We knew the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball roster was going to undergo a large turnover before the 2022-23 season but we didn’t expect Syracuse to be looking to add a 7th new player. The departure of Frank Anselem means the Orange need someone who can play center behind Jesse Edwards and now that Quincy Ballard has chosen Wichita State where does Syracuse turn now?
We certainly aren’t going to go through the hundreds of players in the portal but there are some with previous Syracuse ties who could be a good fit. I think too many people are focused on finding a “zone center’ in the portal and not hoping the Orange find a player who can play the 4 and the 5. Otherwise Syracuse’s forward spots will be manned by unproven players.
Akok Akok (6-9, 215, PF, Soph, Connecticut) is a former Syracuse target who is leaving Connecticut after having his last two seasons impacted by injuries. Akok didn’t shoot much but he was 13-28 from 3 this year and if he’s back at 100% next fall he could provide depth for Syracuse. He might also be open to a visit to campus.
Franck Kepnang (6-11, 225, PF, Soph., Oregon) was another Syracuse recruiting target. The Cameroon native played high school ball in Pennsylvania and he served as key reserve for the Ducks last year. Kepnang is not a strong offensive player but he would bring rebounding and a rim presence. It’s reported that Pitt, Ohio State, Miami, Iowa State, Maryland, Penn State, West Virginia and Cincinnati are among schools who have contact him.
Other players in the portal who would have been good fit but aren’t connected with the Orange include:
- Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6-10, 245, PF, Fr., Tennessee) is a former five-star recruit who considered the Orange before he went to Tennessee. Huntley-Hatfield released a top five of SMU, Auburn, Wake Forest, Louisville, and Arizona State.
- Johni Broome (6-10, 235, PF, Fr., Morehead State) would pair with Jesse Edwards to give Syracuse two impressive interior players. Broome averaged 16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 3.9 blocks in just over 28 minutes last season. He’s been connected with Auburn, Kentucky, Gonzaga and others.
- Ben Vander Plas (6-8, 230, F, Sr., Ohio) might not have the size to play the middle of the zone but he offers experience and ability to provide floor-spacing from the forward position. He averaged 14.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg while shooting 33% from 3 last year. He’s considering Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, and Illinois.
Not only did Syracuse focusing on Quincy Ballard take them away from these options but the Orange might end up seeing a couple of these players on next year’s schedule. If the Syracuse coaches are seeking another transfer candidate we should see information coming on Monday about who they’ve been in contact with. If it’s another center then it would appear that the staff feels confident in the four young forwards to be able to handle the ACC next season. Would you share this optimism?