Syracuse freshman forward Chris McCullough will declare for the NBA Draft, according Scout’s Evan Daniels and other reports. The news is a bit of a surprise, as he said after last season he would return for his sophomore campaign. But chatter started increasing over the past week or so that he was strongly considering the move despite tearing his ACL against Florida State this past year.
McCullough skyrocketed up draft boards with his early season success, but started to slip as he began to struggle. Still, his 6-foot-10 frame and skill set is coveted by NBA scouts.
During his freshman year, he averaged 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. His goal of reaching the NBA was never a secret with McCullough, and he was a prime one-and-done candidate before the injury. He will likely be projected as a late first round pick or early second round selection with that injury, however. McCullough will be able to rehab in a professional facility and support his first child, who is set to be born very soon.
McCullough was not going to be back until December anyway, as he had previously noted. Even when he did return to action, it would still take considerable time for him to get back to the player he was pre-injury.
So what does this do for Syracuse? Tyler Roberson appears to be the clear-cut started at power forward. Assuming DaJuan Coleman can comeback healthy, he should be the man in the middle. The small forward position could go to Michael Gbinije, assuming Kaleb Joseph remains the starting point guard. Beyond that, there are question marks.
Who will provide depth? Incoming freshmen Tyler Lydon and Moustapha Diagne will have to be leaned on to provide some minutes off the bench. Chinonso Obokoh and Diagne will battle to be the primary backup at center. Diagne can also play the four while Lydon can play either forward position.
The other question is whether or not this means that Syracuse will ramp up their pursuit of Thomas Bryant. He has not been contacted directly by the Orange since January, but sources have indicated that there has been communication with his mother. His mom has long been a champion of Bryant going to Syracuse and signee Malachi Richardson spent his time at the McDonald’s All-American game recruiting Bryant to join him on The Hill.
If Bryant does not come to Syracuse, the Orange would be down to 10 scholarship players for the 2015-16 season. That would likely mean they would start the four year scholarship ban this year rather than defer it to the 2016-17 season in order to finish the reduction sooner.