After transferring from the East Carolina Pirates to the Syracuse Orange in May of 2017, forward Elijah Hughes was forced to spend an academic year in residence for the 2017-18 basketball season. In other words, Hughes wasn’t eligible to play for or receive travel expenses at Syracuse for the 2017-18 year.
In recent years there has been push to allow college athletes a one-time transfer and immediate eligibility without having to spend two semesters in residence. Sans a few loopholes for waivers, no progress has been made to undo the transfer rule itself.
In the case of Hughes, this would give birth to the, ‘Hashtag Free Eli Movement!’
“It was just hard watching guys go down with injuries, guys going stretches without playing well,” Hughes said of sitting last season. “It was hard to watch knowing the game we lose by six or eight points, where I can go in there and score six or eight points, so it was just hard to swallow.”
As we know it, Geno Thorpe left the team before conference play last season. Howard Washington tore his ACL and partially tore his MCL in early conference play. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard were then forced to play the entirety of most contests and led the nation in minutes played.
Thus, the Free Eli movement was born.
“Actually one of my friends said it, one of my friends, he’s in a group chat,” Hughes said. “After a game we lost (last season) someone had said ‘hashtag Free Eli’ I was like ‘oh, that’s kind of smooth.’”
Regardless, Hughes is now considered a redshirt sophomore and he won’t be locked in the cage any longer. He won’t be spending much time on the bench this season, either. Earlier this summer Jim Boeheim made waves when he said Hughes was as talented of an offensive player as he’s had in a long time. Boeheim later followed that up by telling Syracuse dot com’s Donna Ditota that Hughes was the best player around all summer.
At media day Hughes said that he took the summer to get his body right. He emphasized getting into shape on top of scoring the ball in a multitude of ways and he spent a good amount of time practicing his shooting with Gerry McNamara. He also took two summer classes online.
This summer was different, Hughes said, because he knew he had something to work for and to look forward to. He’d finally be able to put on an Orange uniform and take the floor. Last summer that wasn’t the case, but now it’s all about being able to withstand the long season ahead and being consistent on both end of the floor.
“Individually I just want to be consistent, as consistent as I can possibly be, offensively and defensively,” Hughes said.
In his first exhibition game, Hughes scored 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep. He grabbed two steals in the contest to boot.