On this week’s podcast the guys were talking about the dilemma the Syracuse Orange face when it comes to preparing for the future. While the discussion around Syracuse basketball puts the spotlight solely on the playing time of Benny Williams the topic seemed worthy of a bit more attention.
It’s not unusual for a highly-regarded freshman to find the transition to college and playing for Jim Boeheim. In most seasons a top recruit finding less than expected success might not become a daily topic online and in sports media but with the Orange struggling to their worst start under Boeheim, Williams is drawing more attention.
No one knows how Benny looks like in practices but we’ve seen him struggle to make an impact in games, games that Syracuse desperately needs to win to keep hopes of a post-season (or a .500 record) alive. While we’d like to see him get the time to get more comfortable the Orange can’t afford to let him work through his growing pains....or can they?
The new transfer rule certainly complicates matters when it comes to development. We saw this last spring/summer when the program lost Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton after one season. Now Williams has been clear that he’s not leaving, and frankly we have no reason to doubt his commitment, but we all wonder if he’ll feel this way when the season ends. This means the entire coaching staff has to not only recruit high school students but they have to keep recruiting the current roster. They have to build the relationships and trust that patience in the process will allow the time to reap the benefits of the growth.
We saw what happened during football when Dino Babers made the decision to change quarterbacks. His decision was validated when the Orange got to 5-4 but when the passing game cratered down the stretch and both Taj Harris and Tommy DeVito were gone, Babers was forced to ride it out.
We are also seeing the opposite with Jesse Edwards. Like Williams now we spent most of last season begging Boeheim to give Jesse more time. We were told that “he’s not ready” into March and then a couple of weeks later he was a big reason why the Orange advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. This year he’s taken a big step forward and his growth can provide proof to Benny that staying the course can reap benefits in the second year.
Navigating this new landscape is certainly a challenge for coaches everywhere but that’s why they get paid the big bucks. As the season goes on and post-season possibilities become clearer we’ll see if anything changes in terms of the rotation and bench usage.
Hopefully fans can remember that every athlete is different and that the decisions they make shouldn’t be assumed because someone stayed or moved the previous year.