Syracuse Basketball: Adrian Autry insights on Naheem McLeod, forwards

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Head coach Adrian Autry doesn’t shy away from stating that Syracuse basketball players have a lot of work to do and improve in certain areas, namely, the team’s rebounding and perimeter defense.

The Orange also hasn’t shot the ball particularly well from deep in its first two games of the 2023-24 season, both home wins over non-conference foes, but the squad’s up-tempo pace has enabled the ‘Cuse to produce 80-plus points in each affair.

Autry, in his post-game press conference after the Orange defeated Canisius, 89-77, this past Wednesday night, said the team’s offense hasn’t been exquisite, but the ‘Cuse is still scoring a lot of points.

Offense isn’t the problem, he says. It’s the Orange’s defense and rebounding. Autry also continues to sort through his rotations, and he says it’s vital for ‘Cuse players to give maximum energy and effort on the defensive end, where the squad is primarily playing man-to-man defense, while spacing the floor well on offense and looking to “make that extra pass.”

In his presser, he touched on various Syracuse basketball players, including Orange centers and forwards.

Head coach Adrian Autry discusses Syracuse basketball big men.

In the win over Canisius, starting center Naheem McLeod, a junior transfer from Florida State, was solid. He logged 18 minutes, seven points, nine rebounds, five blocks and a steal.

Autry says that he expects “a lot out of” McLeod, who played limited minutes for the Seminoles a season ago. “He’s a talented young man,” the Orange head coach said of McLeod.

Sophomore big man Maliq Brown, who can suit up at both power forward and center, played 22 minutes, chipping in six points, four boards, three steals, one assist and one block.

Autry notes that Brown, similar to former ‘Cuse player and fan favorite Marek Dolezaj, does a lot of little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score but make the team better.

Brown is an athletic big man who runs the court well, and Autry praised his versatility in being able to guard multiple positions on defense. His offense, by extension, is “improving,” Autry says.

Sophomore starting forward Chris Bell, against Canisius, had 26 minutes of court time and was 5-of-12 from the field, while hitting two 3-pointers. He finished with 12 points but just two boards.

Former Orange head coach Jim Boeheim, who retired this past spring, wasn’t shy a stanza ago in saying that Bell needed to improve on the glass. When Syracuse basketball knocked off America East Conference member New Hampshire, 83-72, last Monday evening, Bell did tally five points, four boards, one assist, one block and one steal.

He’s been a bit more aggressive in driving to the basket so far in the young 2023-24 term, and Bell had a pretty put-back score in the Canisius encounter. Autry says that he’s seeing improvements in Bell, and that his being more consistent game in and game out is key.

While some fans haven’t been overly impressed with the Orange’s pair of performances, Autry noted that his line-up is a relatively young one, with nine sophomores and a freshman on the 2023-24 roster.

It’s a competitive group, and all of these guys want to win, Autry added. Improvements will come, he believes, and “this team is just scratching the surface.”

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