Last season, Jim Boeheim handed freshman point guard Tyler Ennis the keys to the offense. With Ennis now donning a Phoenix Suns jersey, Boeheim has handed the keys to yet another freshman point guard, this time Kaleb Joseph.
Joseph (6’2, 180) comes into an interesting situation at Syracuse. Gone are frontcourt stalwarts C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant. However, five-star recruit Chris McCullough joins the fold alongside senior center Rakeem Christmas and junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney.
A four-star recruit in his own right, Joseph was ranked as the No. 50 recruit in the 2014 class. Although Joseph struggles with his inconsistent jumper, he’s an athletic point guard with good size and intriguing upside, which should play well at both ends of the floor under Boeheim.
Although Joseph isn’t as good of a shooter as Ennis was, he’s able to score in a number of ways, which was a strength of Ennis’ during his lone season in Orange. What could set him apart from other freshmen point guards across the country is his ability to remain poised when under pressure, especially when he has the ball in his hands.
While Ennis was more of a mistake-proof, controlled and efficient point guard, Joseph likes to get out and run, run, run, which is something the Orange looks to do a bit more in Boeheim’s 38th season at the helm.
Joining Joseph is McCullough, a 6-foot-10 power forward who was ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the class of 2014.
Considered one of the most gifted big men in the class of 2014, McCullough runs the floor very well for his size and likes to play above the rim. What sets him apart from most big men in the ACC is his superior quickness, which has Orange fans drooling when envisioning him next to Christmas at both ends of the floor.
Able to handle the ball well for a player his size, don’t be surprised to see McCullough running the fast break at times for the Orange. While he’s still very raw, McCullough possesses a naturally soft touch around the rim, but he still needs to raise his release now that he’s at the collegiate level. He’s a big, dynamic prospect that the Orange needs to develop fast.
Both prized freshmen recruits have big shoes to fill, namely Ennis’ and Grant’s shoes. The two combined for 25 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game last season as the Orange went 26-8 in its first season in the ACC. If Joseph and McCullough can come anywhere close to replicating those numbers, the Orange could again be in the conversation of best team in the nation, especially with Christmas and Cooney primed for huge years for Syracuse.
With the two freshmen joining the ranks in blue and orange, Syracuse will most certainly improve on their No. 342 rank in adjusted tempo. Combine that with another tough 2-3 defense to crack and the Orange could be in prime position to make a lot of noise in the ACC and NCAA Tournament.