Ron Patterson did not play much as a true freshman last season for a Syracuse Orange squad that was among the nation's best throughout. With Tyler Ennis gone and Trevor Cooney struggling the last half of last season, there is an opportunity for Patterson to claim some minutes in the guard rotation.
Patterson will spend the offseason working hard on his game. He recently spent a few days back home with his AAU coach, Chris Hawkins, running through drills and trying to improve his skill set.
"The first day, we really just focused on shooting," Hawkins said. "Working on his mechanics and coming off of screens. Things like double baseline screens where when he comes off of it, we try to get his footwork right. Going straight up on his jumper, just trying to get his mechanics right.
"Anything we can do to make sure he's shooting consistently."
With Kaleb Joseph as the only pure point guard on the roster, there is an opportunity for minutes as the backup. With that in mind, ball handling has been a key focus for Patterson.
"We also worked on ball handling," Hawkins said. "Some cone drills to help him come off of screens. Working on tightening up his handle so he can work in small spaces, so he can push through double teams and things like that. Coming off the screen to be able to isolate him one on one so he can take guys off the dribble.
"Working on different angles that coach McNamara likes to do with him during one on one workouts. Just getting him a lower handle and a solid base. Being able to push off and be more explosive in smaller spaces. Being able to take one or two dribbles and get to the rim. We're trying to make sure he's ready to play so he can be a big time player for them next year."
Hawkins believes the early part of the schedule will be critical for Patterson to prove he can handle a significant role. He believes Patterson brings different skills to the table than the other guards in the mix.
"Yeah being able to bring the ball up," Hawkins said. "They play some softer teams at the start so it gives him a chance to get prepared for conference play. When you play Duke, they like to pick you up full court. He has to be able to handle the ball, no matter what.
"Then, playing the two, one thing that he can do that Trevor (Cooney) can't do quite as well is get to the basket. He's real athletic so he has to use that athleticism to be able to handle the ball. He has to show coach Boeheim in practice that he can be consistent with that jumper and with ball handling. That will make them better and they won't have to rely so much on (Kaleb) Joseph or (Mike) Gbinije as a true one."
Patterson has already improved from when he left Hawkins' tutelage. A critical aspect of his game going forward will be improving the consistency on his outside shot.
"He will stay up there all summer," Hawkins said. "He will work on a lot of the things we worked on here. This is a big offseason for him and he's ready to take that jump. He's a smarter player (from when he left high school) as far as knowing the game. He recognizes where to get shots on the floor and within the offense. He's filled out more and his base is stronger. Those are things that I've seen. His shot looks real good when his mechanics are there.
"I know he can shoot. I've seen it at AAU and in high school. It's all about the mechanics in his footwork when he comes across with that inside foot. Being able to go straight up and come straight down. Those are the things that I really in the three days that we worked out is where I saw his game really get better. With his improved ball handling, he should be able to come off screens and take his player off the dribble. Just keep adding things to his game to make him an overall better player."
With the work Patterson will put in during the offseason, Hawkins believes he is set for a significant impact on the 2014-15 Syracuse Orange.
"I don't want to say he can definitely average double figures," Hawkins said. "But he can definitely contribute as a scorer. Even if it's like eight points again. I think he can go from where he was this year to up towards eight to ten points per game. Defensively, with his length, he can add a different element to the top of that zone.
"Just getting deflections and leading things into the open floor. And that's where I can see him scoring more also, is on the break. If he gets deflections, he's really good in the open floor. If he takes care of his business and shows Boeheim things in practice, a consistent jump shot and ball handling, the sky is the limit."