I’ve said it numerous times in recent months, and I’ll say it once again here: The Syracuse basketball coaching staff, to me, does a tremendous job of identifying high-school players early on in their recruitments.
To that end, at least in recent cycles as I’ve covered Orange recruiting more and more, I’ve noticed that the ‘Cuse has sent out a bunch of scholarship offers to players who, at that particular juncture, weren’t super highly rated on a national scale.
Of course, part of that centers on the fact that the Orange has offered players at a time when recruiting services weren’t providing extensive national rankings for that specific class, or maybe any ratings at all.
But regardless, what I’ve noticed on a handful of occasions, and I’m focusing primarily on the 2023 recruiting cycle here, is that Syracuse basketball will offer these high-school players, and then later on down the road, their national rankings will skyrocket, their offer lists will soar, and the ‘Cuse ultimately will not prevail in their recruitments.
Syracuse basketball is, by far, not the only school that swings and misses on five-star prospects.
What got me thinking about this pattern, theme, trend – whatever you want to label it – is 2023 five-star power forward G.G. Jackson announcing on Wednesday that he has committed to North Carolina.
First and foremost, congrats to G.G. on picking the Tar Heels. That’s a stellar choice. The Orange was the first college team to offer Jackson, back in August of 2020.
Early on in his recruitment, he certainly said some positive things about the ‘Cuse. But as he continued to play well in high school and AAU games, his rankings and offer sheet exploded.
Blue-bloods came calling. Jackson is a significant threat to emerge as the No. 1 player in 2023 when all is said and done (and Rivals.com already has him in that spot).
I then start to think about 2023 guys like five-star guard/wing Matas Buzelis, four-star point guard Aden Holloway, four-star wing Gavin Griffiths and big man Joseph Estrella.
Syracuse basketball coaches offered Buzelis and Griffiths in the fall of 2020. Holloway reportedly got an Orange offer in the summer of 2019. Estrella was offered by the ‘Cuse this past August at the team’s annual Elite Camp.
I’m not a recruiting analyst, nor am I in the inner circles of these high-school prospects or the Orange program. However, I do not get the sense, these days, that the ‘Cuse is a major contender for Buzelis, Griffiths or Holloway.
Buzelis is a top-10 prospect in 2023 who could make a run at the No. 1 national rating. Griffiths may well be on his way toward five-star status. Holloway has evolved into a top-10 point guard in this class.
Estrella, meanwhile, is poised to enter the 2023 national rankings asap. His recruitment has taken off, and he’s a hot commodity in this cycle.
Syracuse basketball coaches, I’m guessing, are making him a priority in this class, but with blue-bloods interested and his offer count expanding, it may prove tough for the ‘Cuse to land Estrella.
My point here is that I’m giving Syracuse basketball coaches all the credit in the world for pursuing these guys well before their national rankings and overall recruitments totally took off.
Concurrently, I feel like the Orange, in 2023 and other recent cycles, has gotten in early on with prospects who would eventually blow up, and the ‘Cuse would miss out as players committed to the likes of Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky or other recruiting heavyweights in collegiate hoops.
Sometimes, Syracuse basketball would at least be named a finalist for highly rated prospects before losing out. Other times, like with Jackson, the ‘Cuse wasn’t in contention down the stretch after identifying a player with supreme talent early on in his recruiting process.
In all fairness, though, the Tar Heels were a finalist last summer for 2022 four-star shooting guard/small forward Justin Taylor, and he ended up picking the Orange.
Just a few weeks ago, the ‘Cuse secured the services of 2022 four-star guard Judah Mintz, pushing the Syracuse basketball class in this cycle to a top-10 national rating, per Rivals.com.
So it’s not like the sky is falling. And as we recently noted, the Orange is targeting some elite prospects in 2024. Frankly, I don’t know what the deal is with 2023.
Given the team’s large class in 2022, maybe the coaching staff doesn’t feel like it can pursue a big cycle in 2023, and the ‘Cuse does seem to have honed in on a few prospects in the junior class, including Estrella, four-star guard Elmarko Jackson and four-star shooting guard Reid Ducharme.
Without question, many other high-major programs out there, besides the Orange, identify kids early on and then lose out to the big boys down the line.
Plus, with name, image and likeness deals, and the transfer-portal explosion, everything is changing as far as recruiting is concerned. It probably also doesn’t help the ‘Cuse that the squad has struggled, at least in regular seasons, over the past handful of years.
Head coach Jim Boeheim, if I had to venture a guess, probably won’t coach for more than another two to three years. The 2022-23 season could end up being his last one on the Hill.
How that will affect recruiting, with a new boss in town, remains to be seen. I do find it interesting that, in the 2024 cycle, Syracuse basketball has already offered multiple guys in the top-10 nationally.
It’s encouraging to see the Orange coaching staff identify talented players and get involved with them early on. It’s always better to be in an elite player’s top five or top 10, than to be shut out as a finalist altogether.
That being said, at least in my humble opinion, with a lot of these prospects who eventually evolve into five-star players, it just feels like the ‘Cuse isn’t able to seal the deal and land commitments.
As it pertains to recruiting, Syracuse basketball often appears to be involved early on, but then it doesn’t triumph in the end.