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Syracuse men’s basketball preseason player profiles: Benny Williams

The good ol’ hype machine already went to work in Central New York

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue along with our preseason player profiles for men’s basketball. See previous profiles by checking the men’s basketball section here.

If you’re going to only have one recruit join you in a class, you’d better hope he is good.

Luckily for the Syracuse Orange, Benny Williams seems to be good.

A five-star recruit by rivals and a top-40 player by most recruiting sites, Williams comes into Central New York with a lot of hype. The last recruit that I can remember most fans were this excited about was Tyus Battle back in 2016. Williams has the potential to have that same type of impact.

The important thing about Williams is that on tape, he seemingly can do everything. He can score from everywhere around the court, not just inside or outside. His passing, while not Marek Dolezaj levels, seems to be serviceable enough to work within the Orange system. His biggest plus, as our own James Szuba pointed out, is that he already looks comfortable fighting for rebounds.

While I’m not saying Williams will have the same impact that a Malachi Richardson or Tyus Battle had on the Orange, he could be an incredibly vital part of the Orange rotation in a similar vein to Kadary Richmond’s role last year - just shifted to the frontcourt.

No one really knows which wings on this Orange team will actually fit the zone with the departures of Quincy Guerrier, Alan Griffin, Robert Braswell, and Doelzaj. Williams is still fighting for a starting spot on the Orange roster with Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim. However, early reports and predictions seem to indicate that the only scholarship freshman this season will start on the bench for this season.

Whether that changes later remains to be seen, but Central New York seems ready to see what the next exciting freshman to come to Carrier Dome can do under the lights.

Position: Forward

Class: Freshman

Vitals: 6’8, 208 pounds

2020-21 stats: Williams averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds at IMG Academy in Florida.

Quote (from Sports Illustrated Syracuse): Adrian Autry on his pitch to Williams: “Our pitch was that if you look at the history of Syracuse forwards, he looks just like those guys. Long, athletic guys that can make plays. Pass, dribble and shoot, be able to show off his athleticism. He’s a guy who can do all those things.”

Strengths/Weaknesses: We’ve already mentioned it, but his versatility is probably what keeps him in the lineup. His initial rebounding aggression helps somewhat offset the losses of Guerrier and Dolezaj, since he’ll need to help whoever plays center for Syracuse grab those boards. Williams, like most players with an eye for the NBA, will want to show his ability to stretch the floor, which means he’s already showing more of a willingness to sit on the outside or mid-range to take those jumpers, and he looks comfortable hitting them.

The big question is if Williams can develop the strength to battle with the other forwards in the ACC. While his outside game looks fine so far, he’ll be needed to help solve the Orange’s inside scoring problems. While he certainly showed flair, efficiency and effectiveness in his high school tape, it’s hard to know if that will translate to college. The transition period of learning the zone is something as well that will be something to monitor.

Ceiling: Williams gets into the starting rotation and proves to do a little bit of everything well. While his outside game is nice to have, the strength he brings on the inside on both sides of the court prove to be critical. He grabs key rebounds and provides a needed attack mindset at the rim. That inside presence gives the Orange offense the balance it so desperately needs with outside shooters littered all over the roster.

Floor: Williams doesn’t fully develop the strength needed to tangle with the other forwards in the ACC and his effectiveness and court presence is diminished. He struggles with his shooting efficiency and falls victim to the same rotational issues that plague so many new Orange players in the 2-3 zone.