“Greatness is on its way.”
That’s the main message Syracuse Orange women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack stressed at her opening press conference. With the team set to kick off its season in about three weeks, the spotlight is now on the Orange to come back as a threat in the ACC.
In her remarks, Legette-Jack addressed the current roster, the culture building, and the expectation for the Orange for this season. Here are the five biggest takeaways you need to know from Legette-Jack’s Friday press conference.
Takeaway #1: Dyaisha Fair is a force to be reckoned with.
No one on the Orange is more promising than what Dyaisha Fair could bring to the table. Joining forces from Buffalo to Syracuse, coach Legette-Jack understands how talented Fair is.
Fair ranked 25th on The Athletic’s top 25 most intriguing players to watch for in women’s college basketball. At her press conference, Legette-Jack claimed she’s top-10 in the nation. Having worked with her on the Buffalo Bulls, Legette-Jack says Fair is a one-of-one player.
“Dyaisha is a special player because it’s hard to guard somebody you can’t really stop what their move is,” said Legette-Jack. “Her best games are when we play on the bigger stage. Her story is not a book. It’s a movie.”
Fair enters this season after scoring the 4th-most points per game in the 2021-2022 season. In the Orange’s Tip-Off event Friday, Fair flashed her unique ability to get past defenders and efficiently attack the basket in the team’s scrimmage game.
Fair was the best addition for the Orange over the summer. Alongside guard Teisha Hyman, the pair of guards will be nearly impossible to stop on offense.
If Fair pans out, the production on the court will be enjoyable and will get the Orange some must-needed wins.
Takeaway #2: This team is loaded with talent.
After last season, Syracuse women’s basketball underwent a complete roster reset once coach Legette-Jack was hired.
The Orange will enter this season with just four returning players, eight transfers, and two freshmen. The turnover on the roster is monumental, with Legette-Jack all but building up the team’s culture from scratch. Legette Jack knew that the moment she took the job.
“It’s very important that we understood the dynamic of what the foundation was really going to be,” Legette-Jack said.
Thanks to the eight players who transferred in, Syracuse will actually have some depth who can step in when needed. Coach Legette-Jack said that with accountability and unselfishness, the team will be a scary product on the court this season.
“Our leaders are leading, and the people that need to do their roles are playing their roles,” said Legette-Jack. “When we kind of forget about what the “me” thing is and play this game and this purity, this team is just talented.”
Culture building has been a critical point for Legette-Jack during the pre-season. She detailed how the team was able to come together over the summer, whether it be at practices or on bus rides to different events. She said the players were singing, laughing, and most importantly, buying in.
“I sense that we are really buying into fun,” said Legette-Jack. “We certainly want to be the ACC champions, we want to go to the Final Four, and we want to win it. All those dreams are their dreams and my dreams, but through the process, we want to enjoy it.”
Takeaway #3: The Orange will approach this season with an underdog mentality.
Sticking with the theme of culture building, Legette-Jack said this iteration of the Syracuse Orange is unique because of where they are starting their season.
“In order to transfer, you have to be broken somewhere, whether you came with me from Buffalo or whether you came from somewhere else,” Legette-Jack said.
Looking at the team, many of the players on the roster have dealt with constant adversity. Fair was one of the best scorers in the country but whose talents weren’t in the spotlight in Buffalo. Teisha Hyman was a bright spot for Syracuse last year but was overshadowed by the team’s poor performances. Many of the team’s players are looking to jumpstart their careers in a new team.
Based on the energy at the press conference, the team is entering this season with a chip on its shoulder. Coach Legette-Jack, and the team all have something to prove this season.
For opponents, that could be a scary mentality to face on the court.
Takeaway #4: Defense, defense, defense.
We know the story with the Orange last season: the defense was abominable.
Syracuse gave up the most points in the ACC in 2022. Focusing away from the stat sheet, the team lacked effort and motivation to get stops. Legette-Jack said that for this season, she’s hoping for her team to build trust, resiliency, and hope in trusting the process.
“Their story is going to be persistent and insistent through defense,” Legette-Jack said.
The defense will be helped by incoming transfers Olivia Owens, Asia Strong, and Kyra Wood, among others. Compared to last season, Syracuse has way more size, versatility, and energy to regress to the mean and prevent opponents from scoring in bunches.
How the defense fares against a competitive conference remains one of the biggest narratives to watch for this year.
Takeaway #5: The expectations are high. Building character is even higher.
A common theme in Legette-Jack’s press conference: the team has its eyes on the prize.
The Orange enter this season looking to come back after an underwhelming 2021-2022 season. At the press conference, Legette-Jack and the rest of their team appeared locked in, motivated, and competitive.
This season will certainly be one to watch for. Syracuse is armed with a talented coach, a deep roster filled with upside, and a clear path forward to the NCAA Tournament.
If the press conference showed anything about what to look forward to this year, it’s that the team will not be going down without a fight.