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Syracuse Basketball: Frank Howard might be SU’s wild card this season

Last year the true freshman was buried behind 5th-year senior Michael Gbinije. This year Howard figures to be a key player on a team that could be one of the best in the country.

Middle Tennessee v Syracuse Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Last season the Syracuse Orange freshmen had their ups and downs.

We experienced Tyler Lydon’s explosion in the “Battle 4 Atlantis.” Then Lydon went quiet in the beginning of ACC play, asking the question of whether or not he was not shooting enough. Lydon would eventually turn it on again at the end of the season and finish off a very solid freshman campaign.

We watched as Malachi Richardson forced up 20 shots against St. John’s (0-11 from 3-point range), resulting in an inexcusable loss to a bad team. He would improve throughout the season, to become Syracuse’s second leading scorer. It all culminated when he almost single-handedly knocked off Virginia in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four.

The third freshman for the Orange was Frank Howard. A 6-foot 5 point guard from Virginia. Howard wasn't all that highly recruited, tearing his ACL over the summer headed into his junior year of high school.

Last season Howard was used sparingly, only averaging 10 minutes per game. However, I was always very impressed with him. Howard is a special passer and when you couple that with his 6-foot 5 frame, his vision is some of the best the program has seen in years. Howard’s height allows for him to drive and kick out to the perimeter as seen at the 1:10 mark in the video below. Howard’s ball handling ability allows him to get into the lane and dish off a big man, as seen at the 1:34 mark.

I expect the big men on this year’s roster to be utilized by Howard more. Last year, when Michael Gbinije drove, he was usually looking to score. I expect Frank Howard to drive and look to make the easy pass for a dunk as help defense comes at him. With grad transfer Andrew White on the roster, he will be able to spot up on the perimeter as Gbinije would do, and Howard will be able to see over the defense to deliver a pass. In addition to White, who shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season, Howard will have Tyler Lydon another 40 percent shooter from deep.

I don't necessarily think that Howard will start for the Orange, because Colorado St. grad transfer John Gillon is a very talented player. The one advantage Howard has is that he is a playmaker. If he is on the floor with Lydon, White, Battle, Roberson, Coleman, or Chukwu, he can set up opportunities for those scorers.

Although Howard struggled mightily shooting the basketball last season (2-19 from behind the arc), he showed the ability to knock down floaters and finish around the rim. I think you will see a player with a much improved shot.

One final note on Howard is his length at the point guard position in the zone, which is tremendous. He has very quick hands that he gets out in the passing lanes. Last year he showcased some of that ability recording 17 steals.

Whether or not Frank Howard starts, expect him to be a key contributor for the Orange next season. His playmaking ability will compliment the plethora of big men and shooters Syracuse features.