With Booth off the board, the common denominator in all three remaining ESPN 100 recruitments is Syracuse. And while the Orange have been rumored to be a favorite for both Joseph and Whitehead, they now find themselves as the only local option for Newton now that Villanova has found its point guard in the 2014 class.
So now the question is: How many of these guys could potentially play together at Syracuse?
No. 35 recruit Isaiah Whitehead plans to visit Syracuse, UCLA and Arizona.
From Jim Boeheim’s perspective, I don’t think there’s any denying the Orange would be happy to get two of the three. Judging from where he and his staff were situated this summer, it seems clear that Joseph and Whitehead are the top two priorities.
Boeheim’s pitch to both will be that they can not only coexist, but also flourish together as potentially the best freshman backcourt in the country in 2014.
But the reality is that this isn’t just a question of Joseph and Whitehead (and Newton) being able to coexist with each other. It’s also a question of them being able to coexist with Tyler Ennis, who is expected to take over the team’s starting point guard position this season and play heavy minutes as a freshman.
That’s where it gets a little complicated. Syracuse doesn’t have a bigger need on its roster than building up depth behind Ennis, who is slated to be the lone true point guard on this year’s team. And because Joseph is the only true point guard among their three main backcourt targets, there is an obvious fit, especially considering that Syracuse has been Joseph’s dream school since he was young.
However, the problem lies in the fact that Joseph wants to play significant minutes from Day One, and that isn’t as likely with Ennis in the fold.
Ideally, Syracuse would love to build a backcourt in the mold of its 2011-12 unit that had so much depth that one future lottery pick (Dion Waiters) came off the bench and another (Michael Carter-Williams) barely played down the stretch of the season. The challenge is to overcome all of these guys not only wanting to play right away, but play right away with the ball in their hands.
One other thing to keep in mind is that Whitehead has talked openly in the last year about potential package deals with two players: Newton and No. 7 overall 2014 recruit Chris McCullough (Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy). McCullough is already committed to Syracuse and the Orange have always been perceived as the only true suitor for both, even before McCullough made his decision.
As for the potential of Whitehead and Newton joining McCullough at Syracuse, it’s hard to imagine that coming to fruition if Joseph commits to the Orange.
So where does that leave Syracuse with its top three backcourt targets? Here’s my gut feeling:
Joseph: Syracuse is his dream school and he’s measuring that, in addition to the Orange’s recent history of producing pros in the backcourt, against the fact that he knows he might not be the team’s starting point guard for at least the first two years. Meanwhile, his other two finalists -- Providence and West Virginia -- both offer him the chance to earn significant minutes from the start. Right now, I’d probably bet on Syracuse, although the longer this goes the better it is for the other two schools, especially if Whitehead or Newton picks Syracuse first.
Whitehead: Of the three, he’s really the only one who isn’t impacted by the other two because he plays the shooting guard spot. To be clear, he’ll impact their decisions. But if he decides he wants to wear Orange, no matter when it is or who else has already committed, it’s a good bet he’ll be starting alongside Ennis in the backcourt in 2014. Whitehead has said he’ll also visit Arizona and UCLA this fall and hasn’t ruled out considering other schools. But at the end of the day, Syracuse has been the consistent player in his recruitment from the beginning and already has a built-in advantage with McCullough on board, so the Orange probably have the best chance to land Whitehead.
Newton: Syracuse’s coaches didn’t follow Newton as much as they did Joseph or Whitehead this summer. Instead, no one followed him more than Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, and there isn’t a head coach in the country who would like to bring the potential Whitehead/Newton package deal to fruition more than Pitino. The other major player here is Miami, which is in very good shape and has to be considered a favorite for Newton, independent of any package deal. UCLA, Oregon and Texas A&M are also in the mix.