Syracuse Basketball: 3 reasons why Kadary Richmond is the X-factor

Kadary Richmond is emerging into the sixth man Syracuse basketball needs. He’s becoming the reason for Syracuse being a great team instead of a good team.

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim prefers to play a shorter bench than most coaches. That’s no secret. But with the way freshman Kadary Richmond has been playing as of late, it’s surely making up for that lack of depth.

Jim Boeheim is rooted in his ways. While like every good college basketball coach, he’s still learning, he’s also very strict in his core believes on the game of basketball.

One of those beliefs is a thin bench. Throughout the 2015 season, Boeheim often played just SIX players over the course of each game, often resulting in guys playing all 40 minutes more than once. Whether it’s six, seven, or eight guys in total, Boeheim rarely likes to make use of his bench, opting to go with his best guys until they’re winded, instead of adding a few more to the mix, risking playing guys who may not be ready for game action, in favor of more team stamina.

This season, that’s becoming harder to stick with. Center Bourama Sidibe has been out since playing the first game of the season with knee surgery and nagging pain from it. Freshman Frank Anselem hasn’t played much as of late and neither has Woody Newton, who has been limited due to COVID-19 protocols.

This leaves the starting five up Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim, Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier, and Marek Dolezaj. As noted earlier, the bench is a bit deeper than usual, with Kadary Richmond, Robert Braswell, and as of late, Jesse Edwards all getting time. When Newton and Sidibe can play again, they most certainly will too.

But because of all of these roster issues, Syracuse basketball has called on some sort of stability in the lineup. It seems as if Kadary Richmond has begun to set that.

Richmond comes off the bench for the Orange and has done so as well as any sixth-men I can remember between now and Dion Waiters.

Richmond, a 6-foot-5 freshman isn’t the best jump shooter but is still finding a way to average 6.3 points per game in his bench role. He is however a good rebounder for his size, pulling down 3.4 boards per game. And he’s grown more comfortable in his role as a point guard, dishing out 3.6 assists to 1.4 turnovers.

Syracuse isn’t asking Richmond to come off the bench and change the game. And maybe that’s why his play has been more eye-opening because he has done that on numerous occasions.

Against Buffalo, Girard III was struggling from every aspect of the game. In came Richmond, who in 32 minutes of action scored 13 points to go along with a career-best 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Most recently, Richmond played alongside Girard III against Miami, sparking an early run after the Orange fell behind 11 to 2. SU wouldn’t look back and Richmond dished out a career-high 8 assists and tied his best defensive statistical performance with 5 steals.

But even in the games when Richmond isn’t one of the main reasons for the win, he’s still been effective. Richmond’s hit at least two field goals off the bench in six of the Orange’s 12 games so far this season. In the games where he didn’t, he’s still averaging over a steal per game and 2.3 assists, helping to keep a high pace going.

But aside from stats, Richmond does a lot in the open floor that noticeably makes Syracuse basketball better. He plays with a quick pace and has control of the ball – more so than Girard III or Boeheim do. Because of this, defenders have to respect him more. And although his jumper isn’t polished yet, he has a quick first step to blow by for points in the paint.

Richmond also rebounds well for his size, and at this point, it doesn’t matter how short or tall someone is, any rebound is good for the Orange. But because of this, he can be counted on to do some of the dirty work that goes along with being an important role player.

Now in the future, Richmond will be a key part of Syracuse basketball. He’ll need to work on his shot and could turn the ball over a bit less. But right now, Kadary Richmond is holding down that sixth-man role as good as he can, and it’s paying off. It helped the Cuse secure the win over Buffalo, and it sparked a run in the Miami win on Tuesday.

Up next for Richmond will be figuring out how to be more consistent as a scorer, especially if Sidibe is out long term. If Sidibe comes back, Richmond will likely be joined with either Guerrier or Griffin off the bench, who can take over the role of bench offense. But right now, he’s got to keep pushing on, because it’s working and helping to put Syracuse basketball in the win column.