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Frank Howard has one more shot to leave his mark for Syracuse

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“I am not throwing away my shot!”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Syracuse vs Duke Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

After struggling to find his place in coach Jim Boeheim’s system through two seasons, Frank Howard had a “breakout” year, averaging 14.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. All three areas improved from his first two years on campus, but Howard is going to need to improve them even more if he wants to keep his starting role with the Syracuse Orange next year.

Howard is approaching his senior year, which is supposed to be “his” year, where he is the without-a-doubt leader of the team, and floor general who sets the pace of play on both ends of the floor. However, the Orange have the No. 37 recruit in the nation in Jalen Carey coming, who happens to play the guard position too.

Howard should be able to keep his spot as a starting guard on the team, but next year needs to be the year Howard puts it all together if he wants to really leave his mark on SU.

His playmaking ability cannot be denied. He has shown flashes of excellence in terms of creating offense for himself and others. However, his ability to consistently generate positive plays has been questioned, and rightfully so.

Howard has had games where he fails to take care of the ball, thus derailing the fluidity of Syracuse’s offense, preventing them from getting into a rhythm. The Orange need Howard to use his experience in the past to help him improve towards a reliable point guard who will make the right play when it matters most.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Syracuse vs Duke Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

But Howard did prove the critics wrong this season. Many doubted his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, and he improved his three-point percentage up to 33 percent. Now, that isn’t a lethal percentage, but Howard’s ability to confidently take (and make) outside shots opened up driving lanes for the other perimeter players, too.

If Howard can become a knock-down three-point shooter this summer (even just approaching 37-38 percent), the Syracuse offense could become more dynamic and difficult to deal with. We still don’t know if Tyus Battle will be wearing orange come November, but some scary things can happen if these two are given one more chance to work together.

With Darius Bazley no longer in the picture, and the possible Battle departure too, Howard is going to be asked to create a large bulk of the scoring once again. Next to Oshae Brissett, Howard will need to be able to break down opposing defenses if the Orange want to avoid another disastrous offensive season. SU ranked 135th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom this year, and even that seems overly kind compared to what we witnessed on the floor some nights.

On the other end though, Howard’s defensive prowess cannot go unnoticed. His 1.9 steals per game led the ACC during the regular season this year. Howard’s ability to use his length and size to get his hands into passing lanes creates transition opportunities, something the Orange need to take advantage of more often next year. They had limited opportunities there this year, but SU was obviously much more effective when presented with those chances.

The talent is there to make another run into the NCAA Tournament‘s second weekend (or beyond?) next year, if everyone decides to give it another go. Howard will be relied upon on offense no matter what. However, there’s that extra pressure of it being his senior year and the demands that shift to him as one of the roster’s veteran contributors.

The past week hasn’t brought the best news for the Orange, but there’s still plenty of hope to be had on this roster as it currently stands. Howard’s had his ups and downs at Syracuse thus far, but a strong performance in his senior season could easily silence the critics from the last few years.