clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Can Jalen Carey be the difference-maker Syracuse basketball needs?

Another impact freshman? Yes, please!

2018 Hoophall Classic: Immaculate Conception vs Findlay College Prep David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Backcourt support was an anomaly to say the least for the Syracuse Orange last season — just look at Frank Howard and Tyus Battle’s minutes per game, and that should tell the tale itself (as you know, the two found themselves at the top of the list in the nation).

With the school year right around the corner, the Orange are starting to gear up for the 2018-19 campaign, as the expectations have taken quite a leap compared to last year’s roller-coaster ride of a season. Coach Jim Boeheim is going to need his backcourt to dominate once again, but if all goes as planned, the two should find themselves at the top of a different list this year, and that is in large part due to the help they are getting on the perimeter.

2018 Hoophall Classic: Immaculate Conception vs Findlay College Prep
The excitement surrounding Jalen Carey is real.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

No, I’m not talking about the anticipated debut of Elijah Hughes, the transfer guard who had to sit out all of last season; instead, I’m talking about Jalen Carey, the freshman guard who the Orange will look to continue their recent trend of impact freshmen who are relied upon early and often.

As a guard, Carey shouldn’t expect to start for the Orange this year, unless the injury bug hits the Syracuse campus once again, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be an integral part of the team. His combination of speed and athleticism makes him a threat on both ends of the floor for the Orange, as his versatility provides coach Boeheim numerous possibilities in terms of lineups to throw at the opponent.

Carey’s ability to use his speed to his advantage should excite Coach Boeheim the most. As looked at earlier this summer, if Carey is played in a small ball lineup, he could be the guard with the ball at the top of the key being asked to penetrate the lane to create for open teammates on the perimeter.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice
Frank Howard and Tyus Battle need some backcourt help - insert Jalen Carey.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With so many weapons for the defense to think about, including Howard, Battle, and Oshae Brissett, Carey should have an easier time getting to the rim in his early career with the Orange. Sure, once defenses figure out this guy is for real, then it will it get tougher, but that should only make one of the “big three’s” life easier with some of the attention going Carey’s way.

Giving Howard, Battle, and Brissett a breather here and there is key to SU making a deeper run this year, and Carey brings just that. Sure, his speed and top-40 recruiting status are exciting on their own. But Syracuse needs bench players that can come in that give you confidence — not players that make you sweat when they’re thrown the ball.

Carey’s size at the top of the zone is also an added plus for the Orange. He doesn’t stand at 6’5” like Howard, or 6’6” like Battle. Though his 6’3” and 170-pound frame should allow him to jump the passing lane and create fast break opportunities. Adding more strength to his frame should be a priority, as stronger guards may have an easy time driving past him early on. Hopefully his quick feet and hands can counteract that weakness and help push the tempo for the Orange.

Syracuse basketball’s Jalen Carey shoots in the Hoophall Classic David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Sure SU hasn’t been inclined to push the pace as of late, but with a player with Carey’s skillset, it’ll be pretty hard to tell him to slow down. His ability to create on his own, push the pace, and take the pressure off of the three proven scorers is exactly what the Orange need in order to take them to that next level.

The learning curve and bumps in the road will surely arise, but if last year’s freshmen proved one thing, it’s that age doesn’t matter on this team as long as you can contribute in your own way — and Carey’s “own way” could be exactly what this Syracuse team needs to regain its place among basketball’s elite this year.