A First Look at the Freshman

To the casual fan, an exhibition game against a team most of us have never heard of has minimal value and allure. But to a veteran coach who has seen it all in Division I basketball, it is the first evaluation of many on the way to another season filled with high expectations.

Syracuse took care of Cal-State Los Angeles with ease on Tuesday night, and 13 players got in the game. Don't expect the rotation to be that deep once Big East play begins, but a 10-man rotation is not out of the question. Three of the candidates for arguably the league's deepest team are freshmen Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney. Each of them admitted nerves played a big role in their first taste of game action in the Carrier Dome.

"As the game went on, they got more comfortable," Senior Kris Joseph said after the game. "I was proud of their play tonight."

Each did some good things and some questionable, very rookie-looking things in limited playing time. Even with the up-and-down first impression, the veterans on the squad were impressed – as was coach Jim Boeheim though he remains critical.

"Obviously, they're not ready to be out there," Boeheim said. "It's fortunate that they're not because they won't be out there all the time anyway. But their good players…and they're in a great situation."

Christmas started at power forward, and he held his own next to Fab Melo – who finally looks like he has the potential to live up to his top-notch ranking coming out of high school. Christmas ended up playing 19 minutes and he led the team with three blocks while contributing five points and six rebounds. However, he showed his youth by notching four fouls while on the floor.

Carter-Williams turned the ball over three times in his debut, but he too figured things out with increased playing time.

Cooney hit his only three-point attempt of the night, and he ended up with seven points in just six minutes of work.

"I was impressed with Trevor (Cooney)," junior guard Brandon Triche said. "He was very efficient, I'm not sure if he missed a shot or not. He got shots up, he knocked shots down."

Triche also said Christmas looked good inside and Carter-Williams was clearly the most nervous, but added that once the nerves are out of the picture the swing-man will showcase what the team has seen in practice all season long.

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