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Jalen Carey turning into stellar sub for Syracuse basketball

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At the very least, he’s a warm body to back up Frank Howard and Tyus Battle this year.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange men’s basketball’s freshman point guard Jalen Carey is special. It might not show up in the box score every night, but Carey is a gamer. He attacks the rim hard and pitches off no-look passes on offense, while challenging opposing players with his length and tenacity on the defense.

The Harlem-native broke out at Madison Square Garden on November 15 when he poured in 26 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals against UConn. He also played well the following night in a loss to Oregon where he totaled 14 points and 3 steals. Since his hometown coming out party, Carey hasn’t topped five points in a single game. These numbers coincide with the return of senior point guard Frank Howard, however. Carey’s role has been reduced to backup duties, but he is showing that he can be a major contributor. Here’s how:

Offensively

Jalen Carey has raw talent on the offensive end of the floor. He has struggled a bit with turnovers this season, but has flashed with brilliant plays like this one:

There aren’t many players that can fake a shot while maintaining their dribble as Carey does above. He also has the play-making abilities to create his own shot or get by his defender and dish off for easy easy layups. Syracuse, a team devoid of play-makers just a year ago, suddenly has one coming off its bench.

Carey has made some flashy passes this season, too. Here, he throws a no-look dime to Elijah Hughes for the layup and the foul:

Carey sees the floor well and will continue to improve his court vision with experience. Orange fans should be excited to watch his growth in this department as he will likely step into the starting point gaurd role next year.

In Jim Boeheim’s post-game press conference, the coach said he told Carey “they’re leaving you open for a reason” and that Carey needs to understand that it isn’t his job to be taking threes at this point. Carey has shown some potential in his mid-range game, however.

Carey throws on the breaks, creates separation and drills the pull-up here. His speed and ability to attack the basket will have players chasing just as UConn’s Alterique Gilbert does above. Carey can create these 15-footers for himself with punch dribbles like this one. Even if he never becomes a three-point shooter, he can still be an effective slashing and passing.

Not all hope should be lost on Carey developing a three-point shot, however. While Carey’s shot has looked flat over the last few games, he is still at 33 percent on 12 attempts for the year. Frank Howard similarly didn’t have the green light shooting the ball from three his freshman year. Howard shot just 2.3 three-point attempts per 40 minutes that season. That number climbed up to nearly six attempts per 40 minutes as a junior — a year in which Howard was second on the team in three-point percentage. Syracuse fans can be confident Jim Boeheim and guards coach Gerry McNamara will do all they can to work with and find resources to support Carey’s development as a shooter as they had with Frank Howard.

Carey has also shown his potential to push the pace of Syracuse’s offense to help the team get easy buckets. Last year the Orange were 345 out of 351 schools in the country in tempo according to KenPom, so Carey provides a much-needed spark when he pushes the ball up the floor. The zone slows opposing teams on offense and there is something to be said for playing at a grind-it-out pace if teams can be consistently score in the half court. At this point, Syracuse cannot reliably score in the half court so Carey could turn into something of an x-factor when he steps onto the floor. If Jalen Carey can elevate the tempo of the offense and help Syracuse find easy buckets while also giving Frank Howard a breather, Syracuse will have a dangerous one-two punch at point guard for the rest of the season.

Defensively

Jalen Carey’s length and athleticism make him an excellent fit atop Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. At 6-foot-3, he’s a couple inches shorter than Frank Howard or Tyus Battle, but this is made up for by his quickness. We’ve already seen Carey flying across the floor to block shots a couple times this season:

He has also been making plays that may be tougher for the eye to catch. Carey has shown attention to detail in defending the high-post and not allowing himself to be screened at the top of the zone. As Orange fans know all to well, these are keys to beating the 2-3 zone. Here’s Carey fighting over a screen earlier this season:

This is not an easy play to make as he needs to recognize the screen and position himself between the ball handler and the screener before the guard uses the screen. By stopping this drive, Carey is stopping a two on one situation for the Orange back line defender.

The freshman has also been crushing it on the boards, as well. Carey leads Syracuse’s guards with 6.2 rebounds per 40 minutes. Tyus Battle is second with 3.7 per 40. He has shown he can sky for rebounds or hustle down long ones. Carey’s ability to contribute on the glass can be a huge boost for the Orange.

Outlook

Jalen Carey was ranked 68th in the 2018 freshman class and finds himself as a contributor in the Syracuse rotation already. Carey has proven he can step-up and produce when called upon as he had against UConn and Oregon earlier this season and has also proven that he will come off the bench for critical minutes in a tough game as he had against Georgetown.

Howard’s departure at the end of this year will likely move Carey into the starting point guard position for the 2019-20 season. With tutelage from McNamara, Howard and Battle and year of experience under his belt, Carey could be poised for a breakout year next season.

Syracuse had no guards to backup Frank Howard and Tyus Battle just a year ago. Now, Jalen Carey steps in as a more than serviceable backup and continue to develop before he steps in as the Syracuse starting point guard next year.