Perhaps the most widely covered and followed Syracuse Orange basketball offseason story line ever was the (graduate transfer) recruitment of Andrew White III last summer. The Orange were vying for his services and it wasn’t until late summer he decided to commit. It so just happened that on the one-year anniversary of White’s commitment, news broke that Taurean Thompson would no longer be with the Syracuse program.
Losing Taurean was somewhat unexpected and we still don’t know all of the details. The timing of this thing will surely sting — had the coaching staff known earlier in the game, they could have offered that scholarship to somebody else. We brought transfers in the door this offseason (Elijah Hughes, Geno Thorpe), so at least there’s an immediate and proven talent influx to help out over the next two seasons.
Which brings me to my point. Transfers are just the lay of the college basketball land and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Commitments are rendered mostly meaningless until a player signs his LOI and even then players are granted releases if a better opportunity presents itself. Players can transfer at any time they so choose (though they’ll usually sit for a year). That’s just college basketball and that’s apropos of life.
We can dive even deeper to understand that the Orange all but had a commitment secured from Quade Greene until the used car salesman at Kentucky came through and offered him last minute (shade). Jim Boeheim had pretty much sealed the deal with Jordan Tucker, that is until Kevin Knox chose BBN (the gift that keeps on giving) over Duke. And then Coach K offered Tucker late in the game. Nothing was ever official with either of those two players, but you get the gist.
If we really dissect the layers, there’s two sides to this coin. Syracuse has won recruits in the same way that it has lost them. We don’t have to look much further than the current Syracuse basketball roster to see that some players probably shouldn’t be there had things not changed.
Tyus Battle originally gave his pledge to Michigan before reconsidering his decision and ultimately choosing to play in Central New York. Howard Washington originally gave a verbal to Butler before reopening his recruitment and eventually landing at Syracuse. Next year Syracuse will bring in the highest rated recruit in over a decade who, by the way, had originally committed to Ohio State.
That’s not to mention Syracuse has also tapped into the transfer pipeline in recent years to nab the aforementioned Hughes and Thorpe, White, John Gillon, Paschal Chukwu, Michael Gbinije, et al. Syracuse has brought these guys in who in one way or another may have caused significant damage to their previous program’s plans.
There was no malice involved, though. That’s just how college basketball works at this stage, so we have to take it all in stride.
We can no longer view a commitment as a four-year deal; at any juncture, a commitment in college basketball is — at best — a one-year contract with a player option for more.
Syracuse has already shown itself capable of playing this game. They’ll do so again after Thompson now.