The expectations for 5-star recruit Chris McCullough before the season kicks off are about as high as any player in recent Syracuse history. The only thing is forecasting hopes and dreams for a true freshman, no matter what the skill level, is anything but a sure thing.
The Bronx, N.Y. native has all the accolades coaches, teammates, and scouts salivate over. A 7-foot-2 inch wingspan, freakishly athletic, a top-20 scout.com ranking and most importantly “unlimited” potential as Jim Boeheim put it.
But with all his decorated honors McCullough has drawn criticism like any star player would coming into Syracuse. He was dismissed from his prep school, Brewster Academy, in the fall of 2013 for violating school rules forcing him to transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida where he averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds per game last season. He's also taken slack for not being an aggressive player and lacking intensity and work ethic, but he believes critics mistake his effortless style of play for lack of passion.
Now that he’s on campus and just over a week away from the Orange’s first exhibition game on November 2nd against Carleton McCullough’s passion is starting to show as the season nears.
“This is a big opportunity for me[to play at Syracuse],” McCullough said. “I’m ready to get on the court. I’m just anxious now.”
With the loss of it’s three leading scorers two years in a row and only two starters returning the Orange undoubtedly will have to look to it’s young, talented freshman as it has so much over the years.
Along with freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, McCullough’s role on this year’s team will be one that Coach Boeheim believes will reveal itself once the season begins.
“Chris is another talented freshman and he’s done very well in practices, but the question now is how does he adapt to game situations,” Boeheim said. “You really don’t know, some freshman step up immediately and others need a little more time.”
Most of that success in practice Coach Boeheim is talking about with McCullough has come from the aid of Assistant Coaches Adrian Autry and Mike Hopkins who both have a similar outlook toward the skilled freshman.
“Chris has been a guy who’s really learned how to work,” Hopkins said. “What I’ve seen from him so far is a smart basketball player who’s willing to learn.”
So with all the hype and talk that seems to follow McCullough wherever his basketball prowess takes him the only thing left is to see how it all lends itself to the challenges of big-time college basketball. For a player who grew up in the same state as “New York’s College Team” all be it roughly five hours away, putting on a Syracuse uniform has always been on his mind.
“I always wanted to come here,” McCullough said. “I love watching the zone and Coach Boeheim.”
McCullough is here now along with an Orange team whose expectations this season are lower than normal and Coach Boeheim knows that nothing can be expected, especially from freshman, until the season starts.
“Their talented players[McCullough and Joseph] who have adjusted well to practices,” Boeheim said. “How well they’ll adjust to games is the next question and I don’t know the answer to that.”