Syracuse Basketball: 4-star commit excited for ‘Cuse to play man defense

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

Since taking the reins from Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim this past spring, Syracuse basketball first-year head coach Adrian Autry has said on numerous occasions that the Orange, moving forward, is likely to primarily play man-to-man defense while utilizing the zone in certain situations.

Boeheim, for many years, had opted for the zone. Some ‘Cuse fans were ready for that defensive strategy to change, and they should see that wish transpire when the Orange officially begins its 2023-24 season in early November.

Last weekend, Syracuse basketball 2024 commit Donnie Freeman, a four-star power forward from Washington, D.C., was one of three high-school prospects on the Hill taking official visits.

The 6-foot-9 Freeman, who verbally committed to the ‘Cuse in May over Alabama, Iowa, Texas and Georgia Tech, was able to watch Syracuse basketball players practice during his recent official visit to Central New York.

In an interview with top recruiting analyst Mike McAllister, the publisher of SyracuseOnSI, Freeman said that he enjoyed seeing the Orange practicing in man-to-man defensive schemes.

Four-star senior power forward Donnie Freeman was recently on a trip to Syracuse basketball.

Freeman, one of the top power forwards in the 2024 cycle, is a consensus top-55 national prospect in his class. His highest national ranking, at present, is No. 28 overall via 247Sports.

"He said to McAllister, “This was the first time I got to see the full team in five on five action. It was my first time seeing them play man defense. It actually didn’t feel real seeing them play man. It was fun to watch. I really liked how they used their forwards as well. Benny (Williams), Maliq (Brown), how they moved them around, off ball screens, dribble handoffs, they shot jumpers, kind of did everything. It made more sense actually seeing it and seeing similar forwards like me doing it.”"

As a junior during the 2022-23 season, Freeman earned many awards, including All-America honor-mention accolades, in guiding St. John’s College High School in D.C. to a 32-4 record, a top-25 national ranking, and the coveted Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (“WCAC”) tournament title.

He will spend his senior year at the powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., which competes in the loaded 10-member National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (“NIBC”).

This spring and summer, Freeman was a key contributor to one of the best AAU programs nationwide, the Washington-based Team Takeover in Nike’s EYBL league. He helped lead Team Takeover, in early July, to the 17U Peach Jam championship on the EYBL circuit.

A standout for Team Takeover in the 16U division, by the way, is 2025 four-star combo guard Derek Dixon, who also officially visited Syracuse basketball this past weekend, along with 2025 four-star big man Matthew Gilhool from the Philadelphia area.

The 6-foot-4 Dixon, offered a scholarship by the Orange on June 15, is a junior at Gonzaga College High School in D.C. Freeman says that he believes Dixon is a priority recruit for Syracuse basketball coaches in the 2025 class, and I agree with Freeman here.

“I think he’s a priority for sure,” Freeman said of his AAU colleague. “They’re not recruiting a whole lot of guards and he’s number six in points created in EYBL. He’s definitely a priority and the fact they brought him on an official so early shows he’s a priority.”

Freeman, Dixon and Gilhool were in attendance last Saturday when Syracuse football hosted Clemson at the JMA Wireless Dome on homecoming weekend. Freeman said, “I was kind of picturing myself playing in front of that many people. I’m definitely going to try to make it down for a basketball game. Even though they lost the outcome was great. The whole vibe was great with the fans and stuff like that.”

Freeman told McAllister that he plans to officially sign with Syracuse basketball during the early signing period, which runs from November 8 to November 15 of this year. That’s awesome to hear.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim ‘thrilled to leave the program where it is’. dark