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Syracuse men’s basketball: comparing the freshman seasons of JJ Starling and Joe Girard

Two players who will be linked for at least one season

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 14 Notre Dame at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We know what’s going to happen during the 2023-24 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season. Incoming guard JJ Starling will be compared to outgoing guard Joseph Girard.

The fact that Girard has decided to stay in the ACC and play for Clemson means that we’ll get head-to-head games to debate the two players.

Brandon Shields who does an excellent job of breaking down Syracuse basketball on his “Shields on Hoops” blog did a piece comparing Starling and Girard. He took it another step further and looked at the All-ACC and All-Rookie guards, including Judah Mintz.

Brandon Shields

I don’t have an issue with this comparison because if Syracuse is going to contend in the ACC, they need All-ACC caliber players. However, I thought that maybe the better comparison woul be looking at Starling’s 21-22 season in comparison to Girard’s freshman campaign.

To keep with the original comparison, I used only ACC conference games and the same Per 100 Possessions statistics (from You can see that as first-year college players, the two were opposites on the offensive end- Starling was about getting to the lane while Girard shot mostly from deep.

Girard vs Starling

Per 100 Possessions Season School G GS FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS ORtg EFg%
Per 100 Possessions Season School G GS FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS ORtg EFg%
Joe Girard 2019-20 Syracuse 20 19 7 20.2 0.345 3.1 8.2 0.371 3.9 12 0.326 4.3 5 0.864 5.8 4.5 2.1 0.2 3.2 2.8 22.2 100.5 0.441
JJ Starling 2022-23 Notre Dame 17 13 8.9 21.6 0.413 7.3 15.5 0.467 1.7 6.1 0.277 2.5 3.9 0.633 5.2 2.3 1.4 0.1 2.8 4.4 22 90.6 0.452
Stats courtesy of

Interesting to see that despite the offensive approach, Girard shot more free throws. I won’t go back in the game logs, but I’d be curious if this was due to late-game situations where he was handling the ball. Either way, Joe was more effective as a passer, and also a bit better when it came to rebounds and steals.

We don’t know how each player will be utilized next season, but I think it’s fair to say that we won’t see Starling assuming the role Girard had during his Syracuse career. Can JJ thrive in an up-tempo system that the Orange seem to be heading towards under Adrian Autry? These numbers show that he can score inside the arc, but he’ll need to find a way to get the ball to open teammates or turn those drives into more free-throw attempts.

It would obviously be better for Starling and the Orange if Judah Mintz is back, but if not I would look for others to play the primary ball-handler role while JJ slides in at the the 2 on offense. Expectations are high for the Baldwinsville native, but the potential is there for him to be a strong offensive player.

Thanks to Brandon for the idea and be sure to check out his site “Shields on Hoops” for more Syracuse analysis.