It Is Too Early To Give Up On Kaleb Joseph

Syracuse basketball freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph's rookie season has been ridiculed to the point where many are giving up on his college basketball future. We breakdown why that is unfair and premature inside.

Ask nearly any Syracuse basketball fan, and they will say freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph had a bad year this past season. Many have suggested they want him to transfer and do not believe he is a division one caliber player.

It is far too early to have that drastic of an opinion on Joseph’s career arc.

Yes he struggled with his shot, looked lost at times on both ends and had careless turnovers. But remember, he was a true freshman. True freshman point guards like Tyler Ennis or even Tyus Jones at Duke are revered as much as they are for a reason.

They are rare.

In fact, more true freshmen point guards struggle during their first year at the college level. Let’s take a look at some recent Syracuse guards who had “subpar” freshman campaigns and see how Joseph compared.

Player School FG% 3pt% Pts Asst TOs Stls
Kaleb Joseph Syr 37.6% 20.0% 5.9 3.8 2.3 0.9
Dion Waiters Syr 41.1% 32.9% 6.6 1.5 0.9 1.1
Michael Carter-Williams Syr 43.1% 38.9% 2.7 2.1 0.6 0.8
Scoop Jardine Syr 46.7% 27.8% 5.5 2.5 1.8 1.2
Brandon Triche Syr 50.0% 40.0% 8.1 2.8 2.0 0.9
Andy Rautins Syr 37.7% 32.6% 2.9 0.7 0.4 0.3

Joseph’s numbers are not that dissimilar from those players. Most will agree that Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Andy Routins all had fine Syracuse careers. In fact, they become stars at different points in their tenure with the Orange.

After Andy Routins first season, the chatter was similar to what is being said about Joseph. That he could not play at this level, Syracuse wasted a scholarship and they should have recruited someone else.

Fast forward to his senior campaign and Andy Routins was one of the best players in college basketball on a team that may have won the national championship if not for an Arinze Onuaku injury.

Josephg was also not the only true freshman point guard to struggle last season. Many that were rated above him in Scout’s final 2014 recruiting rankings posted similar numbers.

Player School FG% 3pt% Pts Asst TOs Stls
Kaleb Joseph Syr 37.6% 20.0% 5.9 3.8 2.3 0.9
Joel Berry UNC 40.4% 35.4% 4.2 1.5 0.7 0.4
Quentin Snyder Louis 34.9% 28.4% 4.1 1.3 0.8 0.3
Jordan McLaughlin USC 35.2% 27.2% 12.1 4.5 2.3 1.5
Robert Cartwright Stan 35.9% 64.7% 1.9 0.7 0.4 0.3
Devonte Graham Kan 39.3% 42.5% 5.7 2.1 1.1 0.9
Alex Robinson Tex A&M 41.9% 36.1% 5.2 2.6 1.7 0.5

The one that sticks out in this group is McLaughlin from USC. His scoring numbers are significantly better than Joseph’s. One of the main reasons is because he plays on a rebuilding Trojans squad that used him as one of their primary offensive weapons. That was never going to be the case with Joseph.

Still, McLaughlin’s shooting numbers are very similar to Joseph’s.

Here’s betting that many of those players end up becoming solid college basketball contributors. These types of numbers are similar to what you find with a lot of college freshmen. Ones that become stars and among the nation’s best at their position.

Let’s take a look at a few of those from the past several seasons.

Player School FG% 3pt% Pts Asst TOs Stls
Kaleb Joseph Syr 37.6% 20.0% 5.9 3.8 2.3 0.9
Monte Morris Iowa St 43.0% 40.6% 6.8 3.7 0.8 1.3
Frank Mason Kan 41.7% 32.7% 5.5 2.1 1.1 0.5
Shabazz Napier Conn 37.0% 32.6% 7.8 3.0 1.8 1.6
Juwan Staten WVU 37.6% 0.0% 7.6 3.3 1.5 1.2
Marcus Paige UNC 35.6% 34.4% 8.2 4.6 2.5 1.4

Low shooting percentages and high turnovers seem to be the theme for freshmen point guards whether you are looking at Syracuse, this past season, or in the years prior to that.

All of these players made significant strides in year two. Juwan Staten, in fact, averaged 18 points and six assists per game as a sophomore. Monte Morris put up 12 points and five assists. Napier 13 and six. They all improved their shooting percentages as well.

Kaleb Joseph was a highly ranked recruit for a reason. He had 11 offers for a reason, including from the likes of Ohio State, Connecticut, Maryland and West Virginia.

From his Scout evaluation as a high school senior: “He's a fine mid-range jump shooter who would thrive in high pick and roll, thanks to fundamentally sound mechanics, good elevation and a high comfort level from the elbows and baselines. Joseph is strong and aggressive off the dribble as well.”

Those skills have not gone away. There is simply a transition period from the high school game to the college game, and Joseph struggled in year one. But that experience could prove invaluable down the road.

He showed flashes of that ability, hitting the mid range jumper in a variety of games. He had 10 points and 10 assists in a road loss at Villanova. In that game, he was under control, did not force anything, attacked when necessary and set his teammates up for good looks at the basket.

In another road game at Boston College, he scored a career high 14 points and dished out four assists. He was a perfect 7-7 shooting in the game. Joseph attacked the rim on multiple occasions and showed that quick first step and burst off the bounce that made him such a highly touted prospect.

Part of the problem is being spoiled by Tyler Ennis, who was a star as a true freshman. He was fantastic right from the start. But those types of players are rare, and Joseph was not ready to be that initially.

Far too often, offseason development is underrated and discounted. But Syracuse has had a litany of players look lost as true freshmen only to turn things around one year later.

While this is not a freshman to sophomore jump, Syracuse fans need to only look to this past season to see a huge jump from year to year. Rakeem Christmas went from a role player at best with below average numbers to one of the best players in college basketball due to his offseason development.

Before anyone gives up on a kid who is barely 20 years old, remember what the Syracuse coaches saw in him. Remember that he is going to work in the offseason to get better and take strides in the 2015-16 season. Given the history of freshmen point guards as outlined above, there is still plenty of time for Joseph to become a productive member of the Syracuse basketball program.

If he is not giving up and the Orange coaches are not giving up, why should anyone else?

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