Friday, August 7, 2009

Syracuse SUMMER REPORT 8/6

Big East critics await a sequel of a film that’s lost a significant chunk of its luster from the original last season.

Picture Next Friday (without Chris Tucker), The Lost Boys sequel (without Corey Haim), Predator 2 (without Schwarzenegger).

Will the Syracuse Orange version of 2009-2010 suffer a similar fate?

The supporting actors from last season suddenly shoulder the high-order duty of replacing the high-end stars. No doubt, the loss of wunderkind Jonny Flynn to the NBA extracts some of the showtime out of the 2009-10 Orange squad.

The Orange have a highly-touted freshman from similar stomping grounds as Flynn in 2009 NYS Co-Player of the Year Brandon Triche.

On paper, the Orange face the music of a transition season following the loss of a propofol- potent triumvirate in Flynn (17.4 PPG, 6.7 APG), guard Eric Devendorf (15.0 PPG, 3.0 APG), and pitbull small forward Paul Harris (12.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG).

The trio accounted for more than half of Syracuse’s offensive output in 2k8-2k9, averaging a combined 45.1 points per.

While the Orange restore some firepower in fifth-year senior Andy Rautins and jumbo forward/center Arinze Onuaku, it’s not enough to set off a mammoth pyrotechnic display over Onondaga Lake.

In a Big East frontloaded with gritty guard play, Jim Boeheim seeks to catapult the patchwork gang of tyros and savvy veterans into a challenger.

KEY LOSSES:
Jonny Flynn, 6-0 G: You know a player is cut from a different cloth when dude erupts for 29 his first-ever collegiate game. No question, Flynn’s ascent to the Big East’s upper-echelon turned heads and elicited drool from NBA scouts last year. His emergence as a top-flight guard ran parallel to Cuse’s unpredictable run to the Big East championship game. He was a weapon of mass destruction at times, running the floor and creating offense and taking the ball to the tin over brolick bigs. The Orange will also miss Flynn’s perimeter presence and clutch characteristics. Flynn’s sophomore campaign was punctuated by a demon-slaying 34-point, 12-assist performance in the epic 6-overtime win over UConn in the Big East Tournament. Flynn penetrated the teeth of the UConn defense, absorbing fouls and enough hard contact to make the pint-size point guard look like a human pinball. It was a microcosm of what the little engine that could get buckets by the bundles had in him.
Eric Devendorf, 6-4 G: Remember that quote from the classic comedy “American Pie,” when Paul Finch is commenting on Stifler’s plan for hopeless ol’ Jim to finally lose his V-card?

It was something on the lines of:

“I don’t like the kid, but he’s got a point.”

That defines Devendorf’s final season at Syracuse. Hated on by the masses, Devendorf got it done on the court. He hit timely treys and played with a savvy emblematic of Big East guards.

At times he scored at will, showcasing a dependable perimeter game that spread the floor a la plate tectonics.

Devendorf, a one-time SLAM diarist, also made his teammates beneficiaries of his presence. His 3.0 dimes per was second only to Flynn. Devo’s father originally told the Syracuse Post-Standard that his son “loves Syracuse” and would be staying for his senior year. But Devo is also a father and currently weighing his professional stock. Overseas and the D-league are likely destinations for the kid from Bay City, MI.

Paul Harris, 6-5 G/F: The Orange will certainly miss this NFL-bodied brute.
His ability to sky for rebounds and attack the rim with ease made him a unique threat throughout the Big East. Harris’ explosive first step helped him score the rock at a high percentage. He went 11-for-13 against Rutgers, 7-for-11 in an early-season (they decided to stay off the cupcake diet during their early season non-conference slate) victory at Florida. He was also a solid, physical defender in Syracuse’s trademark zone. Harris shot the ball just a blade under 50 percent…His most dominant performance was during the aforementioned 6-overtime marathon..Despite getting his master’s degree in blowing layups that game–a la Charles Smith in the 1994 Knicks/Bulls series–Harris finished with 29 points, never wilting under the knife-cutting pressure. He tore down 22 boards and shot 13-of-14 from the charity stripe, spilling orange paint all over the Garden in easily of the most memorable games in this storied tournament.

Kristof Ongenaet, 6-8, F: Belgium native brought his hardhat and lunch pail to every game. The junkyard dog’s calling card was rebounding. While he averaged just a thread under five boards per game this year, he showed promise in the Big East Tournament. KO (or LKONG) snared an average of 8.5 boards in back-to-back victories over UConn and WVU in the Big East Tournament. His grittiness will be missed.
ALSO…massive project Sean Williams has headed back to the west coast as a project that never got underway with the Orange.

