Syracuse Basketball: Naheem McLeod can make big leap like Edwards did

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

During the 2022-23 season, Syracuse basketball traveled to the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Fla., on February 8 of this year to battle fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Florida State.

This past term, the Seminoles really struggled, finishing at 9-23 overall. The Orange was a bit better, going 17-15. In any event, this past February, the ‘Cuse notched a road win over FSU, 76-67.

In that ACC affair, Florida State 7-foot-4 sophomore center Naheem McLeod had himself a game. In 26 minutes off of the bench for the Seminoles, McLeod went 7-of-9 from the field. He finished with a season-high 16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and one assist.

Recently, McLeod said on his Twitter page that he would transfer from Florida State to Syracuse basketball. He took an official visit to the Hill not too long ago, his only official visit since he entered the NCAA’s transfer portal last month.

Let’s hope that Syracuse basketball commit Naheem McLeod can make a strong junior-year leap.

Okay, so the Seminoles weren’t good in 2022-23. McLeod, last season, played 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.

Those aren’t overly big numbers, but let’s have some context here. For one, he only tallied 13.1 minutes per encounter. Number two, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton often uses a deep rotation, and 2022-23 was no different, as nine different players averaged at least a dozen minutes per game.

McLeod, in 2023-24, will be one of four centers on the Syracuse basketball roster. He’s the most experienced of the group, and the Orange coaching staff had been mining the transfer portal this off-season to find another center to help replace the void left by senior Jesse Edwards transferring to West Virginia.

In his first two seasons on the Hill, the 6-foot-11 Edwards played sparingly. As a junior, he was in the running for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player award before getting injured. As a senior in 2022-23, he was on the All-ACC third team after averaging 14.5 points, 10.3 boards, 2.7 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals per affair.

My point here is that if Edwards could jump from not playing much as a freshman and a sophomore to being a really good big man in the ACC as a junior and a senior, why can’t Naheem McLeod, who has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining?

Per ESPN, here are the respective stats of Edwards and McLeod during their freshman and sophomore years at Syracuse basketball and Florida State, respectively:

Jesse Edwards
Freshman Season: 21 games, 6.9 minutes, 2.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.5 blocks per game
Sophomore Season: 18 games, 8.9 minutes, 1.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.4 blocks per game

Naheem McLeod
Freshman Season: 18 games, 11.1 minutes, 4.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.4 blocks per game
Sophomore Season: 28 games, 13.1 minutes, 3.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game

I’m not in any way suggesting that McLeod, in 2023-24, is going to replace the production that Edwards gave the ‘Cuse in 2022-23. But with strong development from the Orange coaching staff, I am optimistic that McLeod can put together a solid junior year and, assuming he is still with the team in 2024-25, a strong senior season.

Syracuse Basketball: Adrian Autry and assistants crushing recruiting trail. dark. Next