Syracuse Basketball: Preseason ACC love for Benny Williams, J.J. Starling

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

A national pundit is high on two Syracuse basketball players ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports recently published his off-season report for the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he handed out a variety of superlatives and also projected the order of finish within the league this coming season.

Rothstein has placed the ‘Cuse at No. 10 in his ACC forecast. I noted in another recent column that I think he has the Orange too low in his projections.

In any event, Rothstein has included two ‘Cuse players in his superlatives, and they are junior forward Benny Williams and sophomore guard J.J. Starling, who transferred to the Orange this off-season after spending his freshman term at Notre Dame.

Insider Jon Rothstein is bullish on Syracuse basketball players Benny Williams and J.J. Starling.

Rothstein has the 6-foot-9 Williams, who hails from Bowie, Md., as part of his 10 ACC breakout players. Williams, a five-star prospect in the 2021 class per out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., had an inconsistent sophomore stanza but did show flashes of strong play.

In 2022-23, when the Orange went 17-15 overall, he appeared in 30 games, averaging 22.3 minutes per contest. Williams averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, while connecting on 44.7 percent from the field, 39.6 percent from the 3-point line and 65.0 percent from the charity stripe.

In mid-April, Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry said on a podcast with Rothstein that he believes Williams is poised for big things this coming season. I agree with Autry here.

Meanwhile, Rothstein has the 6-foot-4 Starling among his 10 ACC impact transfers, which is no surprise at all. Starling, a Baldwinsville, N.Y., native, was a five-star, top-25 national prospect in the 2022 class, starring for the powerhouse La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., and earning McDonald’s All-America honors.

For the Fighting Irish a campaign ago, when Notre Dame sported an awful 11-21 mark, Starling played in 28 affairs, averaging 29.6 minutes per encounter. He averaged 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, while hitting on 42.1 percent from the field, 29.9 percent from deep and 63.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Similar to Syracuse basketball sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, Starling made the ACC’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23. Starling, according to numerous recruiting services, is listed as a four-star, top-15 overall transfer this off-season.

Speaking of Mintz, I thought he should have been included on Rothstein’s preseason All-ACC first team, but Judah didn’t make the cut. Whatever. Additionally, Rothstein had a category of 10 under-the-radar ACC transfers, and I was surprised not to see Orange redshirt freshman guard Chance Westry included.

The 6-foot-6 Westry, a four-star, top-40 national player in the 2022 cycle, transferred to the ‘Cuse from Auburn, where he didn’t play much as a freshman due to injury.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: 5-star Jalil Bethea has top 6, including SU, per report. dark