Syracuse Basketball: 7-foot-4 Naheem McLeod is still growing – heck yeah!

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

Naheem McLeod, a junior center who transferred to Syracuse basketball from Florida State this off-season, is likely to be in the starting line-up when the Orange kicks off its 2023-24 season on Monday, Nov. 6, at home versus New Hampshire.

The 7-foot-4, 265-pound McLeod, who is from Philadelphia, is one of four centers on the ‘Cuse 2023-24 roster, along with junior Mounir Hima, sophomore Peter Carey and freshman William Patterson.

Additionally, some media reports have indicated that sophomore forward Maliq Brown may also spend some time at the center spot in the upcoming campaign.

There are some question marks at the center position for the Orange ahead of 2023-24, although in all fairness, the team’s centers possess talent and potential. But this past off-season, the ‘Cuse did see senior center Jesse Edwards, an All-ACC performer in 2022-23, transfer to West Virginia.

How the Syracuse basketball coaching staff will divide up the squad’s minutes at center in 2023-24 remains to be seen, but undeniably, Naheem McLeod will prove a key contributor to this position group in the months to come.

Syracuse basketball junior center Naheem McLeod is an intriguing player.

In July, during an interview on the ESPN Radio Syracuse program “Orange Nation,” Syracuse basketball assistant coach Allen Griffin did have a lot of positive things to say about McLeod.

Last year, for the Seminoles, 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 game, while hitting on 54.7 percent from the field.

I’d be shocked if Naheem McLeod didn’t play substantially more minutes for the ‘Cuse in 2023-24. I’m not necessarily expecting him to replicate Edwards’ 2022-23 production, but if McLeod could average, say, eight to 10 points and six to eight rebounds per contest, that would prove huge for Syracuse basketball this coming term.

Interestingly enough, in a recent post on X, Mike Waters of noted that Naheem McLeod, even at 7-foot-4, says “he’s not done growing.” Wow. I believe that McLeod, already, is the tallest player in Syracuse men’s basketball history.

First-year head coach Adrian Autry has said on many occasions that he expects to primarily play man-to-man defense in 2023-24, although I could envision the ‘Cuse playing some zone as well.

Either way, I’m hopeful that McLeod will be a big-time force for the Orange on the defensive end of the court.

Griffin, over the summer, noted that for a player of his size, McLeod is solid with his jumper, and he’s got good hands and is proficient at dribbling the ball.

"In a recent interview with The Juice Online staff writer Brett Gustin, Naheem McLeod said in part, “I feel I have the ability to move and help space guys out and space the floor to try and fit that play style. I really can actually shoot. I would rather just go dunk on somebody because that is just the easiest thing. But if there is time and space and I want to shoot a 3, I am going to shoot it.”"

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