EARNED INTEREST: SU’s run for the 2016 national championship has attracted immense talent to the program

first_img Comments On April 5, 2016, Syracuse played Connecticut in the program’s first ever national title game appearance. The contest, an 82-51 beatdown by the Huskies, drew a total television audience of nearly 3 million viewers.Syracuse was on the biggest stage in program history. And although it may not have been a moral victory, the loss benefitted the Orange in the form of eight players — three transfers and five recruits.Since that national title loss, SU has seen an influx of talent. After the 2015-16 season, guard Isis Young, forward Miranda Drummond and guard Jasmine Nwajei, who led all of Division I in points per game that season, all transferred to Syracuse.At the same time, five then-high school juniors — Nikki Oppenheimer, Amaya Finklea-Guity, Digna Strautmane, Maeve Djaldi-Tabdi and Marie-Paule Foppossi — took favor to Syracuse and eventually committed.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLast season, the Orange graduated four of its five starters including program greats Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes, and the team now leans on these eight new players to replace lost production. None of the new faces have played a minute together in a Division I basketball game, but with the three transfers having a year to learn the system and three five-star freshmen on the roster, SU feels this team can reach the game that brought these players to central New York in the first place.“Coach Q took a team of great talent and brought it to that next level where it hadn’t been before,” Young said. “Then, to know that this coach is looking at you to recruit you and think that he can obviously use you to get the next level and get to the national championship is amazing.”The national championship game isn’t the direct reason Oppenheimer chose SU, because she was already committed, but when the Chicago native found out SU would be playing in the Final Four just a few hours away in Indianapolis, she knew she had to go. Attending the game, she said, only deepened her desire to come to Syracuse. Young, Nwajei and Drummond looked on from afar.Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorAll three of them finished their respective seasons by the time Syracuse and UConn squared off, Nwajei at Wagner and Drummond and Young both exiting the NCAA tournament in the first weekend at St. Bonaventure and Florida, respectively. With no basketball to be played, their eyes turned to the Final Four.“It impacted my decision in a major way,” Nwajei said. “When … I watched the game, I felt like I could play in that system.”Of the five incoming freshmen, three were five-star recruits ranked inside the top 40 of espnW’s HoopGurlz 100 player rankings. The lowest of the three, Fiklea-Guity, will be the starting center for the season-opener on Nov. 10 against Morgan State, Hillsman said. The SU head coach also praised Strautmane and how she can play three positions on the floor.“Digna has been fantastic,” Hillsman said. “She’s been playing really well for us.”As for transfers, Syracuse brings in proven scoring in Nwajei. In her junior season at Wagner two years ago, Nwajei led the entire country with 28.7 points per game.Young and Drummond don’t bring as much scoring — both averaged fewer than 10 points a game at their stops prior to SU — but both had decorated high-school careers, and Young was the No. 12 guard in her recruiting class.The inherent advantage all three Division I transfers wield is the year spent on the bench learning SU’s system. Young, Nwajei and Drummond have all had a chance to build bonds with other players. They have learned the intricacies of the press and fast-paced offense the Orange will run this year.“We’re growing into the identity Syracuse has birthed already,” Nwajei said. “In due time, it will come together.”Another critical component is communication on defense when SU full-court presses its opponents. A major tactic SU is deploying, Oppenheimer said, is a call-and-response whenever Hillsman calls for an adjustment. He barks an order to one player who will relay it to the other four players. Then, everyone responds to ensure there’s no confusion.Outside of basketball, every player has made an effort to get close as a team. In October, Strautmane said, the team had a book club meeting where players recited their favorite quotes from books. Other times, they watch movies as a team. Young and Abby Grant are roommates, and Young dubbed the duo “Sniper Gang” because of their shooting prowess.Now, on a run of four-straight NCAA tournament appearances, the new faces are embracing the chance to make it five. Doing that, players said, would cement the winning culture they all saw in 2016.“Our expectation is to go to the Final Four and win a national championship,” Young said.If Syracuse does make the Final Four again in 2018, it’s likely that other prospective players around the country will be watching too.Banner photo illustration by Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff Photographer Published on November 5, 2017 at 11:48 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.last_img read more

Shahid Afridi, batsmen flayed after Pakistan’s Asia Cup exit

first_imgFormer cricketers heavily criticised the miserable batting performance by the Pakistan team, which was knocked out of Asia Cup after defeat against hosts Bangladesh.Pakistan could manage only 129 runs on the board in the make-or-break match on Wednesday and failed to contain the Bangladeshi batsmen.”It is so disappointing to go out of the Asia Cup in this manner. I was hoping our team would motivate themselves to beat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and set up a final with India,” former paceman Shoaib Akhtar said.Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq laid the blame of recent defeats on batting. Also read: Bangladesh stun Pakistan to enter Asia Cup final “Our bowlers again did a good job but the batting is just not clicking. The selectors have tried everyone who is doing well in domestic cricket so what else can one can do,” Misbah said.Misbah contended that Pakistan had again misread the pitch and situation by playing Anwar Ali and not giving more overs to allrounder Shoaib Malik.”The ball was gripping and I would have thought Malik would be a good option early on for a few overs. The pitch was not easy for batting,” he said.Pakistan’s champion offspinner Saeed Ajmal also expressed surprise over some of the captaincy decisions.”Malik should have been brought on in the seventh or eight over. They were other lapses in the field as well. The calculations were wrong,” he said.Former Test captain Javed Miandad, Mohammad Yusuf and Rashid Latif and former players Mohsin Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz were more forthright in blaming the batting for the poor performances. Also read: Pakistan need to do something special in World T20, says Afridi advertisementPakistan have lost seven of their last 10 T20Is and in their last four matches they have quickly lost their first three or four wickets inside the power play overs.Even against Bangladesh, Pakistan had lost three quick wickets. Pakistan have also tasted defeat in seven of their last 10 one-day internationals, increasing concern about where the team is headed before the World T20 in India.”This is one of the worst batting performances I have seen in recent times,” Miandad said.He said it was time for the PCB to seriously think about the future and bring in a new captain and mindset in the team.”When the captain’s place in the side is not confirmed how can we expect good results.”Yusuf said batting had been pathetic in recent times. “These batsmen just lack proper application and technique and try to hit themselves out of trouble on pitches which offer some assistance to bowlers. It doesn’t work that way in international cricket.”Yusuf also felt that Afridi needed to seriously rethink his future.”He is under immense pressure as captain since he is not clicking as a player despite being the most experienced member of the squad.”Nawaz said that it was time for the PCB to ask Afridi to step down and appoint someone else for the World T20.”We have heard enough excuses but when the captain is not performing how can he question or pull up the other players,” Nawaz questioned.Latif said Pakistan’s approach to T20 cricket on pitches which were not pure batting tracks was faulty and they didn’t read the situation well.”I don’t know who to blame but individuals when they play for Pakistan must foremost accept responsibility for their own performances. It is disappointing that Bangladesh put us out of the final… a country which is so much less experienced than us in international cricket,” Latif said.Mohsin Khan said the team management needed to be asked questions why they were getting decisions wrong and why they couldn’t motivate the players and improve their performances.”The PCB can’t just wait for things to improve,” he added.Former PCB chairman Najam Sethi, who now heads the powerful Executive Committee, tweeted that he was disappointed by the dismal performance of the team.”I am sorely disappointed by continuing dismal performance of our team. PCB management must take swift action against responsible people,” Sethi tweeted soon after Pakistan were beaten by hosts Bangladesh.last_img read more