When Syracuse Orange basketball player Buddy Boeheim enrolled at Syracuse as a freshman last season, he wasn’t expected to play a pivotal role in 2018-19. Playing under his father, Jim Boeheim, Buddy wanted to contribute in practice wherever he could and maybe be impactful in sparse minutes of game action.
But that changed in the early going of 2018-19 when Frank Howard suffered an ankle injury which kept him out for eight weeks. Buddy was thrust into the rotation and he struggled early on, shooting just 2-15 from three. The struggles would persist throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule, but eventually he’d find his groove once Syracuse entered ACC play.
The Orange were struggling to make shots, particularly from three, so Buddy served as deep threat as well as a floor spacer, opening up driving lanes for guys like Tyus Battle.
“Last year I just wanted to do whatever I could, whether it was in practice or a little time in the game if I got in,” Buddy said. “I ended up just working hard and staying with it. I struggled early, but I think that helped me overall to always stay confident and to always work hard.”
Buddy finished the season shooting 40.7 percent from three in conference play, remarkable considering the heightened level of competition in comparison to the non-conference. Given how quickly things happened, it didn’t quite hit him right away the kind of year that he had until the season concluded.
“It was more than anything I could expect,” Buddy disclosed of his freshman season. “I think it really never sunk into me until after the season. I watched all the games over again. I’d be like ‘Man, I’m really out there playing.’
“It was just an amazing experience for me. There’s no better way I could have imagined it. Just being on the court and being one of the players is something I dreamed about growing up.”
Last year around this time, he said it was a dream come true to be at Syracuse and playing under his father. It felt right. But not even he expected to have the year he had.
Jim Boeheim noted that his son was ahead of schedule last year, and the minutes he and Jalen Carey received, sometimes in big moments, should help in the season ahead. In preparation, Buddy worked hard in the summer, as he often has, and had a strong showing in Italy to boot.
“My summer was really important for me. Every day I was working out with G-Mac in the morning, working on my ball-handling. Just little things like that. I want to be more than a shooter this year, work off the dribble,” Buddy articulated. “I was also working out every day in the weight room with Ryan (Cabiles).”
When people ask Gerry McNamara what he does in the summer, he responds comically, noting that there is no offseason. He and the Syracuse players who remain on campus are in the gym at Melo year-round. That’s where summers are spent, and it’s been no different for Buddy throughout the years.
This summer, McNamara — who likens Buddy’s form to Klay Thompson’s — spent a great deal of time working with the younger Boeheim. McNamara says Buddy has a distinct advantage with his height at 6-foot-6 but that he has, “perfected his form through tireless work.”
Boeheim gave extra attention to his ball-handling and working off the dribble in his summer workouts. He’ll have to do more of that this season as opponents will assuredly play him tight and chase him off the three-point line.
“He has improved off the dribble. He’s improved with how many different angles he can create off of other people’s aggression level. He’s pieced it all together.
“Now the ability to put it on the floor and change another angle has become a big advantage and evolution of his game,” McNamara divulged.
When McNamara thinks back his time as a player at Syracuse, he recalls watching Andy Rautins work on the sideline during Orange practices while Rautins was still a high-school player at Jamesville-Dewitt. Rautins would shoot off to the side and then get more shots in after practice concluded. Buddy has done the same over the years, watching players that have come through the Syracuse basketball program and putting in work on his game.
When considering how Buddy broke out in ACC play last season, it parallels what Rautins did as a sophomore back in 2006-07 Big East play. Both emerged in the latter half of the season and both shot just over 35 percent from deep.
“I watched Andy growing up. I watch him still now. He’s one of the better shooters we’ve ever had, one of the better defenders we’ve ever had. I really try to take some parts of his game and guys like Trevor (Cooney) and Demetris Nichols, just great shooters in the past and try to learn what I can off their game,” Buddy expressed.
McNamara still sits atop the all-time ranks in 3-pointers made at Syracuse with 400 total. Rautins is second with 282 while Cooney is third with 281. With another three season to go, it’s not hard to imagine Buddy being among the elite shooters in Syracuse basketball history when it’s all said and done.