He's only a sophomore, but even before the season has begun, you can tell this is Tyus Battle's team (the poster might also be a dead giveaway). The lack of returning impact players has left the Syracuse Orange relying on their second-year shooting guard to have a year to remember.
Battle is already off to a great start as he was recently named to the Jerry West Award watch list, an award for the best shooting guard in the nation. The Orange are going to need Battle to play like the best shooting guard in the nation this year if they want to get back to the Big Dance.
It's a lot of pressure to ask from a 20-year-old, but this is Battle's chance to prove that he's able to be the leader on a tournament team.
Weight: 205 lbs
Hometown: Edison, N.J.
High School: Gill St. Bernard's School/St. Joseph's (N.J.)
From scoring 23 points over a conference powerhouse, to hitting a buzzer beater three to win a much needed road game, Battle had a freshman year to remember. He didn't begin the year as a starter, but his ability to create shots off the dribble was too much to pass up on for coach Jim Boeheim. Battle's big question mark coming into his freshman year was if he could shoot the ball from deep on a consistent basis. That question was quickly answered.
Battle wasn't a three point sniper, but he proved that he was a player the defense could not forget about on the perimeter (he shot 37 percent from deep). Battle wasn't aggressive all the time, but when he wanted to he was able to get to the rim with ease and finish with his quick bounce and athleticism. Coach Boeheim is going to need Battle to constantly be attacking the rim if he wants this offense to have open looks in the half court.
Battle wasn't known as a defensive stopper last year, but his length and size allowed him to get steals at the top of the zone. Both Battle and his backcourt-mate Frank Howard will need to generate more steals at the top of the zone this year if they want to get easy looks in transition. Last year, he showed that he can compete at the collegiate level, but this will be the real test of whether Battle can be the go-to guy the Orange need him to be.
Teams want perimeter guards that can create for themselves and their teammates — Battle provides just that. He didn't do it on every position, but Battle showed that with his quick first step he's able to get by any defender when he wants to. Battle had the luxury of having other players who can create their own shot on their own last year, but this year's roster has very few of those players, leaving Battle with even more responsibility than before.
He isn't the best three-point shooter off the dribble, but Battle's ability to hit the three off the catch makes him lethal playing off the ball. Defenders will need to decide if they're going to leave him open from deep, or attempt to stay in front of his quick first step. Battle is a decent defender, but he'll need to improve this year if he wants to create easy opportunities on the fast break. At the top of the zone, Battle and Howard provide a sizable duo, which should help them get easy looks on the break. With more aggression and a slightly better jump shot, Battle could be on his way for a first-team All-ACC kind of season.
Battle already has the pre season accolades; from being named to the Jerry West Award watch list, to being named one of the top 20 wings in the nation, Battle has already impressed without playing in a real game this year. He's clearly the best player on the roster this year, so there will be a lot more eyes on the sophomore guard come November 10. He'll certainly get his fair share of looks on the offensive side of the ball, but whether he can be a dynamic defensive factor will be the real question.
Being a more aggressive driver will help Battle get easier looks due to the best defender likely being on him at all teams. This season is going to be a real challenge for Battle, but he has what it takes to prove he can answer the call.
Stat Prediction: 18.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists