As hard as it might be to believe, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team will unofficially get the 2019-20 season started with its first scrimmage in less than two weeks. On Saturday, October 26, Syracuse will host Daemen college and when it does, the starting backcourt will look a little different.
The Orange will look to replace point guard Frank Howard, who exhausted his eligibility, and Tyus Battle, who departed SU to begin his professional career. Both Battle and Howard were fixtures in the backcourt from 2016 through 2019.
This season the Orange return sophomore guards Jalen Carey and Buddy Boeheim, both of whom gained valuable experience as freshmen. Carey started two games in the early going while Boeheim started five. They’ll be joined by redshirt sophomore Howard Washington along with talented freshmen Brycen Goodine and Joe Girard III.
It’s one of the youngest and most inexperienced backcourts that Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara, who works with the guards in practice, has had to work with during his time at SU. Still, the depth and competition between the group is somewhat reminiscent of the 2011-12 season when the Orange had five guards.
“I think the position this year is, not up in the air, but there’s some competition to be had. It reminds me of the years of Michael Carter Williams, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. There was minutes out there and they all played,” McNamara said.
In the 2011-12 basketball season, Jim Boeheim at times played four guards while Trevor Cooney took a redshirt year. Carter-Williams, then just a freshman, was the fourth guard in rotation and played fewer minutes as that season wore on.
The talent of the guard group might not be as high as 2011-12, but the depth is similar this season. The only shoo-in at starter is Buddy Boeheim, whose jumpshot McNamara likens to Klay Thompson. The younger Boeheim has been around the Syracuse program for his entire life and learned by watching and being around older players at SU. His jumper “mechanically has no flaw,” says McNamara, and he’s become skilled through tireless work.
“He’s always worked on his game,” McNamara said of Boeheim. “When I was a player I used to see Andy Rautins and that’s what he did. As we were practicing, Andy Rautins would be on the side and he would shoot shot after shot after shot. And that’s what it takes. If you want to be good at something you have to put in the work.”
Joining Boeheim in the backcourt is Jalen Carey, who has taken some big strides this summer with trips to both Greece and Italy. He’s worked his tail off since the end of last season, working out two to three times per day. Last year Carey showed flashes of what he was capable of while still learning the offense and tempo. He’s an electric point guard who likes to get out on the break. In the half-court, he flourishes in the pick-and-roll and is a good shooter from mid-range.
“He’s pushed pace early on in the season. He’s made us quicker in the open court. He advances the ball. He’s willing to throw it ahead,” McNamara says of Carey. “When he has an opportunity to touch the lane and get into the paint, he’s done a great job of hitting the trail guy for a three or creating a play for somebody else.”
Of course, the sophomore guards will be pushed by talented freshmen Brycen Goodine and Joe Girard. Both were McNamara recruits and bring a unique skillset into the fold.
Goodine is a versatile guard at 6-foot-3 and doesn’t have one glaring weakness to his game. He’s a better shooter than what he’s been given credit for, too. Most fans are already familiar with Girard even though he has yet to play a game at SU. He’s the all-time leading scorer in the state of New York after tallying 4,763 points at Glens Falls. His competitive nature will serve him well at SU.
“I was involved with both of those guys for a long time, Brycen and Joseph. Bryce brings that explosive athleticism but also the ability to shoot, (which) not a lot of people talked about. Joe brings that toughness and competitive nature, that winning aspect,” McNamara divulged.
The jury is still out on the rotation, but fans should expect some growing pains from a relatively young backcourt early on. Still, the depth is there unlike recent years and it’s likely two if not three guards will take a step forward and contribute meaningfully on both ends of the floor.