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Can Frank Howard be the point guard Syracuse basketball needs?

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All eyes are on you, Frank Howard

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse
A lot will be asked of from Frank Howard next winter.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The point guard—a position so significant that it can change the outcome of a game on its own. Whether they are creating for themselves or setting their teammates up for easy looks, the point guard is in control of how the game will go for their team.

The Syracuse Orange were grateful to have a point guard who has able to work the pick and roll to perfection as he got in the lane with ease, having options surrounding him — his name was John Gillon.

Despite only starting 23 of his 34 appearances, Gillon’s impact on the Orange stemmed from his ability to execute the point guard position. Coach Jim Boeheim’s offense showcases an abundance of pick and rolls, and Gillon’s small but strong stature allowed him to find the lanes to get to the rim.

Gillon will no longer be wearing orange next winter, but his shoes will be filled by the player he replaced ten games into the season: Frank Howard.

Howard was the man on the job early in the season for the Orange, but his inconsistent play forced Boeheim to make a decision to sit him. Howard was demoted to the backup point guard position, allowing Gillon to take over the reins of the team.

While this wasn’t the most ideal situation for Howard, it allowed him to be able to learn under a veteran point guard, so when he inevitably gets his starting job back he’ll be more prepared than last time. Howard has the talent to be a successful point guard next winter, but he just needs to harness all his tools together to form the player he can be.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Can Frank Howard be the point guard that Syracuse needs?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Howard began last season well, as he took advantage of the weaker opponents that Syracuse was facing. After the first four games of the season, there was one thing certain about Howard: he could find the open teammate with ease.

Howard was averaging a little under six assists per game after that South Carolina State meeting, and all looked well for SU at the point guard position. Howard was showing that he had an above average ability to make life easy for his teammates, something that is vital to a team’s offensive success.

While his playmaking abilities were a given, Howard struggled to create for himself, though. His below average jump shot hurt his production levels when opposing defenses were able to sag off the 6-foot-5 guard.

Howard finished the year shooting 35 percent from the field, just under 32 percent from deep, and 62 percent from the free throw line. All of those number must see improvement for Syracuse to see success on the offensive side of the ball come next season.

Howard is easier to guard without a jump shot, as it allows defenders to focus in on his ability to penetrate the lane. With an improved shot, Howard will be able to attack defenses from both inside and outside the paint.

A more accurate shot will also make life easier for Howard’s teammates as defenses will no longer be able to sag off of Howard when he’s off the ball, giving the ball handler an easier time driving to the rim.

Howard has shown some inconsistency with protecting the ball; there were games where he controlled the pace of the game efficiently. But there were also instances where Howard finished with three to six turnovers which puts the Orange at a disadvantage on offense.

It is crucial that the point guard takes care of the ball in any offense, but Boeheim’s anger when things go south should make it a priority for Howard to tighten up the screws when the ball is in his hands.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Syracuse vs Miami
How will coach Jim Boeheim utilize Frank Howard’s talents next season?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Howard’s passing abilities weren’t the only positive on display this past season, as his length and size at the top of the zone allowed him to average a little over one steal a game. While that may not be the most eye popping stat, Howard being demoted to a backup hindered his ability to increase that number.

He had six games of at least three steals last year, so now that he’ll likely be back in the starting lineup Howard will have even more opportunities to showcase his defensive capabilities.

Syracuse is in need of someone to take the ball at a crucial moment and make the right play for the team. Howard has the ability to make the right decision in terms of finding the open man, but for him to take that next step he’ll need to work on the ability to create for himself.

It’s time for Howard to have faith in himself when taking that big shot, and not just relying on his teammates around him. He now has the keys to Boeheim’s offense, and it’s his job to come to the Carrier Dome with the most versatile skillset he can muster if this program wants to feel at ease about the position.