbinije, meanwhile, played 39.0 minutes per game during ACC play, and Cooney said that he and Gbinije have worked to get in the necessary shape to play those type of minutes. But he added that with more depth this season, it will be easier for Boeheim to reduce their minutes if he wants to.
"If we come out for a little bit and get a little rest, it won't hurt," he said.
Need a trophy?
When asked if a team needs to win a trophy to call the season a success, Cooney said "yes and no."
"I mean, obviously if you win a trophy, ACC, NCAA, you had a great year," he said. "But I mean, going out there and winning games in the regular season and winning games in the ACC and put yourself in a good spot to make a run late in the year definitely means you had a good season."
Better at the stripe
Syracuse had serious issues at the free throw line last season, making just 66 percent of its attempts. Gbinije struggled more than any other starter, as he shot only 57.1 percent from the charity stripe.
"We're looking to improve that this year," he said. "We've just got the mental approach of taking our time and just making sure that our mechanics is right and just going out and shooting it with confidence."
Gbinije said the team has been ending each of its practices with 10 minutes of shooting free throws. He also said it'll be important for the Orange to get in a rhythm right away at the free throw line, beginning with the exhibition games.
Gbinije will likely be SU's starting point guard this season, but he's also going to see time at shooting guard and small forward. A season ago, he played the majority of his minutes at small forward, where he typically played most effectively.
This season, though, Gbinije expects to play well wherever SU puts him.
"I got reps at all (three positions) last year," he said. "And starting out practicing this year, I've been moved around, so I'm pretty comfortable in every position."