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What should Syracuse know about Cole Swider? A Q&A with VU Hoops

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Get to know the latest new addition for the Orange

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Texas at Villanova IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

While we’re still prepping for what could be a mass exodus from the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program this offseason, Jim Boeheim and the staff have already been pretty busy adding a couple players to hopefully make up for those losses.

Last week, we learned more about Marquette transfer Symir Torrence via our friends at Anonymous Eagle. And after Syracuse added Villanova forward Cole Swider over the weekend, we thought it could be helpful to ask for some input from Chris Lane at VU Hoops.

Hopefully this sheds some additional light on Cole for those wondering. And thanks to Chris (who you can also follow on Twitter) for taking the time to share these responses.

Cole Swider had plenty of hype around him out of high school, but didn’t seem to hit that potential at Villanova. What do you think was the main reason(s) for that?

It’s a tough one. He looked like a perfect fit for Villanova when he signed, but it just never really clicked for him under Jay Wright. I’d argue that he finally took a major step forward on the offensive end this season, but the athletic/defensive shortcomings limited his ability to become a major contributor. Offensively he’s on the scouting report for the shooting but never fully developed other parts of his offensive game. And despite that good size, he was never really a threat to score in the paint.

Jay Wright’s offense is another factor here. He leans heavily on skilled player that can create their own shot, as well as create for others. Swider never really showed an ability to do either and mostly required others to get his shots for him. I don’t think that offensive style and his skillset ever really fit together well.

What’s the biggest positive you can share about Swider’s play that should help Syracuse out?

For a guy billed as a shooter, the early part of Swider’s career at Villanova was pretty sub-par. But he seems to have found his groove right as he’s leaving the Main Line. 28% from 3P his freshman year improved to 35% his sophomore year and he just logged 40% this past season. Combined with the lowest usage rate of his career, he posted his best ORtg (122 and change). Becoming a reliable deep threat without forcing the issue was a huge plus and that should translate to the Syracuse offense.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Texas at Villanova IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Any major weaknesses that we should be aware of?

As mentioned, Swider is limited athletically compared to a lot of the guys he was going up against every night in the Big East. That won’t change with a move to the ACC. He’s a fighter on the boards and always give s 100%, but he can be -- and often was — targeted defensively because he doesn’t have the feet to stay in front of many players on the perimeter. It reached the point late in the season at Villanova where there were games he just couldn’t play in because of bad matchups. Obviously with the zone at Syracuse, they should be able to hide him a bit more.

Do you have any comparisons for Swider from recent college (or NBA) players?

When he signed, the hope was that Swider could develop a game along the lines of Gordon Heyward. It became clear that he just isn’t on the same level athletically pretty quickly, but that’s a lofty comp to begin with. A KenPom comp that I thought was pretty fair was Toby Hegner from Creighton. Good size, can step out and stroke it, but just isn’t physical or athletic enough to take advantage of that size on the interior.

Know we haven’t seen you guys in a while, but thoughts on whether he’s a good fit for the zone?

I’d hope he’d be able to hold his own on the corner/wing of the zone. Villanova’s switch-heavy defense left him exposed in a mismatch a lot, and he could get lost and into scramble mode fairly easily against teams that attacked and required the defense to help and rotate. That shouldn’t happen much if at all in the zone. At 6’9” he’s got really good size as well and should be able to contribute on the defensive glass.