In a basketball season of overall disappointment, Oshae Brissett's journey and current success in the NBA has been truly uplifting. Let me start off by saying that I am an Orange fan since falling in love with the Hart/Thomas squad that almost knocked off the Mateen Cleaves MSU squad. At the same time, growing up in southern Indiana, I also fell in love with the Pacers. Watching Reggie Miller go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan and having that never back down mentality hooked me into loving the game of basketball. I assume a large percentage of Orange fans are also Knicks fans, so probably don't have quite the same fondness for Reggie (notice I didn't mention Spike Lee before).
Having seen Rakeem Christmas flame out with the Pacers, I was hesitant to get too excited when the Pacers brought in Brissett last season. But the young man has done nothing but grind and work on his game to earn every minute he has gotten in the league (winning over 2 coaching staffs as a bench player on a minimum contract). Early this season, he found himself in Rick Carlisle's dog house for not hustling. But Oshae didn't pout, he just kept grinding. He's worked so much on his 3 point shot the last few years and it has paid off. He was able to work his way back into a new coach's rotation because of his hustle and blue-collar attitude (he's currently a player getting post-game press interviews). He was far from the most heralded Orange player making the jump to the league. Recent players like MCW, Jonny Flynn, Tyler Ennis, Wes Johnson, and Tyler Lydon were all thought well enough of by NBA scouts to be drafted. Outside of Elijah Hughes, Jerami Grant and Carmelo Anthony, Oshae is the only other former Syracuse player on an NBA contract.
Hopefully, Hughes continues to improve, but Anthony has had one foot out of the door for the past 4 years. We'll see what the future holds for Grant. Reports say that anywhere he plays, he wants to be a top option. He's not long for the rebuilding Pistons (whatever his role, he's still got many years left in the league). I would like to proudly proclaim that Oshae may just currently be our best chance at bearing the Orange torch in the L for the "retooling" Pacers. Since trading Domantas Sabonis for Tyrese Haliburton, Oshae Brissett has been inserted into the starting lineup averaging over 30+ mpg. During that time, he is averaging 16 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 3's per game and 1.5 bpg. He's brought that same intensity on the glass that he was known for on cold winter nights inside the Carrier Dome by hauling in almost half those rebounds on the offensive glass. He needs to continue to work on his shot. He's a streaky 3 point shooter, but you can tell he's made great strides in that department. Oshae has definitively carved out a more consistent spot in the Pacer's frontcourt now that Sabonis is wearing purple and Goga Bitadze continues to underwhelm. The only other legitimate big men on the team are rookie Isaiah Jackson and Myles Turner who are currently struggling to stay on the court.
If you find yourself thirsty for some Orange basketball rooting interest, tune in to the next Pacers game and watch Oshae still bringing his high energy to the court. The Pacers will probably lose (we all should be used to that by now), but it is refreshing to see young dudes balling their hardest at the highest level and competing night in and night out. Not to mention, you may just see TBT Boeheim's Army legend Keifer Sykes high-fiving guys as they head back to the bench!