Syracuse Basketball: Orange’s backcourt in 2023-24 is absolutely stacked

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

The Syracuse basketball 2023-24 backcourt is deep, athletic, versatile and totally loaded.

Now, in all fairness, the Orange’s group of guards for the upcoming season does have question marks and areas of concern. At the same time, myself and many other ‘Cuse fans are pumped about the promise of the team’s backcourt in 2023-24.

The latest development that finalized the Orange’s 13-player roster for this coming term was freshman point guard Judah Mintz electing to withdraw his name from the 2023 NBA Draft and return to the Hill for his sophomore stint.

That was a huge boost for the ‘Cuse, as the 6-foot-3 Mintz had a strong rookie season that included being named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23.

With Mintz on board for another run in college, the Orange has a backcourt that could go six to seven players deep. Undeniably, it’s an exciting group.

The Syracuse basketball backcourt, in the 2023-24 campaign, should prove intriguing.

Joining Mintz in the backcourt are rising sophomore J.J. Starling, a 6-foot-4 combo guard who transferred to the Orange from Notre Dame; rising redshirt freshman Chance Westry, a 6-foot-6 combo guard/small forward who transferred to the ‘Cuse from Auburn; rising sophomore Justin Taylor, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward; rising sophomore Quadir Copeland, a 6-foot-6 point guard/small forward; and rising redshirt freshman Kyle Cuffe Jr., a 6-foot-2 combo guard who transferred to Syracuse basketball from Kansas.

Additionally, rising sophomore Chris Bell, a 6-foot-7 player who primarily plays small forward, could also likely suit up at shooting guard if needed.

The first thing that stands out to me is that this backcourt is, candidly, young. These guys are all underclassmen. That being said, Mintz, Taylor, Copeland and Bell have all already played for one full season with the Orange.

Starling, like Mintz, was on the ACC’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23. Westry and Cuffe were injured for much of last season. However, all three players were recruited by Syracuse basketball while in high school, so they’re familiar with the program.

First-year head coach Adrian Autry and his assistants will have an abundance of line-up combinations available to them as it pertains to the Orange’s 2023-24 backcourt. Autry has said he’s likely to play a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses, and he wants to play at an up-tempo, fast pace.

I believe this group of guards is well-suited for Autry’s plans. There is a lot of length, athleticism and quickness among these guards. Mintz, for one, was excellent at producing steals in his freshman season.

Since he has a deep guard rotation, Autry can play a lot of guys, press as often as he would like, and get out in transition as much as possible. Fatigue shouldn’t pose a concern.

Additionally, Mintz, Starling, Westry and Copeland are dynamic play-makers who can excel at driving into the paint, finishing around the rim, getting to the free-throw line, and opening up the floor for long-distance shooters such as Taylor, Bell and rising junior forward Benny Williams.

Cuffe has barely played at the collegiate level, although he has spent two seasons with Big 12 Conference powerhouse Kansas, including during the 2021-22 stanza, when the Jayhawks won the national championship. Recruiting experts have said that Cuffe is an explosive athlete with high-scoring capabilities.

One big key for Autry & Co. is getting this backcourt to gel as a cohesive unit. All of the team’s guards are young, several of them are new to the program, and how they all fit together remains to be seen.

What’s more, while Taylor, Bell and Williams showed at various points throughout the 2022-23 term that they can make shots from deep, guards including Mintz, Starling, Westry and Copeland have to improve their shooting percentages from 3-point land.

Still, the potential of this backcourt is plentiful. Cuffe, when he announced his commitment to Syracuse basketball last month, said in part to Mike Waters of, “I feel our backcourt is going to be real scary.”

I wholeheartedly agree, Kyle.

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