Jim Boeheim didn’t throw any other names out there as he declared that Tyus Battle hit as many or more big shots than any other player in Syracuse history. As Kevin points out, assistant coach Gerry McNamara likely had something to say about the unequivocal crowning of a GOAT in a category that he competed strongly in too.
Broadening the scope to the entire body of work, the fact that Battle is being mentioned among some of the greats in Orange history puts into perspective what he’s accomplished through two years and change with Syracuse. Even in his freshman season, the team occasionally leaned on his offensive prowess to drag the unit through the finish line.
If it wasn’t for John Gillon’s legendary shot against Duke, Battle gets crowned as the hero of that upset with his array of crucial shots late. His Clemson game-winner began a spree of makes in massive moments running through his dagger in the Michigan State Round of 32 game in the spring — one of the great upsets in SU history.
The fact that Battle’s 19 points per game largely drove Syracuse into March Madness to begin with ranks among the great accomplishments in program history. With how crucial his presence has been in all three seasons, it’s scary to imagine what these post-sanction years look like if he stuck with his decision to attend Michigan.
Instead, we’re able to project what’s to come for Battle, and following his entry into Syracuse-Georgetown lore, we decided to debate where he ultimately ends up ranking among every player in SU basketball history.
Legacy is tied between facts and mythology, and Battle certainly added to the mystique of his career by staying at Syracuse for a third year when he probably could have been selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.
That longevity inherently boosts his ranking in the all-time scorers list in Syracuse history, where he now ranks 39th with 1,259 points after passing Paul Harris in the Georgetown win. If he matches his scoring output of 712 from last season (he’s averaging 18.0 PPG, down 1.2 from last year), he’ll finish within the top 15.
Battle’s scoring prowess coinciding with some of Syracuse’s greatest offensive deficiencies in the program’s history both heightens and contextualizes his success. With added talent around him early this year, he assumed a point guard role out of necessity, whereas last year mandated that he scored, scored and scored some more.
That role took a hit at his efficiency numbers (39.9% from the field in 2017-18) and he did play when Syracuse reached its low point — posting a final of 44 points on the scoreboard against Virginia, representing an offensive low for the program, and a symbolic mocking of the iconic Orange number in the Carrier Dome. Battle shot 6-of-17, unable to pull SU from the ground by his own will.
In a macro sense, though, he has dragged Syracuse above their ceiling many times. Who knows what happens if his freshman squad got into March on a coin toss Selection Sunday. We saw what happened when it went the other way the next year. And in what almost certainly will be his final season on the hill, he’ll need an iconic moment á la Carmelo Anthony’s title, Pearl Washington’s half court shot and Derrick Coleman’s run to the 1987 championship game.
For now, Battle’s array of heroics, scoring volume and defensive aptitude alongside an unlikely Sweet 16 run position him just below the first tier of Syracuse legends. If this team reaches its preseason potential — they want to be in the running for a national title — he joins them.
I think how this season ends will go a long way to determining Battle’s on-court legacy. Right now I think he’s a bit underrated as a player. Last year he was asked to do a lot when the shot clock was winding down and he really delivered when the team needed him most.
He’s shown the ability and desire to have the ball in his hands when the team needs a basket and you can tell that his teammates and Boeheim trust him to make the right play. When you look at what he’s done with his success in athletics and academics, he’s established himself as one of those players who will be remembered fondly by Syracuse fans for decades to come.
If there’s a player in Syracuse history that’s hit more clutch shots than Battle through 2.5 years at Syracuse, it’s either well before my time or I can’t remember. Of course, McNamara comes to mind but I don’t think he even hit more clutch shots than Battle has in his career to this point. The only time Battle didn’t come through in the clutch was last season at home against Notre Dame.
I think Battle goes down as one of the most beloved players in Syracuse history given his cool demeanor in big moments, lifting the Orange to the Sweet 16 last year especially in the Arizona State and Michigan State games and coming back for his junior year. And there’s still a lot of basketball to be played in his third season on the hill. Dollars to donuts he has a few more aces up his sleeve.
Battle has had a top-notch career as a member of the Orange. I’m not sure if I would put him on the Lawrence Moten level statistically, but he certainly draws a few comparisons. Battle’s scoring ability has carried the Orange program through an era of transitioning, and he has been the face of a team during improbable runs to the Final Four in 2016 and to the Sweet 16 in 2018.
After drilling the game winner against Georgetown, Tyus Battle proved once again that he is one of the most feared late game scorers in the nation. There have been tons of players who have led the Orange to some big-time wins, but Battle has showed a certain aggression in the second half of games that I haven’t seen in quite some time. After making it to the sweet 16, Battle has proven that he can be a leading scorer for a deep March run.
The next step in his career is making this team win consistently, but most importantly, make a deeper run. Battle is on the right track towards becoming a memorable Syracuse player, and if he adds a final four appearance, or even, dare I say it, a Title to his resume, the New Jersey native may be able to make his name known forever in the Carrier Dome-if it isn’t already.