Grading the Orange

With Syracuse basketball's 2013-14 season completed, CuseNation.com grades each player's performance from the historical campaign.

The Syracuse basketball season ended several days ago, and after some time to reflect, CuseNation.com's Mike McAllister and John Garcia Jr.

Rakeem Christmas

McAllister: C: Christmas showed flashes this season, and appeared to turn a corner mid-way through the ACC schedule. Then Rakeem reverted back to what he was in previous seasons. His ability as a defender is not in question. He is a natural shot blocker who has supreme athleticism but has been a disappointment offensively.

Garcia Jr: B-: Playing just a tad more than he did as a sophomore, Christmas was able to improve his numbers across the board in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots per game as well as free throw percentage. He was the enforcer of the 2-3 zone, but didn't quite take the next step offensively, especially with Coleman out for most of the season. Christmas showed some flashes, but never turned in consistent offense as a junior. His NBA stock could be determined by how much his offensive game improves as a senior next season.

DaJuan Coleman

McAllister: Incomplete: Coleman's injury shortened his sophomore season. He showed some small steps towards becoming a better defender, but still has bad habits offensively. Coleman is the team's best rebounder, however. He needs to take a big step next season.

Garcia Jr: Inc.: Yes, incomplete. While progress and/or consistency was something the young big was still searching for before his season-ending injury, we didn't know what strides he would make amid the ACC schedule or beyond. Coleman's numbers pretty much matched that of his freshman campaign a year earlier, but he only played in 24 games last season. In 2013-14, he competed 13 times, starting 12, never really making fans seem like he progressed offensively despite a more slender frame than his Orange debut campaign. This five-star prospect still has time to live up to the hype, and he'll have to if SU is to be a top-10 program again next season.

Trevor Cooney

McAllister: C+: Cooney was as inconsistent offensively as any player in the country. As hot as he was through the first 20 games or so, that's how cold he was down the stretch of the season. His defensive abilities help bump his grade up.

Garcia Jr: B: In terms of progressing from one year to the next, he may have the vote for most improved on the entire roster from last season to this one. Cooney was an experiment a season ago, though he played in every game but one, while he was a starter and key contributor as a redshirt sophomore. He tied for third on the team in scoring (12.1 points per game), showed the ability to get as hot as it gets from three just as much as he showed he can be very cold from beyond the arc in the process. But Cooney, who tripled his numbers in scoring, minutes played and steals, became a noted opponent on the scouting report after being on the back page for opponents a season earlier. Overall, he shot well from deep (38 percent) and held his own on defense and of course at the line with a team-leading 84 percent clip.

Tyler Ennis

McAllister: A+: What more could Ennis have done for Syracuse this season? From a steady floor general that ran a well-oiled machine that looked like the best team in the country, to the player who tried to take over when they couldn't make a shot. Ennis was more than advertised this season. Syracuse fans hope they see him don the Orange jersey for at least one more year.

Garcia Jr: A: There's not much more we can say positively about the five-star recruit that did live up to the hype. Ennis played with calm, poise, power and tempered aggression that he seemed to only unleash when the Orange needed it most. He showed he could take over games, prevent other elite guards from doing so, distribute as well as any point guard in the country, as well as hit the big-time shots in big situations. The only reason this frosh All-America shoe-in didn't snag an A+ from me is because the team, led by him, was upset early in the ACC and NCAA Tournament. Knowing Ennis, he'd take full responsibility for it, too.


Ennis (left) and Grant were the only unanimous CuseNation.com "A" grades.

C.J. Fair

McAllister: A-: Fair showed flashes of being the go-to senior lead that could deliver a national championship. He finished off a fantastic four-year career with some stellar performances. But down the stretch, his mid-range jumper failed him and he became an inconsistent performer.

Garcia Jr: B+: Ennis was the true leader of the roster, but Fair was the veteran even Ennis leaned on at times. The SU offense was nothing to smile about for the Orange faithful, yet Fair was able to put in a team-leading 16.5 points per game, along with a half-dozen rebounds and more than a steal per game while rarely coming off of the court. Fair's lefty jumper could get hot from the corner or he could attack inside and get to the free throw line with relative ease in capping his very solid ‘Cuse career. He was at his best in the middle of the season, and especially against Duke in the Carrier Dome, but did seem to be a bit worn in the final pair of losses – two early exits – to NC State and Dayton, respectively.

