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Syracuse Basketball: Benny Williams can make a 2nd-year splash – expert

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images) /

At the end of April, Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim had some interesting things to say about freshman forward Benny Williams.

"It was his birthday, and Boeheim said of the 6-foot-8 Williams, “We’re very happy to have this young man back. He’s going to shock the world with what he can do. It’s his birthday today and I can tell you we’re so happy Benny Williams is coming back next year.”"

Now, as some Orange fans like to note, Jim Boeheim certainly does like to say things, and sometimes fans believe you have to take what Boeheim says with the proverbial grain of salt.

For me, given how highly touted Williams was coming to the Hill as a top-flight 2021 prospect out of the powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., I’m encouraged by what Boeheim said about Williams.

I say this, because during the 2021-22 season, the ‘Cuse head coach sure wasn’t afraid to speak his mind about his freshman forward not quite being ready to serve as a major contributor during his first campaign in Central New York.

A well-respected expert weighs in on Syracuse basketball forward Benny Williams.

My buddy Matthew DeBritz recently had 247Sports director of scouting Adam Finkelstein on his Dome Dawg Podcast, and Finkelstein touched on a number of intriguing topics, including Williams.

A native of Bowie, Md., Williams showed his potential when he collected 14 points and six boards in a home loss suffered by Syracuse basketball at the hands of eventual Final Four participant Duke on the Hill in late February.

For the entire 2021-22 stanza, though, much to the dismay of many Orange hoops fanatics, Williams logged just 10.8 minutes per encounter while averaging 1.9 points and 1.4 rebounds a game, according to ESPN data.

In all fairness, Williams was certainly not the only highly ranked freshman across the country to not garner a lot of run in 2021-22, and he’s hardly the first highly touted freshman to not grab a ton of minutes for the ‘Cuse under Boeheim.

As Finkelstein pointed out, when it comes to a highly rated freshman playing or not playing a lot in year one, a team’s depth chart and roster make-up are important to note.

And in 2021-22, at forward, Williams was playing behind two veteran guys in senior Cole Swider and graduate student Jimmy Boeheim.

Finkelstein said that having those two veterans a stanza ago could prove huge for Williams’ development, as he was working with those two players and learning from them, all the while having a year under his belt to adjust to the college game and learn the Syracuse basketball system.

With Jimmy Boeheim and Swider gone, the opportunity is there for Benny Williams to land a lot of playing time in 2022-23, and Finkelstein says he does expect Williams to take a step forward as a sophomore.

Coming to the Orange, Finkelstein said that Williams had a ton of talent, but he needed time to further develop and turn his potential into production.

He brought up the sophomore leap of former Syracuse basketball star Michael Carter-Williams, a guard who didn’t play much as a freshman but then was a stud in his second term, helping guide the ‘Cuse to the 2013 Final Four.

Finkelstein wanted to make clear that he’s not necessarily saying Benny Williams will make the same exact level of a jump in his sophomore campaign as Carter-Williams did.

But having a year to learn the Orange system and learn from other veterans at the same position, gives Benny Williams the chance to make a nice splash as a sophomore, Finkelstein says.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Projected starting rotation for the 2022-23 season. dark