For a position once thought to be replete with depth, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team now finds itself in a bit of a precarious bind when it comes to the center spot. Head coach Adrian Autry addressed the health of the center position ahead of Tuesday’s matchup with North Carolina.
With Naheem McLeod out for the season with a right foot injury, Maliq Brown has moved to the starting center position. Brown’s backup has been Peter Carey, who did not play on Saturday versus Clemson after suffering an injury in practice the previous day. Autry would meet with Carey on Monday and assess his availability for Tuesday. The staff is hopeful to get him back soon as possible but if he’s not good to go, junior center Mounir Hima could see more time.
“I think Mounir is going to have to play a little bit more and obviously, hopefully Peter can get back as quickly as possible,” Autry said.
Hima had been working through some “lower body” difficulties, but says he’s been cleared for three or four weeks now. Hima played four minutes in Syracuse’s most recent game against Clemson and feels 100 percent healthy, he says. Hima has yet to play more than four minutes in an conference game this season but Autry thinks this will be an opportunity for him to earn more time.
“Mounir’s fine,” Autry stated. “He has some issues running, moving, mobility issues. For the most part, you know, he’s trying. He’s toughing it out, he’s fighting it through.”
Without Benny Williams as an in-case-of-emergency, break glass option at center, Autry flirted with the idea of burning freshman Will Patterson’s redshirt option. But those thoughts have been tabled for now.
“I actually was thinking about what the risk-reward is as far as thinking of something like that with Will,” Autry shared. “But we’re going to stick to the plan.”
As for the guard rotation, Kyle Cuffe had played in every game this season but has registered a DNP in the last two games. Autry chalked that up to a coaching decision. He spoke with Cuffe on Sunday about playing time.
“I do plan to get Kyle out there,” Autry shared.
Syracuse’s starting backcourt, Judah Mintz and JJ Starling, have been logging heavy minutes. Mintz has played in 35 minutes or more in seven of the last nine contests. Starling has played 35 minutes or more in each of the last nine. Both rank top 10 in the ACC in minutes played.
Autry “wants guys fresh as possible” as Syracuse comes down the stretch. Cuffe, particularly grateful for his opportunity at Syracuse, understands his role is to go in the game and defend. Autry expects him back to give the starting guards a blow.
“We definitely have to get him in there,” Autry finished.