Michael Gbinije

McAllister: B: Gbinije was ineffective offensively early in the season. But as the year progressed, so did his aggressiveness on that end of the floor. Gbinije improved his outside shot, showed the ability to finish at the rim and grew as a ball handler.

Garcia Jr: C-: Like Christmas, Gbinije showed some flashes, but never became that reliable third guard at Jim Boeheim's disposal. That was a needed position, with Cooney's streakiness as a shooter and Ennis' wear, but the Duke transfer never fully took on the role. He shot well from deep at times, but made just 15 threes all season long. Gbinije also got into foul trouble more than most, perhaps also contributing to his weak 14.5 minutes per game clip. He played about as much as Baye Keita did. That third guard role will be another important one next season, so let's see if the hype matches the production in his second go-round with the squad.

Jerami Grant

McAllister: A-: Grant had a very strong year for Syracuse. He significantly improved his ability on the boards and defensively. Grant became one of the Orange's most important interior defenders. His supreme athleticism made him a threat offensively as well, especially when he developed a mid-range jumper despite its inconsistency.

Garcia Jr: A: Grant made incredible strides from his freshman season to his sophomore campaign, in role, numbers and importance to the team. While he didn't show very much polish in his offensive game, Grant became a true scoring threat from the wing with his incredible athleticism. He knifed in for a team-leading 6.8 rebounds per game to go along with 12. 1 points per game while surprisingly notching more assists than both Fair and Cooney. A late-season injury slowed him when the team needed him most, but when healthy, there wasn't a more fun player to watch attack the rim in the ACC.

B.J. Johnson

McAllister: D: Johnson was not ready to contribute anything meaningful to Syracuse. Still raw on both ends, he does have a lot of upside. It's actually surprising he did not redshirt.

Garcia Jr: I: Unlike Coleman's incomplete, which was because of injury, Johnson's comes in because he didn't really get many opportunities. He played in just 10 games, and even then didn't show a lot in his 25 percent shooting, including 2-of-16 from three-point land. There will be plenty of minutes to be had next season with Fair and possibly Ennis and Grant moving on, but Johnson will have to show considerable improvement in the offseason to threaten for a truly increased role.

Baye Keita

McAllister: C: Keita's senior season was a disappointment. He could not catch a pass all season and regressed offensively throughout the season. Still, he was solid defensively for most of the season.

Garcia Jr: C: The senior gives you everything he has on the court, every single game and did so through some pain again this year, but it doesn't mean he maximized his time on campus. Keita has been a rim protector from Day 1, but his production as a shot-blocker actually declined from his junior season. His points were cut in half despite playing a similar amount of minutes and he continued to show a weakness offensively when the ball was anywhere around him.

Ron Patterson

McAllister: C-: Patterson showed flashes when he did see the floor, but was stuck on the bench for most of the season. The upside is there, but will Syracuse have a crowded backcourt for the next couple of years preventing Patterson from seeing regular minutes? Time will tell.

Garcia Jr: B-: Patterson seems like he could be on the verge. He doesn't lack confidence in his offensive game, despite seeing similar playing time to that of Johnson. Patterson shot better, notched more assists and steals while fouling less. Yes, the sample size is small, but his game seems ready to take the next step when more playing time is available.

Tyler Roberson

McAllister: C: Roberson showed promise. He is a natural rebounder, but struggled with the Syracuse system on both ends. He wasn't quite ready to contribute, but has all the skills to be a big time player for the Orange in the future. His freshman season was a bit of a disappointment, however.

Garcia Jr: C-: One of the top prospects in the country coming out of high school a season ago, Roberson simply disappointed when he got some burn as a frosh. Maybe it was a wakeup call, maybe it's just the case of a big needing a full season in the program before making an impact, but there was still considerable expectation for him. Roberson played about as much as Coleman did this season, scoring half as many points per game, pulling down a third of the amount of rebounds and more importantly failing to take advantage of the injuries to Grant and Coleman that hurt the roster this past season. If SU has any shot to contend for an ACC and/or national title next season, no matter who returns, Roberson has to be a key part of it.


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