|Posted on August 29, 2017 at 10:35 AM|
Article by Dan Tortora
When it comes to Taurean Thompson, questions that arise are those like, "Will his defense improve?", "Can he become a leader in his second season?", or "Will he continue to build on his offensive success that he had as a true freshman?"
The question Syracuse Orange men's basketball fans were not anticipating or prepared to ask is, "What will the Orange do without Thompson?"
Yet, here we are.
Thompson is no longer with the Syracuse men's basketball program after leaving on his own choosing following his true freshman season.
This move leaves the Orange with a mere four scholarship players on their 2017-18 roster that were on the team last season: Junior point guard Frank Howard, sophomore shooting guard Tyus Battle, redshirt-freshman forward Matthew Moyer, and junior center Paschal Chukwu.
Howard struggled in his sophomore season and was supplanted by graduate transfer point guard John Gillon, III.
Battle impressed offensively and was a spark for the Orange on more than one occasion, displaying his ability to score from beyond the arc on a squad that was without former sharp-shooter Trevor Cooney for the first time in years.
Moyer did not play a single game, handed a red-shirt season, which brings him into the 2017-18 campaign with experience in practice with Syracuse but not against any opponents in the arena of college basketball.
Chukwu competed in a mere five games for Syracuse last season, going out due to injury and eventually undergoing eye surgery.
Over the last two seasons combined, the Orange have had to say an early good-bye to forward/center Tyler Lydon and shooting guard Malachi Richardson, while having to part with players like Gillon and Andrew White, III, who had big-time moments for Syracuse, but were only there for one season as graduate transfers with one year of eligibility.
Early departures of underclassmen and minimal time to teach and grow transfers have left Syracuse in a state of flux that is atypical of Jim Boeheim's squad, and this loss of Thompson undoubtedly has made matters worse.
Thompson's decision immediately puts even more pressure on the shoulders of second-year player Battle, who came in with Thompson, because Battle and Thompson were heading into the 2017-18 season as the two best offensive returnees by a longshot.
The front court takes a substantial blow as well because Lydon had already left early for the 2017 NBA Draft, and so Thompson, the other half of the best scoring duo the Orange had at the forward position last season's, decision to leave has made the pothole into more of a sinkhole now.
To say the Orange will have to rely more heavily on the new faces this season is a colossal understatement.
With only four returning scholarship players, as previously stated, there will be multiple new faces in the starting lineup because if Moyer lands there, it will be his first time as a starter, or playing collegiate basketball in general, and that still leaves one spot to fill if Howard, Battle, and Chukwu all start.
The days of Boeheim sitting the majority of an incoming freshmen class to watch and learn in their first season at Syracuse seem far in the distance. Point guard Howard Washington, Jr., forward Oshae Brissett, forward Marek Dolezaj, and forward Bourama Sidibe all came into a good situation as far as playing time being available.
To heal this bruise to the Orange, this freshmen class needs to be one of the best Syracuse has seen in awhile.
Luckily for the coaching staff, three of four freshmen recruited and on campus are in the front court.
But the learning curve was already sharper than what you would like in bringing in new faces.
Now, it feels more like going from your driver's ed test to being a NASCAR driver seemingly overnight.