SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Whether it's his confidence, his hair, his laugh or his killer-attitude, it's time for Syracuse fans to start preparing for life after Malachi Richardson.
Richardson reportedly told teams during the interview process that he will stay in the 2016 NBA Draft, foregoing his remaining eligibility at Syracuse. On Monday, he signed with agent Andy Miller, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
"Deciding to stay in the draft was a family decision and thought it was a great one," Richardson told Goodman. "Doing what was best for me was the most important thing. I am very thank for Syracuse giving me the opportunity that they did and I am very thankful for the great coaching staff and staff members.
"I truly loved Syracuse and will forever bleed o
Like most freshman, Richardson had an up-and-down shooting year, but seemed to always provide double-digit scoring for the Orange. His career-high of 23 points happened twice last season, both against Virginia. His 21 second-half point performance against the Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament was the exclamation point on his draft stock. That performance introduced the world to Malachi Richardson.
With the success also came freshman struggles. Richardson went 4-for-20 at St. John's, including 0-for-11 from 3-point range. Syracuse lost that game, 84-72, at Madison Square Garden in a devastating upset. Malachi gradually become more active on the glass, but also consistently had a few turnovers each game.
It's worth pointing out that he played out of position most of the season at the 3-spot, when he'll likely be a shooting guard at the next level. He measured at 6-foot-6 at the combine, but just 6-foot-4 without shoes on.
It's also worth pointing out that Richardson's scoring mindset always made him a threat when on the floor. He shot just under 37 percent from the field, and roughly 35 percent from 3-point range. His true potential came out during that second half against UVA, when he torched the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. His step-back 3-pointers, his ability to get the basket and his confidence set him apart from everyone on the floor for those twenty minutes.
It proved why Richardson was regarded as a potential one-and-done candidate before he arrived at Syracuse last summer.
The Orange will miss Richardson next season, but it will give incoming freshman Tyus Battle to showcase his elite talents and why he was so highly recruited across the country.
My projected 2016-17 starting lineup:
PG: John Gillon
SG: Tyus Battle
SF: Tyler Lydon
PF: Tyler Roberson
C: Dajuan Coleman
I expect Frank Howard to be the first guard off the bench, with Matthew Moyer and Paschal Chukwu entering the front court lineup at any given time. Chukwu will likely play more minutes than Coleman, especially if he can play to his 7-foot-2 length in the middle of Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone.
The argument of Gillon vs. Howard for the starting point guard job is simple to me: Gillon wouldn't have committed to Syracuse on his visit without knowing he'll likely be the starting point guard. He cancelled his following to visits to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, both of which are much closer to hometown of Houston, which leads me to believe he's promised extensive playing time. Frank Howard will likely have an increased role from last season, which leads me to believe he'll be the starting point guard at Syracuse for his junior and senior seasons.
Whether or not Syracuse can land another big - Taurean Thompson - for next season should be answered within the next few weeks. Five-star Turkish center Omer Yurtseven has signed with NC State.
Any Syracuse fan would take one season of Malachi Richardson in exchange for a Final Four run. His potential in undeniable, his confidence is unmatched and that has led to some lottery buzz recently. As Malachi leaves to pursue his dream, the Orange must adjust so they can try to make another run next year.