Syracuse Basketball: 4-star didn’t pick Orange we wanted, but he will thrive

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images) /

I know that a lot of Syracuse basketball recruiting fanatics, myself included, are bummed, disappointed and sad that long-time 2023 four-star target Joseph Estrella has elected to play somewhere besides the Hill.

I get it. Not only is the 6-foot-11 power forward/center one of the hottest prospects in the rising-senior class, a talented big man who garnered about two-dozen scholarship offers throughout this recruitment, but he’s also a really, really likable young man.

I’m on the Joseph Estrella fan train. Always have been, ever since the Orange offered him super early on in his recruiting process, and I always will be.

Estrella works his butt off. He doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s humble. He’s got high character. And he cares more about making his teammates successful than any of the individual accolades that he’s received – and will obtain in the future.

In many recent interviews, Estrella has said it’s important to him that his future college team have a tight-knit, family culture. I believe Syracuse basketball possesses this, but Estrella has committed to Southeastern Conference member Tennessee over the ‘Cuse and others. We are heartbroken. Well, at least I am.

Syracuse basketball came up short in the recruiting sweepstakes over Joseph Estrella.

I don’t pretend to have inside information as to why the Orange didn’t prevail for Estrella, who will spend his senior year at the Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.

However, in recent weeks, a bunch of analyst predictions arrived in Tennessee’s direction for Estrella on the 247Sports Web site, and the On3 Web site.

So when this fine young man revealed the Volunteers as his choice on September 2 at the XL Sports World in Saco, Maine, that didn’t surprise me one bit.

Estrella, undeniably, will flourish in Knoxville, Tenn. He went from being a little-known big man out of Maine to one of the top prospects in his class.

And Syracuse basketball coaches were there from, basically, the onset. Estrella’s first scholarship offer came in August of 2021, from the ‘Cuse, at the team’s annual Elite Camp.

He has said on a boatload of occasions that the Orange’s offer helped facilitate his recruitment eventually blowing up. And boy did it blow up.

This spring and summer, while suiting up for the New England-based Middlesex Magic in the Under Armour Association league, Estrella competed at an ultra-high level. The praise from national analysts and scouts kept on pouring in for him in recent months.

As such, his 2023 national rankings absolutely took off, with On3 the most bullish at this juncture, having him inside the top 20 and potentially making a run at five-star status.

Naturally, his offer sheet exploded, with blue-blood programs like Duke and Kansas getting into the mix. Truth be told, when the Blue Devils and the Jayhawks offered him, I kind of figured that Syracuse basketball would be a long shot for Estrella.

But Orange coaches continued to prioritize him. They, along with many, many other college coaches, watched him play in person at AAU contests in recent months when there were NCAA-allowed live periods.

Estrella would take four official visits this summer, to the ‘Cuse, Tennessee, Iowa and Marquette. When he canceled a planned official visit to Duke, I felt better about the Orange’s chances.

Chatter swirled about this team being the leader for him, or that team being the leader for him. My sense is that his unofficial final three were Tennessee, Iowa and Syracuse basketball. He picked the Volunteers in the end.

Lately, as the ‘Cuse has missed on several high-priority 2023 targets, I’ve seen some of my fellow Orange fans opine that one high-school player, even one as talented as Estrella, isn’t going to make or break the team’s 2023 cycle. Maybe. Maybe not.

For me, it’s not just that Syracuse basketball offered him first, and I had hoped that would be a big-time factor when all was said and done.

It’s not just that Estrella is one of the top big men in the rising-senior class, if not the No. 1 big. It’s not just that Orange coaches recruited him hard for, what, basically a year, if not longer?

No, for me, all of that is important context, and it stings to swing and miss on Joseph Estrella. But what I’m most bummed about is that this dude is the real deal, on and off the court.

He’s the kind of young man who I hope my own son ends up being like, in terms of work ethic, integrity, character, selflessness, and humbleness.

I’m wishing Estrella nothing but success in SEC country, and I’m a fan of his for life. I’ll be rooting for him at every turn, unless of course, the Vols end up battling that other team in Orange.

Oh, and then there’s this: My 6-year-old son, Kethan Reddy Adler, lives in Nashville, Tenn. I’m there basically every two weeks to be with him.

He likes Syracuse basketball okay, but his favorite college team is, you guessed it, Tennessee. So from that standpoint, I’m more than good with Joseph Estrella picking the Volunteers.

Even if, deep down, I’m sad that he isn’t going to don a ‘Cuse uniform down the line.

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