SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The combo guard. A guard who has the skill set of both a point guard and shooting guard. Someone with the intelligence to run a team, unselfishness to distribute, but can also create his show and be a potent scorer when needed. These types of players have always done well at Syracuse.
Having multiple players with such skill sets provides versatility. That versatility is something head coach Jim Boeheim and staff have used to perfection over the years.
Think about recent history. Players like Brandon Triche, who spent significant time at both guard spots. Or Dion Waiters, Michael Gbinije, Scoop Jardine, Eric Devendorf and many others. Even Gerry McNamara, a current assistant coach, was a combo guard for the Orange. True he played a lot of point, but had the skill set of a two-guard as well.
Combo guards have always thrived within the Orange's system.
Enter one of Syracuse's top targets regardless of class Eric Ayala. A four-star, top-100 guard prospect currently in the 2018 class. Ayala defines the combo-guard. He runs the point in high school, but he can take over games with his scoring ability.
Ayala's size is also a great fit for the zone. He has length, lateral quickness and a high basketball IQ.
What makes him an even more intriguing prospect is the fact that he could join a program as a 2017 or 2018 recruit. Regardless of which class he ultimately selects, Ayala will be a top target for the Orange.
In 2017, Ayala joins Syracuse as the guard they need. A talented player who can step in and fill a role right away. Ayala would join Frank Howard and Tyus Battle in the backcourt. There is even the possibility that Battle could move to the small forward spot, opening up a starting position in the back court.
The potential for playing Ayala and Battle in the back court together, two combo guards who can handle and score, gives Syracuse a lot of versatility. It puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
If Battle stays at shooting guard and Ayala comes off the bench, he becomes the spark that Boeheim loves to have. The sixth man who still plays 25-30 minutes per game and gives the Orange a jolt on both ends of the floor. A true playmaker who can get into the lane, finish at the rim or find his teammates for easy buckets.
The role filled by Dion Waiters as that combo guard just a few years ago. One that turned him into a top five NBA Draft pick.
Ayala would solidify the Syracuse back court for next season.
If he chooses to stay in 2018, however, he still becomes an important target. Battle could be gone by then, and Howard would potentially be entering his senior year. That leaves a lot of back court minutes available, meaning Ayala would also play plenty as a true freshman.
Regardless, it is clear that Ayala is perhaps the most important recruiting target still on the board for Syracuse. Especially if he is a 2017 prospect.
With his skill set, Syracuse's combo-guard track record and immediate playing time available, it could be the perfect fit for both sides.