Entire Syracuse basketball coaching staff made 7-foot-4 big feel at home

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Florida State big-man transfer Naheem McLeod, who committed to Syracuse basketball on Monday afternoon, said in an interview that the entire Orange coaching staff has forged a strong relationship with him of late.

Once McLeod, a 7-foot-4 sophomore center who hails from Philadelphia, entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, he reportedly heard from a bunch of teams. The ‘Cuse was one of the first schools to reach out to him.

Two weekends ago, McLeod took an official visit to the Hill, and it was the only official visit that he made while in the transfer portal. During that trip to Central New York, and in other recent conversations with the Orange, he said all of the ‘Cuse coaches were involved in those conversations.

"That appealed to him. “The whole staff recruited me,” McLeod told 247Sports national analyst Dushawn London in a recent interview. “If one person called me it was a FaceTime with the whole staff telling me it’s the move, they need me, and how I can play right away. They all bought in on making me feel like I’m their guy and that they need me. It made me really feel like it was home.”"

Syracuse basketball coaches have landed a key transfer to fill out their 2023-24 center group.

McLeod has said in multiple recent interviews that he has developed a great relationship with the Orange coaching staff, and he’s also impressed with the roster that the ‘Cuse has assembled for this coming term – both returnees and others who have transferred into the program this off-season, such as Notre Dame freshman guard J.J. Starling and Auburn freshman guard Chance Westry.

The new Syracuse basketball commit has also said that he’s excited to play home games in the JMA Wireless Dome before large Orange-clad crowds.

For two seasons, McLeod competed for the Seminoles. In the 2022-23 campaign, as a sophomore, he appeared in 28 games, averaging 13.1 minutes, 3.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest, while connecting on 54.7 percent from the field.

This off-season, ‘Cuse coaches have been mining the transfer portal to bring in another center and help offset the loss created by the departure of senior Jesse Edwards to West Virginia.

The other three centers expected to be on the Orange’s 2023-24 roster – sophomore Mounir Hima, freshman Peter Carey and 2023 three-star commit William Patterson from New York City – hold promise, but they are all inexperienced, too.

McLeod noted to London, “The plan for me is to come in and make a big impact defensively. Then on offense I get to expand my game, work on face ups, dribble hand offs and being more involved.”

Since he’s been playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he’s familiar with the ‘Cuse and its returning players. He also knows both Starling and Westry. He called the Orange “a historic program.”

As far as his goals while on the Hill, McLeod told London that he’s eyeing deep NCAA Tournament runs for the ‘Cuse. “We have experience and great guards from all different conferences so I think it’s going to be a blessing for Syracuse this year,” said McLeod, who has two years of college eligibility remaining.

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