After losing two underclassmen to the NBA and two seniors off of last year’s team, the Syracuse basketball team may field one of its most inexperienced teams in recent years during the 2014-15 season. With a slew of young and unproven players being asked to play prominent roles, the Orange don’t exactly know what they’re going to get from most of their players, and that will make junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney, one of the few experienced players on the Syracuse roster, the key to the Orange’s success this season.
Cooney had a spectacular start to last season, scoring 15 points or more in seven of Syracuse’s first 12 games, including wins over Minnesota, California, Indiana and Villanova. But once the Orange got into conference play, Cooney was infuriatingly inconsistent; he failed to show up in big games down the stretch and struggled shooting the ball from the outside. If Syracuse is going to be a contender in the ACC in 2015, it needs a better and more consistent Cooney.
Joining Cooney in the Syracuse backcourt this season will be freshman Kaleb Joseph, who will have big shoes to fill, as he takes over for Tyler Ennis. Joseph is a different kind of point guard than Ennis, and there’s little chance that he’ll be able to command the Orange offense the way Ennis did last season, which means he’ll need help from a veteran like Cooney. Joseph is bound to experience a lot more ups and downs than Ennis did last season, making it crucial for Cooney to be a consistent performer and avoid the ups and downs he experienced last year.
Cooney is also a key to the Orange’s success because of the lack of experience in the frontcourt. In years past, Syracuse has had at least one experienced forward to lead the team offensively, but with C.J. Fair graduating and Jerami Grant leaving early, that’s not something the Orange will have this season. That leaves Cooney as the team’s top returning scorer at 12 points per game, with Rakeem Christmas a distant second, averaging six points per game last year.
Syracuse doesn’t know how much scoring to expect from sophomore Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson or freshman Chris McCullough, nor do they know if Joseph, Johnson or Michael Gbinije will become reliable threats from the perimeter, which means Syracuse will need a lot of scoring from Cooney this season. They can’t afford him being such a hot and cold shooter from the perimeter.
With such a young roster and so few proven commodities, there is great pressure on Cooney to perform at a high level and become the leader of the Orange in 2014-15. Without Cooney becoming a consistent scorer, Syracuse will have no idea who it can lean on this season, making Cooney the team’s biggest key to success this year.