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Cole Swider finds fit with Syracuse men’s basketball

Cole Swider has fit in seamlessly with the Syracuse offense.

Photo: Isaiah Vazquez/The NewsHouse
Isaiah Vazquez/The NewsHouse

Senior forward Cole Swider is grateful for his experience at Villanova. The 6-foot-9 wing learned a great deal from two-time National Champion Jay Wright and grew as a basketball player. But Swider also feels as though he’s found his footing with the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team. He’s moved into a starting role and cites a better fit and greater utilization on the offensive end.

At Syracuse, Swider thinks he can play more similarly to how he did in high school. He played for Mike Hart at St. Andrews in Rhode Island — the same high school that sent Demetris Nichols and Michael Carter-Williams to SU.

At Villanova, Swider was more of a spot up shooter with Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore carrying the load offensively in isolation. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl commanded touches which left little room for Swider to showcase the rest of his game beyond shooting. Of course, Villanova has had greater team success in recent years than Syracuse. It makes sense that Swider would be given a larger role at SU. But he feels the system is tailored to his strengths.

Jim Boeheim is known to let his players operate with freedom on offense and Swider thinks that will allow him to have a more featured role with the ball in his hands more often.

“Here we run a lot of down screens, a lot of stagger screens,” Swider said of the Syracuse offense. “The offense runs through the shooters. I think it’s been a great adjustment. ... It’s a perfect fit for me.”

Swider’s natural instinct and greatest strength is shooting the ball. He knocked down 40.2% of his threes at Villanova in 2020-21, but he’s also adjusted quickly to the Syracuse system. The Orange recruited him out of high school and given that it’s Swider’s fourth year in college he already knows what it takes at this level.

“He’s a hard worker. He picks things up. He understands what we’re doing and he can shoot. And he can shoot. And he can shoot... And he can shoot,” Boeheim said after Syracuse’s exhibition against Pace.

It’s no secret that Swider is a shooter. That was on display in Syracuse’s first exhibition where he connected on five of his seven triples on the way to a 21 point outing. There are lingering concerns about Swider’s defense, though. He admits that he had to adjust to guarding bigger guys at Villanova in man-to-man. Wright often has his players switch on all screens, which can sometimes put players in a mismatch.

Not that guarding bigger guys can’t happen in the 2-3 zone, but Swider thinks the zone allows him to defend more like a guard. He thinks it can be an advantage.

“I think the zone is very dynamic. It allows for a lot of things. A lot of our players are successful on defense because of it,” Swider said.

He’ll have to prove that he can rebound and defend, but Swider seems to have found his fit at Syracuse.

For Syracuse basketball stories and updates, follow @NunesMagician and @JamesSzuba