The Wright Man for the Job

The hottest topic in the Syracuse basketball world besides the running bet on whether or not Gerry McNamara and Eric Devendorf will shave their ridiculous looking semi-beards by March is who should start at guard next to Gerry?

There are three guys possible: Devendorf, Wright, and McCroskey. But really, unless the first two screw up badly, or Louie pulls a Tonya Harding and hires someone to bust their kneecaps, I can't see McCroskey getting back into the starting lineup.

Here's why. Louie, as good of a kid as he is, doesn't produce enough offense out of that position. His drive is a little out of control still, and more importantly, he can't shoot. This allows the other guard to play help defense on Gerry, who can be shut down by one good defender; and two decent ones can almost always do the job.

Kind of a raw deal for Lou-Lou because he is a good defensive and rebounding guard. But, that's not what this team needs out of the other guard spot. The team needs someone who has a specific offensive talent, whether it be scoring or passing, and Louie doesn't have it. I don't think he ever will.

Secondly, Louie is in Boeheim's doghouse. That's a bad place to be if you want minutes. Saying that stuff about being promised a starting position and feeling betrayed will not fly with Boeheim. He would bench his first born for that. Then Louie comes out and makes it worse by saying he would rather not play at all then play two minutes after the TCU game.

From a journalistic perspective, I appreciate Louie being honest and forthcoming, but he's shooting himself in the foot with Boeheim. You just can't criticize your coach's decisions at the college level.

I do think Louie will still see time. Maybe 10 minutes per game and more if Syracuse needs him for defense, or if the Orange is getting killed on the boards.

(For the record, I do like Louie both as a sixth man and a person. He is a genuine kid. You can tell when you talk to him. He isn't trying to think of a political BS please-everybody answer, he's just speaking his mind. One of the rare college athletes who does.)

So that leaves Josh Wright, and the current starter Eric Devendorf. Both have different talents. Both have also just offset each other with monster games. Josh Wright's 19 point, eight assist job against Manhattan was a coming-out party. Then Devendorf scores 19 of his own against TCU on 6-for-10 shooting, including five threes. So who's better?

Wright is a pure point guard who knows how to distribute the ball, and although he makes some mistakes where the entire Dome crowd collectively looks at the person sitting next to them and says, "What the (use your imagination) was that?", he still passes the ball well for the most part.

Josh is also the fastest guy on the team. He is usually a step ahead of everyone on the court, making fast breaks much more likely. This is essential as a point guard, you have to be able to get ahead of the play and push the ball. It's something Gerry struggles with when he plays the position. The other positive about Wright is his ability to draw the foul. I don't know if you've noticed this, but he gets to the line like it's his job.

There are some negatives with Josh too. He and McNamara combine to make a barely over 6-foot front line of the zone, which isn't a huge problem unless you are playing a team with real physical guards. Oh yeah, Syracuse is in the Big East. That could be a no-no.

Wright also makes those dumb plays I was talking about earlier. I don't know if he is trying too hard, or it's bad judgment, or what. But he plays great for 19 minutes, and makes one or two bone-headed plays for one minute. The guy is the Aaron Brooks of college basketball.

Then there's Eric. Not only does he look like the thugged-out 8-mile version of Gerry (saw Devo rapping in practice the other day, no seriously, I did), but he can score. It's what he does. Devendorf can shoot. He can attack the hole. He is pretty good in the open court, and he takes contact well.

He also seems to have an ignorant confidence about him, almost like Gerry his freshman year. He doesn't know he's not supposed to make game clinching shots as a freshman like he did against Manhattan, just as Gerry didn't know a freshman wasn't supposed to hit six threes in the first half of the national championship game. You can't underestimate confidence, whether it's warranted confidence or not.

So why did Boeheim call him "lost" in college basketball?

It's his defense. Devendorf doesn't seem to understand his responsibilities in the zone, which is natural for a freshman. Most freshman are allowed to ease into it though, Eric doesn't have that luxury. There is a learning curve for him there, but when it comes to ability, he has all the tools.

So it's not an easy decision. There are ups and downs for both these guys. If you're asking who the better overall player is, it's Devendorf. But, he's not the one who should start. Wright is.

For one simple reason, he is a point guard. And that means when he is on the floor Gerry becomes a shooting guard. I don't care what McNamara says, he is better off the ball than he is taking it up the court.

He doesn't get as tired, and is more effective at the end of the game. A point guard also sets him up for better shots, because let's be honest, Gerry's shot selection can be pretty awful at times.

The stats provide all the proof you need. Look at McNamara's production in the games where Wright has gotten more time than Devendorf. G-Mac's two best games of the year have come when Wright was on the court for over 23 minutes.

Gerry had 25 points in the Manhattan game, and 22 against Siena, both his highest scoring games of the year. There is a direct correlation between Wright's minutes and Gerry's offensive production (I feel like I'm in stats class again).

Contrast that with a 2-for-10 effort from three-point range against TCU when he played point guard for most of the game. I'm not saying Gerry can't play point guard here (although that's questionable too), but why not put in a true point guard like Wright and get more production out of your star?

Eric might be the better player, but Josh makes Syracuse the better team.

Besides, this way Devendorf will have some extra time to pursue his rapping career.

Cuse Nation Top Stories