It has become evident that Syracuse basketball has been missing a piece down low for quite some time. Columbia transfer, Patrick Tape, is the perfect fit.
When Syracuse basketball big man Rakeem Christmas graduated in 2015, nobody blinked an eye. Well, let’s put that in a better perspective.
A lot of ‘Cuse foes gave a sigh of relief that the 6-foot-9-inch, 250-pound big man had finally worn out his eligibility after a senior year in which Christmas terrorized his opponents.
The four-year, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native improved his scoring average from less than six points per game to nearly 18 points per game, which is by far one of the biggest jumps in Syracuse basketball history. Pair that with about nine rebounds a game and Christmas was not only a top big man in the ACC but also the country.
For some reason, Syracuse wasn’t worried. As a team, the Orange only went 18-13 and they brought back Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, and Tyler Roberson. Add to the fact that the ‘Cuse made it to the Final Four the next season and losing Rakeem Christmas really didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Dajuan Coleman did a solid job at center during that magical run, and everything was fine on ‘The Hill’.
However, since that time, it’s seemed like each year, the Orange has been one piece away from a complete roster. The lack of a true big man down low has lowered the ceiling/possibilities for the team for years.
In 2016-17, the Orange went 19-15, but seemingly had a lot of talent.
Andrew White III emerged as a top offensive threat in the ACC, while Tyler Lydon, John Gillon, and Tyus Battle all averaged double-figures in scoring. Freshman Taurean Thompson had his best collegiate season to date, one in which he held a key role in leading the Orange past their foe Duke, proving he had some big-game ability.
Meanwhile, senior Tyler Roberson provided athletic ability down low, while Pascal Chukwu, Frank Howard, and Coleman helped add depth and stability to what seemed like a pretty talented roster. The one missing piece? A true big man.
Lydon and Thompson were natural stretch-fours. Chukwu showed potential but wasn’t strong enough down low. Coleman was very strong down low, but his history of knee injuries had added up, and his agility and bounce weren’t the same as it was in past years.
Fast-forward to 2017-18 and you had another Syracuse team that barely made the field of 68, but then went on a Sweet 16 run before falling to Duke.
This roster relied on the experience of Battle, Howard, and Chukwu, combined with the energy and skill from newcomers Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj. However, again Chukwu’s inefficiency on the offensive end made it nearly impossible for the Orange to score down low.
Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe tried their best, but the former was a shell of what he is today, and Sidibe had knee problems from time to time. Instead, Brissett was the most efficient scorer down low, and at 6-feet-8-inches, it isn’t exactly the best gameplan in the paint. A talented roster that had a good season, but ultimately fell short without any post play.
The past two years, we’ll lump into one.
Paschal’s ability to protect the rim helped lead the Orange into the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but his lack of offense hurt the Orange’s chances of advancing, as Sidibe’s injuries increased, and Dolezaj’s frame would get pushed around too much.
This past season, Dolezaj worked on his body, while Sidibe showed flashes of what he can do down low after a year off of rehabbing. But with no true center, the Orange still lacked the ability to score down low. Even with the three-point threats, they imposed with Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, and Joe Girard III, the inside presence just wasn’t there.
It’s time for change and the Orange can accomplish that in the transfer portal.
Patrick Tape, a transfer from Columbia, has one year of eligibility left, and due to new NCAA rules, will be available for the 2020-21 NCAA season.
At 6-feet-10 inches and over 230 pounds, he has a tall frame, but also some bulk, which is what Syracuse has lacked in its bigs.
Contrary to the late 2000s and early 2010s, when the Orange had some big boys down low: Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson, Fab Melo, and Baye Moussa Keita, just to name a few. Like these Orange legends, Tape has that solid frame, which makes him a steady option in the 2-3 zone, and tough to move around down low.
Tape is also a very well-versed scorer.
Last season at Columbia, according to basketball-reference.com, Tape put up 11.3 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, and 1.1 blocks per game. This type of scoring down low could only mean good things for a Syracuse team that will return outside threats in Girard and Boeheim, toughness and inside scoring in Quincy Guerrier, and the impending decision on leading scorer Elijah Hughes.
In a recent interview with our site expert, Paul Esden, Matthew Gutierrez, who covers Syracuse basketball for ‘The Athletic’, provided more insight on Tape, saying that he can shoot a mid-range jumper, and would probably be the best offensive big man Syracuse has had since Christmas.
Even more noteworthy? Jake Weingarten, who covers college basketball for Stockrisers, recently tweeted that Tape is focusing on four schools in particular: Syracuse, USC, Duke, and Ohio State.
According to Weingarten, “Tape visited USC and Syracuse in February. He is trying to have a decision in 2-3 weeks”.