SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – Media day for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim as he gets set for his 39th year at his alma mater didn’t start the way it normally does.
Syracuse basketball, which already faces a multitude of on-court questions entering the season, now has off-court issues looming.
Syracuse.com reported about an hour before media day was to begin Friday afternoon that the NCAA has invited Syracuse officials to a hearing at the end of the month as part of a multiyear inquiry into the school’s athletic department. The hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions signifies the lengthy investigation into Syracuse is complete.
The hearing is one of the final steps before determining whether the school has committed NCAA violations and if it will be punished. It means Syracuse faces accusations of a “severe” or “significant” breach of conduct.
“This will be the last time I answer this question. We’re going to talk about basketball. That’s all we’ve ever talked about,” Boeheim told reporters. “We don’t discuss anything that happens or has happened with the NCAA.”
On the court, Boeheim has to find replacements for leading scorer C.J. Fair and reserve center Baye Moussa Keita, who exhausted their eligibility, and point guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant, who left early for the NBA.
Fair, Ennis and Grant were the team’s top scorers, and Ennis led the ACC in assists with 5.5 per game. Keita impacted games on the defensive end. Then there’s junior center Dajuan Coleman, who faces an uncertain future following knee surgery last season. Coleman said it was “50-50” as to whether he would play or redshirt this season. He said he would know more in the next few weeks after he begins on-court drills.
Boeheim acknowledged “there is no timetable” for Coleman’s return.
Syracuse has averaged just under 30 wins a season over the past five years, but this season’s team will be hard-pressed to match that. Last season, the Orange were 28-6 after a school-record 25-0 start.
Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph and first-year forward Chris McCullough are expected to have to play big roles, as will returning senior center Rakeem Christmas, junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney, sophomore forwards Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson, and swingman Michael Gbinije.
Last season’s team ranked 10th in the conference in 3-point shooting (33.3 percent) and also was 10th in scoring at 68.3 points per game. Cooney is the biggest threat from the outside but has to find consistency. Johnson and Gbinije could also provide a spark from the perimeter.
“Our biggest challenge is we lost our three leading scorers two years in a row now, and we lost our best defensive player coming off the bench with Baye,” Boeheim said. “In a two-year period those are tremendous – big, big losses. “C.J. and Baye, four-year players, and probably the best freshman point guard in the country last year (Ennis). Huge losses. The most we’ve had in a while, but we have a couple starters back (Cooney and Christmas), we have experience inside.
“After that we have a lot of young guys that will have an opportunity to prove themselves,” Boeheim added. “We feel we have young, talented guys, and we think they’re very capable of doing what we need to have them do.”
The team held its Orange Madness on Friday night. Among the attractions besides a dunking contest, fans were to be allowed to snap photos of themselves with both men’s and women’s players and coaches. Soldiers from Fort Drum 80 miles north of the Carrier Dome were to escort Boeheim onto the court. Stars from the past – among them Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Lawrence Moten, Eric Devendorf, Matt Gorman, and John Wallace – were to scrimmage, along with the men’s and women’s teams.