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Syracuse Basketball: Tyus Battle's Role Now That Malachi Is Gone

The incoming freshman's role for next season changed a few days ago with Malachi Richardson officially deciding to keep himself in the NBA Draft. So, what does Tyus think his role will look like with no Mali on the team?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Remember two years ago, when Kaleb Joseph showed up as a freshman and started 30 of 31 games for the Syracuse Orange at point guard? Do you also remember that Joseph was supposed to be the backup that year, playing minimal minutes and learning from his more experienced point guard teammate, Tyler Ennis?

Well, Ennis unexpectedly had a fantastic freshman season for the Orange, leading the team to a 25-0 start. He played so well, in fact, that once the college basketball season ended, all the draft experts were projecting him to be a first round and even a lottery pick. Ennis left Syracuse after his freshman season to pursue his dream, and ended up being picked 18th by the Phoenix Suns (later to be traded to his current team, the Milwaukee Bucks).

In the present day, the Syracuse finds themselves in a similar situation with two different players: Malachi Richardson and Tyus Battle.

Malachi is the former star freshman who had a hot-and-cold regular season, but then went on a run with Syracuse through the postseason that catapulted him onto the NBA Draft radar. It's been upward movement ever since for Malachi, who just last week told teams that he will be staying in the draft and signed with an agent.

Battle, meanwhile, is the young freshman who will be arriving on the Syracuse campus and playing a bigger role with the 2016-17 Syracuse Orange than perhaps he thought he would before Malachi made it official that he was leaving last week.

There's no question that Battle was always going to be important to Syracuse next season, even with Malachi. However, his departure means that Tyus will really be thrown into the spotlight right away, especially when it comes to one area of the game: scoring.

Richardson's decision to stay in the draft means that Syracuse will lose its top three scorers and nearly 63 percent of its scoring from last year's team. Michael Gbinije (17.5 ppg), Trevor Cooney (12.9 ppg) and Richardson (13.4 ppg) combined to score 43.8 of SU's 70 points per game last season.

All three of those players were guards (although Richardson largely played small forward last year), which leaves a gapping hole in SU's backcourt. Speaking with Syracuse.com, Battle believes that he will now be asked to shoulder more responsibility, whether that comes from the point guard or shooting guard spot:

"I really think I'm going to need to score a lot more now."

Battle could add his name to the list of Syracuse freshman to average double-figure scoring since 2000, which currently sits at eight members: Malachi Richardson (2016), Tyler Lydon (2016), Tyler Ennis (2014), Donte Greene (2008), Jonny Flynn (2008), Eric Devendorf (2006), Carmelo Anthony (2003), and Gerry McNamara (2003).

"It's just more opportunity as freshmen to come in and impact the team," SU freshman forward Matthew Moyer said. "It's just more responsibility on us younger guys - even the sophomores - to be able to perform and get things done."

Richardson's departure leaves SU with a three-man backcourt of Battle, sophomore Franklin Howard, and graduate transfer John Gillon. The pressure will be on the trio to produce and generate offense by getting to the rim, shooting effectively from distance, and creating space for their teammates.

In anticipation of all this and his freshman season, Battle has spent the past few months working on his shooting, his ball-handling, coming off screens and driving to the basket with his left hand. Essentially, he has worked to improve every aspect of his game since his high school career ended a few months back.

"I'm really excited for it," Battle said. "It's going to be a challenge and I'm always ready for a challenge."