With Tyler Ennisheaded to the NBA Draft, Syracuse fans are wondering, what’s next?
Barry Connors, who coaches incoming Syracuse point guard Kaleb Joseph at Cushing (MA) Academy, says not to worry.
“Hell, if I had a vested interest in Syracuse I’d be worried, too,” Connors told SNY.tv by phone Friday morning. “You’re losing a point guard who’s pretty damn good. I got some news for you. This kid’s ready.”
Connors spouted off a few impressive stats and also delved into Joseph’s game.
The 6-foot-3 Joseph averaged 16.3 points, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds this year for a Cushing team that went 23-6 and won its second straight NEPSAC Class AA Championship. Against Kimball Union in the NEPSAC final, he went for 24 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and no turnovers. For his career, he won 99 games and two NEPSAC titles.
Connors pointed out that Joseph did all that in the “best league in the country,” one that also featured C.J. Fair, Michael Carter-Williams, Melvin Ejim and many others.
“The thing that’s nice about him, I mean he’s ready but he’s also going to keep getting better,” Connors said. “He’s going to keep better. His body’s going to blow up. Once he gets coached up and gets into [that] environment, he’s going to be able to dedicate a lot more [time]. This kid’s work ethic is insatiable. He’s tireless in the gym and when he gets into a situation where he can really focus on just school and basketball, he’s going to blow up.”
Connors sees Joseph as a long, athletic scorer who needs to work on his 3-point shooting and familiarize himself with the zone defense.
“His strengths are his versatility,” Connors said. “He can score the ball, he can distribute the ball. He can get to the rim and create. His mid-range game is as good as I’ll go as far as to say anybody in the country. I think he’s gotta work on the 3-point shot for sure. It’s getting much better for sure. If there was a kink in his armor, I’d say it was the 3-pointer but even that’s improved.
“His length and his athleticism. He’s every bit of 6-3, long, can be disruptive on the defensive end of the ball.”
Connors said Joseph must learn how to play zone defense after playing “10 minutes of zone defense in four years.”
“It’s kind of funny,” Connors said. “He’s an incredible on-the-ball defender with his length and anticipation and knowledge of where the ball is going to go and when it’s going to go there. He’s just a disruptive force on that end.”
Ennis was consistently praised for his poise on offense, his ability to change speeds and his ability to take — and often make — the big shot.
Asked how Joseph compares in the poise department, Connors said, “At our level, they don’t come any more poised. Any mistakes that he made he was trying to make something happen, forcing it a little bit, pushing it a little bit. But I think that came with his confidence and his willingness and desire to attack and create. He might force a pass here and there. He would never turn the ball over trying to do something for himself, which I thought was a huge plus.”
Connors said he speaks frequently with Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins about Joseph.
“His gift is that he has great athleticism and great speed,” Hopkins told the Syracuse Post-Standard earlier this year, “and (college) teams are going to be trying to keep him out of the lane.”
“This kid’s upside is through the roof,” Connors said. “He’s gonna get so much better.” Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.