Syracuse basketball misses on 4-star Dakota Leffew, but backcourt still looking good

Four-star transfer target Dakota Leffew is headed to Georgia, but the Syracuse basketball backcourt still has tons of talent.
Four-star transfer target Dakota Leffew is headed to Georgia, but the Syracuse basketball backcourt still has tons of talent. / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Dakota Leffew, a four-star transfer prospect who had recently visited Syracuse basketball and had the Orange in his top six, has committed to Southeastern Conference school Georgia, as first reported by On3 national reporter Joe Tipton.

Recently, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Leffew had visited several of his finalists, and 'Cuse fans were anxious to learn of the final decision by the former Mount St. Mary's senior guard.

Earlier this week, top analyst Mike McAllister of 247Sports had logged a prediction in the Orange's direction for Leffew, although McAllister changed that projection to Georgia on Saturday.

I don't have inside information on Leffew's recruitment, but it felt like the longer things dragged on, the less likely that the 'Cuse was going to land him.

I can understand that some Orange fans are bummed that Leffew is headed to the Bulldogs, particularly since his former head coach at Mount St. Mary's, Dan Engelstad, was recently hired as an assistant coach under Syracuse basketball head coach Adrian Autry.

However, it's important to note here that Leffew is from Hampton, Ga. Additionally, let's not forget that name, image and likeness opportunities could have factored into his decision, and my assumption is that Georgia probably has some deep NIL pockets.

Regardless, the Syracuse basketball 2024-25 backcourt still looks promising to me.

Okay, so now that Leffew is no longer an option, it will be interesting to see if 'Cuse coaches pursue another guard this off-season. The current transfer-portal window is quickly closing, with that date being May 1, meaning that college players who wish to transfer to a new school have to be in the portal by then.

So far this off-season, seven players from the Syracuse basketball 2023-24 roster have hit the portal, and sophomore point guard Judah Mintz is headed to the 2024 NBA Draft. The 'Cuse brings in two high school seniors and at least three college transfers.

This means that the Orange staff still has three open scholarships available for the next term. At the time of this writing, the team's backcourt consists of sophomore guard J.J. Starling, sophomore guard/wing Chance Westry, redshirt sophomore guard Kyle Cuffe Jr., 2024 four-star commit Elijah Moore from New York City, and new four-star transfer commit Jaquan Carlos, a junior point guard from Hofstra.

That's five guards. As it stands right now, I envision Carlos as the starting point guard and Starling as the starting shooting guard. Starling could likely play some point guard, and the versatile Westry could likely play point guard, shooting guard or even small forward.

I assume both Cuffe and Moore are most likely to play shooting guard. Now, only Starling played sizable minutes in the 'Cuse backcourt last season. Westry was injured for all of 2023-24 and Cuffe only averaged 10.7 minutes per game. Both Moore and Carlos are new to the program.

Do I think that Syracuse basketball must get another guard ahead of 2024-25? Not necessarily. What I do think the 'Cuse may want to grab is another 3-point specialist, whether he's a guard of some sort or a small forward out on the wing.

One thing that intrigued me about Leffew is that he shot 36.5 percent from deep a stanza ago. Starling improved his 3-point shot in the second half of last season, and Moore is a lethal long-range shooter; but he's also new to the college level.

Sophomore small forward Chris Bell is a great 3-point shooter, albeit a little streaky, and 2024 five-star commit Donnie Freeman, an elite power forward, has significantly improved his shot from beyond the arc.

Cuffe did connect on 34.0 percent from 3-point land in 2023-24, with limited attempts. And Carlos himself made 34.4 percent from the perimeter as a junior.

Securing a pledge from Leffew would have proven nice, and I wish him well in the SEC. But even without him on board, the sky isn't falling. The Orange, to me, has a backcourt with talent and potential. And it's possible 'Cuse coaches could try to add another guard this off-season.

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