By now, Kaleb Joseph has heard as much vitriol as one could imagine as a Syracuse Orange -- enough to make even the likes of Paul Harris cringe.
If the story has been told once, it's been told a million times; Joseph came in expecting to sit behind Tyler Ennis and learn the point guard role. Ennis departed for the NBA, leaving a huge void at the point guard spot that Joseph could never have been ready for. But don't give up hope on Joseph just yet.
First things first. Tyler Ennis was an aberration at Syracuse. It's extremely rare for a kid as young as Tyler Ennis to have as great of an understanding of the game at his age. Ennis was well beyond his years -- he truly understood the point guard position. Ennis knew time and situation, understood angles and knew where to direct his teammates on the floor. You just don't see players with that type of basketball knowledge at such a young age.
As Joseph was left to take over the reigns in Ennis' wake, the unfair comparisons would follow. But comparing two players who have completely different games solely based on closeness in time seems ludicrous. If we're comparing apples to apples -- or in this case, oranges to oranges -- Scoop Jardine fits the bill. Could you have imagined Scoop Jardine running the show as a freshman? It wouldn't have been pretty. But all could agree that Scoop worked his way into a very good college player.
Let's take a look at Joseph's freshman year stats:
Below are Jardine's stats during his tenure:
While Jardine did shoot better from the floor in his freshman year, Joseph had a better assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.65 compared to Jardine's 1.38. If we take the ratio of Jardine's minutes to Joseph's minutes in their respective freshman seasons, Joseph still would have averaged more assists. I'd estimate if Jardine played 27.3 minutes per game, he would have averaged 3.48 assists, give or take. Joseph's stats are on par with Jardine's, and he hasn't stolen anyone's meal card that we know of. Therein lies hope.
While we're comparing oranges to oranges, let's compare oranges to jayhawks. Perhaps an even better benchmark is Kansas' Frank Mason. Mason and Joseph's stories are very synonymous. Much like Mason, Joseph is still learning the nuances of the point guard position. Mason wasn't exactly a point guard coming out of high school -- he was more of a scoring guard playing the point.
Mason had a rough freshman year sitting behind Naadir Tharpe and a lot of people questioned whether he could be a Kansas point guard. Following his rugged first season, Mason went to the coaching staff and asked to be taught the point guard position and admitted to not knowing what his responsibilities were on the floor. Mason is now coming off a solid sophomore season and will look to lead Kansas in 2015-2016.
Let's take a look at Mason's stats:
If we multiply Mason's minutes to equal Joseph's, the stat line is quite similar. Mason worked hard for a big sophomore jump and lead Kansas in assists, steals, 3-point field goal percentage and lead all guards in rebounding. Now that's not to say Joseph will do all of that for Syracuse, but it's reasonable to think Joseph will have made steady improvements to his game over the summer. Gaining experience with the USA East Coast Team will surely help him improve his game, and he did lead the team in scoring in its first competition with 23 points.
Joseph isn't Tyler Ennis. He made that apparent before ever stepping foot on campus, but there's no reason to think that Joseph can't turn himself into a solid point guard at Syracuse. These things take time, but Joseph has all the tools necessary. We've seen flashes.