Over the weekend we found out that Colorado State Rams grad transfer John Gillon had decided to play his final season of eligibility with the Syracuse Orange this upcoming year. While that's exciting and fills an immediate need for guard depth and leadership for the Orange, it also leaves many of us wondering just who Gillon is and what he's like as a player.
It just so happens that one of my fellow editors over at The Comeback, Matt Clapp, is a CSU fan and follows the basketball team closely. He was kind enough to share some thoughts on Gillon and what we can expect out of him in his one and only season with the Orange.
Last week, I got an alert on my phone that point guard John Gillon was transferring from Colorado State. Being a former Colorado State student and as big of a Rams fan as you guys are Syracuse fans, this was really upsetting news to hear, and unfortunately a bit of a theme regarding the state of the CSU basketball program over the last couple of years. But I certainly can't blame him for wanting to play at a far bigger program with a far brighter upcoming season, because...
John Gillon is a very, very good college basketball player, and was probably going to be the best -- or at least the most reliable -- player on CSU next season. Without looking at the rest of the current Mountain West rosters (I don't want to bore myself), I'd think Gillon would've been a potential All-MW guy. I mean, he was the MW's Sixth Man of the Year in 2014-2015 (his first year in the conference), and then went on to average 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per game as a junior. So, you'd think he'd continue to progress as a senior.
But that's the Mountain West. Will the same kind of success translate over to the ACC and playing for a powerhouse basketball program in Syracuse? Probably not to the same degree, but I do think he'll be at least a valuable player that has -- *Liam Neeson voice* -- a very particular set of skills that will travel to any program and any conference in college basketball.
By far, the main thing that will jump out at you about John Gillon is his speed with the ball in his hands. Think Tyus Edney back in the day at UCLA, Ty Lawson at North Carolina. Gillon has that speed. I'm sure ACC defenders will slow it down at least a little bit more than MW defenders did, but Gillon's speed plays against anyone.
And that quickness, ability to push the ball, factors in with his two other best traits. One of those is his free-throw shooting, where Gillon is about as reliable as anyone in the country. His 87.9% ranked 20th in the nation last year, and only three of the players ahead of him on that list attempted more free throws per game. He knows he's a great free throw shooter, and he knows how fast he is. And he's a high IQ basketball player, where when his team gets into the bonus (when the other team has 7+ fouls), he puts a much bigger focus on driving to the basket, getting to the line. Late in games, you see him doing this frequently.
His other great trait is his three-point shooting. His percentage was down in 2015-2016 (.333 compared to .395 the year before), but he was also taking more of them because CSU needed his three-point shooting with leading scorer (and three-point weapon) Gian Clavell going down for the season early on with an injury. He frequently will pull up from beyond NBA range and it seems no more challenging for him than a 15-footer. He doesn't have a very quick release, but he doesn't need to, because defenders have to respect his speed. If they try to get guard him closely beyond the three-point line, he can easily go with -- *Bill Raftery voice* -- the blow-by and get to the hoop.
In terms of negatives with Gillon's game, sometimes he can get a little too out of control, but that is frequently just a result of what I talked about earlier: trying to get to the basket and make things happen. The good still outweighs the bad with that. And defensively, he could have problems with bigger (Gillon is only like 170 pounds), more talented guards in the ACC, but his offensive value is usually going to outweigh the issues there too.
I don't know what Jim Boeheim's plans are with Gillon, but I think the best role on this team would probably be as a sixth man, the role he thrived in two seasons ago at CSU. Gillon immediately changes the pace of the game when he enters it and he can really be a great offensive sparkplug off the bench.
Regardless of how he's used, Gillon is going to be a great addition to the Orange and I think you guys will really enjoy the game he brings to the table.