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Respectfully, Syracuse basketball backcourt is better than No. 20 nationally

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

Syracuse basketball first-year head coach Adrian Autry has said he thinks his 2023-24 backcourt can be elite, and I agree with him.

The Orange, this coming season, boasts six guards. The ‘Cuse backcourt is athletic, deep and versatile, with numerous guards being able to suit up at multiple positions, whether that be point guard, shooting guard or even small forward out on the wing.

Naturally, this column is pure speculation. But on paper anyway, I believe that the Orange backcourt will be among the best in the country. If I had to put a number on it, I would say the top five nationwide.

That being said, the six 2023-24 guards for Syracuse basketball are relatively young. A lot of underclassmen here. And several ‘Cuse guards have had to deal with various injuries. Still, it’s an intriguing group.

Syracuse basketball can have a stellar backcourt this coming term.

Not too long ago, college basketball media network The Field of 68 posted on X its top-20 backcourts for 2023-24, and the Orange checked in at No. 20.


On the one hand, it’s cool that the ‘Cuse made this list. On the other hand, I feel that Syracuse basketball should be higher up, although I acknowledge that I’m a homer and somewhat have Orange-colored glasses on.

Here is the team’s guard group. Judah Mintz, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, J.J. Starling, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who transferred in from Notre Dame, Chance Westry, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who transferred in from Auburn, Kyle Cuffe Jr., a 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore who transferred in from Kansas, Justin Taylor, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, and Quadir Copeland, a 6-foot-6 sophomore.

The chatter is that Mintz and Starling are likely to be the starters in the backcourt. Both were on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Freshman team in 2022-23. Mintz was a four-star, top-40 national prospect in the 2022 cycle, while Central New York native Starling was a 2022 five-star, top-25 overall player. Starling, this off-season, was also deemed one of the highest-rated transfers nationally.

Westry didn’t play much at Auburn a season ago due to injury, but he was a four-star, top-40 national prospect in the 2022 class who went to the GEICO Nationals in his senior year of prep school. Similar to Starling, Westry was formerly a long-time recruiting target of the Syracuse basketball coaching staff.

Cuffe played for an excellent team, the Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., before heading to Kansas, where he redshirted in his first season and took a medical redshirt in 2022-23. Before reclassifying from the 2022 to the 2021 cycle, he was ranked as a four-star, top-60 overall prospect. He boasts scoring prowess and is ultra-athletic.

Taylor and Copeland played together for the post-grad team at the powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before heading to the Hill. Rivals.com had Taylor as a four-star, top-75 overall player in the 2022 class, while the four-star Copeland hovered around the top 100 in this cycle.

A stanza ago, when Syracuse basketball went 17-15 overall, Taylor played about 17 minutes per game, while Copeland averaged around nine minutes per contest.

With so many guards at his disposal, I’m curious to see how Autry divides up his minutes. He’s got six former top-100 players and a couple of former top-40 prospects. I recognize that recruiting rankings don’t mean squat once high-school players get to the collegiate level, but still, this is a promising group of guards.

And I mean no disrespect to The Field of 68, however, if the Syracuse basketball backcourt plays to its collective potential, it will be much higher than No. 20 nationwide.

Next. Syracuse Orange: Benny Williams, Judah Mintz and others score NIL deals. dark