Syracuse Basketball: Allen Griffin high on transfer center Naheem McLeod

Syracuse basketball, Naheem McLeod (Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat)
Syracuse basketball, Naheem McLeod (Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat) /

Syracuse basketball assistant coach Allen Griffin is bullish on the potential of Philadelphia native Naheem McLeod, who transferred to the Orange this off-season from fellow Atlantic Coast Conference squad Florida State.

The 7-foot-4, 255-pound McLeod, who will be a junior in the upcoming 2023-24 campaign, officially signed with the ‘Cuse in May, according to SU Athletics. A season ago for a sub-par Seminoles group, McLeod appeared in 28 games, starting 11 of them.

In 2022-23, he averaged 13.1 minutes, 3.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per encounter, while connecting on 54.7 percent from the field. Notably, last February, when Syracuse basketball beat FSU on the road, 76-67, McLeod collected a season-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, to go along with eight rebounds, two blocks and one assist, in 26 minutes off of the bench.

This coming term, McLeod is expected to start at center for the Orange, and he has some big shoes to fill in replacing Jesse Edwards, an All-ACC performer last year as a senior who transferred to West Virginia.

McLeod is one of four centers on the Syracuse basketball 2023-24 roster, and none of them have the experience that Edwards possesses. Still, in a recent radio interview, Allen Griffin had some positive things to say about Naheem McLeod.

Syracuse basketball assistant coach Allen Griffin is high on transfer center Naheem McLeod.

A few days ago, Griffin, who works with the ‘Cuse big men, caught up with the fabulous Steve Infanti and Paulie Scibilia on their ESPN Radio Syracuse program, “Orange Nation.”

For a little context, college basketball insider Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports recently published his off-season breakdown of the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he discussed his projected order of finish in the league in 2023-24, as well as handed out some superlatives, including a list of 10 ACC breakout players.

It should be noted that ‘Cuse junior Benny Williams made the cut here, but Griffin says McLeod potentially deserves some consideration in this category as well. Allen Griffin, who I really like and who I think did a stellar job developing Edwards over the last few years, says that to a degree, when Syracuse basketball won at Florida State last season, in some ways, McLeod outplayed Edwards.

Griffin readily acknowledged that Syracuse basketball coaches are still getting to know Naheem McLeod on and off the court, and the ‘Cuse assistant coach says one of his focuses in the off-season with McLeod is to continue to work on his motor.

That being said, per Griffin, McLeod is an “intriguing” player. For a guy of his size, he is skilled. He can catch the ball, he can shoot a bit, he can dribble and he has the “package” to be a “really good player” for Syracuse basketball during his career on the Hill, Allen Griffin says.

At his size and length, I’m hopeful that McLeod can prove a menace to opponents on the defensive end of the court, whether the Orange is set up in a zone defense or in a man-to-man one.

In 2022-23, Edwards averaged 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per encounter, while hitting on 59.2 percent from the field. Is Naheem McLeod going to replicate that sort of production as a junior for the ‘Cuse? Probably not.

However, if he can hold his own at the center spot, and perhaps tally averages of, say, 6 to 8 points and a half-dozen rebounds per contest, that would be great. Plus, Syracuse basketball does have three other centers to utilize, in case foul trouble or fatigue sets in for McLeod.

Given all of the weapons that the Orange appears to have in 2023-24 at the guard and forward spots, I personally don’t think that Naheem McLeod needs to be a superstar for the ‘Cuse to return to the NCAA Tournament after two straight years of missing the Big Dance. He needs to be dependable and solid.

From what Allen Griffin has said about the Florida State transfer, and given how well Griffin developed Edwards, I for one am confident that Naheem McLeod is going to be a bright spot for Syracuse basketball in 2023-24 and beyond.

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