Syracuse Basketball: Kansas transfer boasts athleticism, scoring potential

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports) /

When new Syracuse basketball commit Kyle Cuffe Jr. signed his national letter of intent to play for Big 12 Conference titan Kansas on April 15, 2021, the Jayhawks’ head coach, Bill Self, had some really positive things to say about his future guard.

"“Kyle is a young man that has great upside and the determination to be a great player,” Self said in a statement on the Kansas athletics department Web site when the 6-foot-2 Cuffe signed his NLI with the Jayhawks. “He’s an explosive athlete that makes plays on both ends of the floor. His father, Kyle Sr., was a great player at St. John’s and has been instrumental in Kyle’s development.”"

Kyle Cuffe Jr., who was born in New York, N.Y., was a four-star, top-60 national prospect in the 2022 cycle before he elected to reclassify up and join Kansas in the team’s 2021 class.

In the 2021-22 term, when the Jayhawks captured the national title, Cuffe took a redshirt. This past season, in 2022-23, he only appeared in two games before suffering an unfortunate knee injury, tearing his MCL and PCL.

Media reports say that Cuffe will have four years of college eligibility remaining after taking a medical redshirt in 2022-23.

In high school, new Syracuse basketball commit Kyle Cuffe Jr. was a standout in New Jersey.

Cuffe, in recent days, said that he would transfer to the Orange, providing further depth in the team’s backcourt ahead of the 2023-24 stanza.

While his collegiate career, to date, has only consisted of two games for Kansas, Cuffe possesses talent and loads of potential. In high school, he played for the Blair Academy, an excellent prep-school team in Blairstown, N.J., and with the Bronx, N.Y.-based PSA Cardinals in Nike’s EYBL league on the AAU circuit.

According to media releases from Kansas Athletics and SU Athletics, in 2019-20, the Blair Academy sported a 24-3 overall record, while finishing as the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (“MAPL”) champions and the New Jersey state Prep A runner-up.

During that season, Cuffe averaged 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game, and he received an honorable-mention nod to the 2020 All-MAPL team. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020-21, the Blair Academy only played two games, although Cuffe scored 28 points and 22 points in that pair of encounters.

After he moved up to the 2021 cycle, Cuffe checked in at No. 109 nationally from 247Sports and No. 111 overall via Both recruiting services rated him as four stars.

In high school, Cuffe was familiar with the Syracuse basketball program, having attended the Orange’s annual Elite Camp in 2019. His offer sheet consisted of Kansas, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Rutgers, Georgetown, Bryant, Georgia, Providence, UConn, Seton Hall and St. John’s, among others.

He entered the NCAA’s transfer portal in early May, reports said. Cuffe told On3 national analyst Joe Tipton that other teams showing interest in him this off-season included Richmond, Tulane, Pacific, Grand Canyon, Western Kentucky and New Mexico State.

I recognize that Cuffe hasn’t played virtually at all in several seasons, and he’s coming off an injury, but Bill Self is a Hall of Fame head coach with two national championships. So when Self and others say that Cuffe is known for his explosive athleticism, toughness and scoring prowess, that intrigues me.

Assuming that freshman point guard Judah Mintz remains in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Orange’s 2023-24 backcourt will feature returnees Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland, both rising sophomores who can also suit up on the wing at small forward, along with three transfers – Cuffe, Notre Dame freshman J.J. Starling and Auburn freshman Chance Westry.

All of these guys were highly rated in high school. This past season, Starling averaged about 30 minutes per game and, like Mintz, was on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23.

Copeland didn’t play much as a freshman. Taylor averaged just under 17 minutes per game as a freshman. Westry and Cuffe were injured.

My point here is that the Syracuse basketball 2023-24 backcourt will be athletic and dynamic, but it’s also highly unproven and inexperienced. I do think that Cuffe can carve out a solid role in the rotation.

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