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Undrafted free agency a tough route for Syracuse players to make NBA

But it’s worth giving it a shot.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Salt Lake City Practice Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After former Syracuse Orange players Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett went undrafted, there will be some that think one or both underclassmen should’ve returned for another year. We’re not among them, however. Even as free agents following the NBA Draft, it’s still worth giving it a go.

That said, it will be far from easy if you look at what it took recent undrafted SU players just to get on the floor in an NBA game.

Andrew White III (2017)

Following his lone year on campus at SU where he averaged 18.5 points, White went undrafted despite some mock drafts seeing him as a late second-rounder. After spending most of 2017-18 on the G League’s Maine Red Claws, he’d play 15 games with the Atlanta Hawks and average 4.6 points per game. He’s mostly played in the G League since, along with Afyon in Turkey.

James Southerland (2013)

The Orange sharpshooter impressed enough in Summer League to sign with the then-Charlotte Bobcats, but was waived after just one game where he went 0-for-3 from the floor. He’d wind up on the New Orleans Pelicans for three more games that year, averaging 4.7 points per in those contests. Since then, he’s bounced around the G League, Italy, Germany, France and Japan, as well as Boeheim’s Army.

Arinze Onuaku (2010)

AO took the long way to the NBA, playing in the G League and Lithuania through 2013 before earning a spot with the Pelicans in 2013. He scored three points in three games, then wound up with back in the G League before taking the court for a couple games with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’d play in Greece, China, Israel and the Philippines, along with other G League stints while also earning NBA call-ups in both 2014-15 (Timberwolves) and 2016-17 (Magic). Onuaku played for Boeheim’s Army as well.

That’s the list of guys in the last decade to make it to the NBA. That doesn’t include the list of players that hasn’t: John Gillon and Tyler Roberson (2017), Trevor Cooney (2016), Brandon Triche (2013), Scoop Jardine (2012) and Rick Jackson (2011).


Does that mean they can’t make it? Hardly. It’s just that not getting picked makes things infinitely harder for any player, whether they went to Syracuse or not. That said, there are plenty of other routes to have a successful professional basketball career beyond the NBA. Plenty of SU players have carved out great livings for themselves abroad. If it comes to it, Brissett and Battle (and Frank Howard, for that matter) could do the same without any shame in it at all.