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Kansas transfer Kyle Cuffe looks to launch with Syracuse basketball

Kyle Cuffe comes to Syracuse as a bit of an unknown. He’s ready to get back on the court in his third year of college basketball.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Final Four - Practice Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Before entering the transfer portal at the end of last season Kyle Cuffe Jr. didn’t know what to expect. He had played in just two games in two years at Kansas and wasn’t sure what opportunities would be available for him. But Cuffe wanted a chance to showcase what he could do on the court and to play closer to his home of Harlem, N.Y.

So he talked it over with his parents, took a leap of faith and entered the transfer portal at peace with whatever unknown outcome awaited. Then the Syracuse coaching staff reached out. He felt it was the best option, so Cuffe committed to play for Adrian Autry in May. He learned a lot through that process and his first two years at Kansas.

“Going through it taught me a lot of lessons,” Cuffe said. “Just things like internally, what I got to do. What I gotta focus on now. What things I need to let go in my life.”

Cuffe wanted the opportunity to play basketball where he could earn playing time. He also wanted to be closer to his family. While Syracuse is about a five hour drive from New York City, he’s already seen his parents five times since transferring. Cuffe said he saw his parents just twice during his two years at Kansas. His father, Kyle Cuffe Sr., played on St. John’s from 2000-01 to 2003-04.

“He played against ‘Melo in ‘03. He played against Coach G-Mac,” the son said of his dad. “So he said that team was crazy. Every time ‘Melo got the ball he couldn’t stop him.”

During that same 2003 season Cuffe Sr. was a part of the St. John’s team that beat Duke in Madison Square Garden.

“He always brings up that matchup,” the younger Cuffe said.

After redshirting during his freshman season with the Jayhawks in 2021-22, Cuffe played in just two games the following year before tearing both his MCL and PCL, which sidelined him for 2022-23. Despite enduring of the difficulty of not playing basketball for two seasons, Cuffe doesn’t feel sorry for himself.

“I feel like it changed me into the person I am today,” he said.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Fort Worth Practice Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Another injury sidelined Cuffe for a portion of this past summer as he broke his right shooting hand, as reported by Syracuse.com. A junior by class, Cuffe still has four years of college eligibility remaining. He redshirted his freshman year at Kansas when the Jayhawks made their run in the NCAA Tournament, culminating in the program’s fourth National Championship.

“It was so fun just being able to be on the team with people like Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji, Dave McCormack, even Remy Martin too and a guard that’s there right now Dajuan Harris. Jalen Wilson’s in the league right now. Those are the players I looked up to just because they’re older and they shaped the way I look at the game,” Cuffe shared.

What did he learn through that run?

“Basically just little things on how to win. It doesn’t always have to be the big things but just knowing your role and accepting your role. Having everybody on the same page is what got us there,” Cuffe divulged.

Cuffe looks to bring that knowledge to Syracuse and implement his experience as he cracks the rotation. As a defensive-minded guard that excels in transition, he fits the mold of what Autry is trying to do on both ends of the floor. Cuffe is part of a deep, talented backcourt at Syracuse that figures to earn minutes behind a head coach who has plans of playing a deeper bench.

“We have talent. We will play more than six or seven guys this year,” Autry said.

At age 21, Cuffe is older than most of his Syracuse teammates. He’s experienced what it takes to win at a high level and wants to relay that to his new team.

“Also being there for support if anyone needs to talk about anything,” he says. “People can hold me accountable. I hold other people accountable.”

Asked if he’s aware of the history between Syracuse and Kansas, Cuffe mentions the Orange’s decisive victory in 2003 — just six months after he was born. He’s eyeing a potential meeting with Kansas in the Maui Invitational. But above that, he just says his goal for the year is to bring Syracuse back to how he knew it as when he was growing up in New York City.

“Basically bring Syracuse back to the top,” Cuffe said. “Back to where they’re supposed to be.”