KEY RETURNERS:
Rick Jackson, 6-9 F: Rangy forward showed promise in the Big East tournament. Jackson turned in a superb showing against Marquette, dropping 17 points and ripping down eight boads. His presence was truly felt on the defensive end, however, as he helped put the clamps on the Golden Eagles– recording three blocked shots during one three-minute sequence. Look for his numbers (8.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG) to steadily spike in 2009-10.

Arinze Onuaku, 6-9, F/C: At 6-foot-9, 275, this cat is like Oliver Miller in his golden age. An exact replica of DEBO from Friday in the paint, AO shot a blistering 66 percent from the floor, connecting mostly on dunks, putbacks and easy layups. One problem that’s been thrust to the forefront with AO, however, is his Shaq-like antics at the free throw line. He shot a below freezing 30 percent at the charity stripe this season…Has the immense size and interior skill to up his numbers (10.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG) in nearly every category next season if he can stay healthy, which was not the case last year in Big East play. If he can rectify his free throw shooting problem, AO could evolve into a walking double-double his senior year. He MUST stay healthy for this to happen.

Andy Rautins, 6-5, G: A fifth-year senior, Rautins has the potential to become one of the nation’s elite outside snipers. The kid who couldn’t miss during a storied stay Jamesville DeWitt HS, Rautins enjoyed his best collegiate season in 2008-09. He established a new high-water mark for the program, draining nine three-pointers against DePaul. On given nights, Rautins can go off. He bagged crucial three-pointers in the Big East tournament. Must be more consistent…Also a presence in the passing lanes, averaging three dimes per…Will be thrust into a leadership role next season. Is playing point guard for dad, Leo, on the Canadian national team this summer and will help ease the loss of both Devendorf and Flynn next season.

Kris Joseph, 6-7 F: Proved his worth early in the season…Turned in a 10 point, five-board, 3-dime performance in a pivotal win over Florida. He poured in 13 points and snared six boards in a 20-point shellacking of Oakland. His minutes dwindled as the season progressed, but Joseph has plenty of upside for 2009-10 and has the look of a prototype Orange forward.

Mookie Jones, 6-7, F: Previously a super-slim 6-foot-7 shooting guard who brings a versatile game to the floor with some savvy beyond his years. The Peekskill High product (see Brand, Elton or Armstrong, Hilton) found minutes tough behind the experienced backcourt veterans last season and lost much of the season to a hip injury that resulted in a medical redshirt. Now, it looks as if he has packed on to his paper-slim frame. If it is good weight and he is healthy this season, Jones could see meaningful burn.

‘Scoop’ Jardine, 6-1, G: Missed last season recovering from a stress fracture that he played through when pressed into playing time as a freshman. Will compete for starting point guard role, but ideal position seems to be more of a combo guard. Scoop must knock off some rust after a year away from competitive Big East action.

KEY NEWCOMERS:

Wesley Johnson, 6-7 G/F: Johnson, the highly-decorated transfer via Iowa State, sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Riding the pine make shaking off the rust necessary for Johnson, who averaged 12.4 points and 4.0 boards in a nagging-injury filled sophomore season in the Big 12. He was runner-up in the Big 12 newcomer of the year voting as a freshman to some cat named Kevin Durant.

Coach Boehiem has publicly said Johnson could be an all-Big East performer next season and is not losing any sleep with Johnson playing the wing over the departed Paul Harris.

Brandon Triche, 6-2 G: High-octane guard who operates offense and scores at will is a major steal for the Orange as national media outlets do not equate him with the star power of other recruits. Look for Triche to make an immediate impact his freshman year and potentially surface as one of the conference’ s premier rookies. The gem of Boeheim’s 2009 recruiting class and has the Hall of Fame coach very confidant in putting the ball in his hands from the get-go. Don’t sleep.

James Southerland 6-6, G/F: Wiry but glossy-smooth, this three-star recruit needs to pack on pounds to his spindly frame. He’s got a dependable, feathery jump shot and can finish strong in transition. Has made strides in increasing his explosiveness.

Dashonte Riley 6-11, C: A spring addition to the recruiting class after deciding not to sign with conference rival in the November signing period and re-opening his recruitment. A high-potential shot-blocker... Still sushi-raw offensive end and can ease into the rotation behind veterans Onuaku and Jackson.