For the sake of brevity and to maintain the integrity of this post, I’m going to disregard all that’s transpired over the course of this week between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the greater basketball universe to simply say, happy Syracuse Orange basketball season everyone!
If you can believe it, Syracuse is set to begin its first official practice today. Even more incredulous, we’re just a little over a month away from the first exhibition game of the year. With that in mind we caught up with erstwhile Orange forward and current Liverpool head coach Ryan Blackwell to help preview the Orange basketball season in Q&A format. How fitting?
James Szuba: First, how was the experience of coaching Boeheim's Army for a second straight summer?
Ryan Blackwell: I loved coaching Boeheim's Army. Even though we didn't have as much practice time as I would have liked, we still made a great run at it and had a blast together. It was great to see how the community/fan base was so enthralled with the team and the turnout at the games was crazy.
JS: Probably too early to say, but would you like to give it a go again next summer?
RB: I definitely plan on coaching them again and making another run at the big prize!
JS: Alright, so you spend a decent amount of time at Melo and around the team. What have you seen from these guys? We've heard Oshae has a chance to be really good but what about the other freshmen?
RB: There are a lot of question marks at the forward spot especially with the unexpected transfer of Taurean Thompson who potentially would've been a first round pick in next year’s draft. Oshae is very very good... NBA potential. Reminds me of Rudy Gay a little bit (can shoot, get to the basket and is athletic). He'll be effective right away. Howard Washington is solid and very steady. He can shoot and run a team without getting rattled. I think he'll surprise people.
JS: The forward spot is going to be really young, how crucial will the three freshmen forwards be to the team's success?
RB: Matt Moyer will be a big key at the four spot. If he can do the little things first (rebound on both ends, run the floor, play D, play with energy, etc) that'll be huge for them. Marek may need some more time but you never know how guys will respond once the lights come on. I love how Bourama is developing. He's gotten much better since the beginning of the summer and hopefully he can give some key minutes. The main thing from the forwards is rebounding and learning the wing zone rotations.
JS: What have you seen from Frank?
RB: Frank was injured for a while so haven't seen anything from him. Hopefully he'll have a big junior year and emerge as a leader.
JS: Over/under 15 shots a game for Tyus?!
RB: (He) Probably needs to shoot at least 15 times a game!!!
JS: Coach will obviously put these guys in the best position to win, but do you view this season as almost a rebuild effort?
RB: Many people will see it as a rebuild year but Boeheim is best at getting teams who aren't highly thought of in the pre-season to surprise people and make a run. They also have another fifth year player in Geno Thorpe and he'll be valuable as a veteran. Tyus should have a monster season before departing for the NBA. I'm hoping he's aggressive from the start.
JS: If you were head coach, who are your five starters? Can this team make it back to the tournament?
RB: My starters would be Frank, Battle, Oshae, Moyer, Paschal... but my lineup may change after I see them practice! On paper they have enough to get back to the tournament but (there are) a lot of unanswered questions.
JS: Lastly, coach has at least 5 more years. Does he have one more Final Four and title run in him?
RB: I think Boeheim has another Final Four run and shot at a title. With Buddy and Bazley coming in along with all the other talent the great coaching staff is recruiting they'll have a shot. Boeheim still has the fire and passion that it takes to get it done.
There you have it.
Are you excited for the beginning of the season? Sweating bullets hoping Syracuse doesn’t get dragged into this ominous investigation that figures to hang over the sport like a dark cloud? Heck, do you guys even enjoy the Q&A format? Leave your thoughts, qualms, frustrations and sentiments in the comment section below.