Syracuse Basketball: 7-foot-4 transfer adds critical depth at center position

Syracuse basketball (Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat)
Syracuse basketball (Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat) /

Syracuse basketball coaches have been mining the NCAA’s transfer portal this off-season to add another center to the 2023-24 roster. And on Monday afternoon, they landed one.

Florida State transfer Naheem McLeod, a 7-foot-4 sophomore center from Philadelphia who officially visited the Hill two weekends ago, said on Monday that he was committing to the Orange, a nice recruiting win for the ‘Cuse coaching staff.

Last month, senior center Jesse Edwards said he would transfer from Syracuse basketball to West Virginia. That was a tough blow for the Orange, as the 6-foot-11 Edwards was named to the All-ACC third team during the 2022-23 season.

Now, expecting McLeod to replicate Edwards’ senior year in the 2023-24 stanza is probably unrealistic, given that as a senior, Edwards averaged 14.5 points, 10.3 boards, 2.7 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals a game, while hitting on 59.2 percent from the field and 72.9 percent from the charity stripe.

That being said, Syracuse basketball coaches picking up a pledge from McLeod is a solid addition that should round out the center spot for the team as we inch closer to the 2023-24 campaign.

Syracuse basketball has added key depth at the center position for this coming season.

With McLeod on board, the Orange is expected to have four centers on its roster for 2023-24. Besides the FSU transfer, the ‘Cuse center group will include sophomore Mounir Hima, freshman Peter Carey and 2023 three-star commit William Patterson, who is a senior at The Patrick School in Hillside, N.J.

In 2022-23, when Syracuse basketball went 17-15 overall, the 6-foot-11 Hima appeared in 27 games, averaging 7.4 minutes per contest. This past season, the 6-foot-11 Carey only played in three games, and he is expected to take a medical redshirt for his freshman term on the Hill. The 7-foot-2 Patterson, meanwhile, is an incoming freshman.

My point here is that Hima, Carey and Patterson all likely possess promise and potential, but they are inexperienced. McLeod, I would assume, is the most logical candidate to end up starting at center for the Orange in 2023-24, but we’ll have to see how everything pans out.

I’ve also seen reports and commentary on social media from time to time that suggests perhaps freshman forward Maliq Brown could suit up at center on occasion. The 6-foot-9 Brown is a talented and physical player, but I don’t think Syracuse basketball coaches are looking for him to play extended minutes at center in the coming season.

As a sophomore for the Seminoles, which were a disappointing 9-23 in 2022-23, McLeod played in 28 games. He averaged 13.1 minutes, 3.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest, while connecting on 54.7 percent from the field.

It’s also worth noting that FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton historically boasts a deep rotation, and that proved true in 2022-23 as well. This past stanza, nine Florida State players logged at least 12 minutes per game, including McLeod.

Okay, a hypothetical here. In 2022-23, Edwards averaged 32.6 minutes per game. I don’t expect McLeod to garner the same amount of run for the ‘Cuse in 2023-24. But let’s say he earns, for example, around 30 minutes per game.

If you forecast out his production last season at FSU and tally averages based on 30 minutes per contest this coming term, that works out to around 8.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per encounter.

Again, I’m not saying that this is what McLeod will produce, as far as his minutes and production are concerned. But does he have the potential to make a nice junior-year jump, much as Edwards did? I believe the answer is yes.

Can McLeod fully replace Edwards? Probably not. Does McLeod’s commitment provide more stability for Syracuse basketball at center in 2023-24? Without question.

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