Quincy Guerrier awaits the next one. The entire Syracuse Orange do. When he hits another three-pointer, he may finally reveal his celebration. A critical triple against Cornell — part of his 8-0 burst that separated Syracuse when they only led 44-41 — stands as his only outside make in nine attempts over five games.
“He had talked about doing a celebration after he made it and he made it and he ran back looking goofy because he didn’t think about what to do,” Elijah Hughes said. ”He has one. I’m not going to reveal it now, because that’s not my m.o. But when he figures out what to do, you guys will see it.”
Hughes flaunts the air guitar. Oshae Brissett once shot arrows into the crowd. Jim Boeheim’s go-to move remains the same after 44 years. He stands behind the mic post-game pressing his players for more. He poked Brycen Goodine, called on Jesse Edwards to become stronger and saw potential steadiness in Howard Washington after recent bench auditions.
A 25-point halftime lead against Bucknell gave Syracuse’s coaching staff an entire half to glance at what Howard Washington, Robert Braswell, Jesse Edwards, Goodine and Guerrier could provide to a team that received 79.8% of its points from its current starters through five games.
In Guerrier, Boeheim envisions consistency yet to emerge from the second unit. The Orange’s starters thrived, with Joe Girard III rising to point guard, but Jalen Carey immediately faded into surgery instead of transitioning to a bench role behind Girard.
“We’re trying to get (Guerrier and Goodine) ready,” Boeheim said. “Those are two guys I’m most concerned with.”
Guerrier appeared as a starter for Boeheim through the Italy trip and preseason, only to receive 13 minutes off the bench against Virginia in favor of a veteran lineup with Marek Dolezaj. Guerrier stands 6’7” and 220 pounds, so his propensity to launch threes (33% of his FG attempts) and avoid contact irked Boeheim.
“Even in AAU I watched him play six AAU games and he never went inside once,” Boeheim said after the Bucknell victory. “He shot threes the whole game for six games. That’s all he did, and he’s not good enough to do that shooting. So he’s learning the game. He’s got as much raw talent as anybody, but he’s got more to learn than anybody that we’ve ever recruited.”
A dichotomy emerged as his minutes ticked upward toward 24 in the Bucknell blowout. He shot 3-for-9 on spot-up attempts (0.73 points per possession), compared to 6-for-9 on cuts, post-ups and pick-and-rolls. Yet pulling-up became Guerrier’s offense.
Boeheim noticed him avoid a loose ball on the ground early in the game and sat him down to discuss it. Guerrier dove to the ground to secure a loose rebound on the baseline later.
Synergy Sports considers his 2-for-11 mark on jump shots poor and 8-for-13 mark around the rim very good. His issues stem from usage as much as motor, with roughly equal amounts of his possessions running through those two areas despite drastically different results. He only attempted one shot driving in the half court.
That stemmed in part from close games. Seattle and Cornell challenged SU too much for Boeheim to fully deploy his bench. He tried shuffling in Goodine and Guerrier early against Cornell game when SU led 20-12. Within one minute, Guerrier turned it over and Goodine lost his dribble pushing the pace. Boeheim pulled Goodine.
“The things I talk to him about is just slowing down and knowing when to use his speed and when to use his strength and stuff like that,” Washington said of Goodine. “Today, get the rebound and just go. Ball kicks off people’s feet and stuff like that. So just knowing when to switch up his speeds and be patient.”
Washington entered with the bench against Bucknell and hit a three to go with three assists on 1-for-4 shooting. He averages only 9.5 minutes, but he communicates across the team and Boeheim called his play steady.
Edwards contributed too, shooting 5-for-5 in 14 minutes with a pair of blocks. His team-best size and feel for the game permeates as an intriguing option when Bourama Sidibe fouls in difficult games. Robert Braswell (2 steals vs. Bucknell) returned to the fold Saturday and could play if centers struggle. SU played three forwards last year and can again.
For now, the bench appears two deep if Guerrier can utilize physicality and Goodine limits turnovers. Guerrier hit 7-of-13 over the last two games with 13 rebounds. The stretch propelled him into SU’s top-five scorers. During and after games, he internalizes criticism as lapses on the bench frustrate him. But he inches closer to being a viable rotation option.
“Some days he looks like the weakest guy on the team,” Hughes said. “When he’s playing strong and playing aggressive, he is the strongest on the team.”
To pull that from his NBA-level frame, Guerrier said Syracuse practices finishing above the rim and through contact in practice. Dolezaj hauled in an offensive rebound with 4:44 left in the first half against Bucknell and shuffled the ball to Guerrier, who got a head start in the lane and plowed through Kahliel Spear to grab a bucket and foul inside.
His missed free throw after — now 12-of-20 there (60%) — signals the work still necessary to crack Syracuse’s rotation. Boeheim regretted turning to the bench against Cornell, which created a one-possession game for 30 minutes. You don’t look to double your lead up eight with the bench, he said, but you can’t lose it.
“Maybe we’ll be playing five guys.”