Syracuse basketball teams gear up for the new season

SU basketball teams gear up for new season

Orange men’s and women’s players are optimistic about their chances for the season.

Benny Williams makes a floater over Justin Taylor during the Orange Tipoff event at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 13, 2023.
Benny Williams takes a floater over Justin Taylor during Friday’s Orange Tipoff event in the JMA Wireless Dome.

Syracuse basketball fans had the first chance to see this year’s basketball squads up close on Friday night during the pre-season Orange Tipoff event.

With the first exhibition games slated for both squads later this month, men’s and women’s players were enthusiastic about their seasons ahead.

First-year men’s head coach Adrian Autry said he wants to reassure fans the Orange family culture will remain the same even if what they see on the court may look different.

“I think the way we play [and] our style of play has changed,” Autry said during the team media day earlier Friday at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.

Autry said the biggest stylistic change will be the man-to-man scheme rather than the 2-3 zone defense that SU was known for during Jim Boeheim’s 44 years as coach.

“Obviously, the biggest thing that everyone sees is the defensive side of the ball,” Autry said. “We’re going to play man-to-man, I have not been shy about that.”

The switch to man-to-man was noted by players as well, such as returning star guard Judah Mintz. The sophomore also echoed his coach’s comments on carrying the school’s culture.

“The foundation of ‘Cuse, [former coach] Boeheim already laid that,” Mintz said.  “We continue to do what he started but put our own flair on it.”

JJ Starling bringing the ball up the court during the Orange Tipoff event at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 13, 2023.
JJ Starling brings the ball up the court during Friday’s scrimmage game.

Mintz is joined in the backcourt by Notre Dame transfer guard J.J. Starling, a high school standout during his time in nearby Baldwinsville.

Starling cited being close to home as a reason for choosing the Orange in the transfer portal.

“I’m able to get back and see my parents way more often, even seeing them on the weekday after classes,” Starling said. “If I’m in a bad mood, I’m able to see my mom, I’m able to see my siblings, and that puts me in a better mood already.”

Women’s basketball ready for another jump

After a successful first season in charge of the Orange, head coach Felicia Legette-Jack‘s team is ready to come back better and hungrier.

Star graduate guard Dyaisha Fair called the new year a “revenge season.” The reigning All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team selection said she was ready for it all.

Dyaisha Fair takes a corner three at the start of the scrimmage during the Orange Tipoff event at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 13, 2023.
Dyaisha Fair takes a three-point shot during Friday’s scrimmage game.

Apart from Fair and some of the other returning veterans, SU will see new additions like graduate center Izabel Varajão. Varajão transferred to Syracuse from Michigan and called her relationship with Legette-Jack important as the team gears up to reach their goals.

“I feel like having a relationship with like my coach is so important because (she) motivates you to play even better,” Varajão said. “Coach Jack is amazing. She does a great job motivating us and making us want to be the best versions of ourselves.

“She asked me on our first call: ‘What’s your goal? What do you want for your life? Okay, so we’re gonna make that happen.’”

Fans show support for the teams

After their media day, the teams made their way to the JMA Wireless Dome to give fans a look at what’s to come.

The men’s and women’s teams participated in shooting drills, a dunk contest and a scrimmage.

Several fans said they were pumped for the new season and eager to show their support.

“I’m excited to get decked out in orange and cheer on the teams this season,” said SU freshman Jocelyn Amaya who was joined by fellow freshmen Gabrielle Whyte’Ainsley and Elenore Fresnel.

Longtime local fan Jackie Moore also showed up to support this iteration of the programs.

“I’ve had season tickets for over 40 years, and I really hope that for both football and basketball, we lead the ACC back into the Big East,” Moore said. “I’m just always positive about the team no matter what.”

Both teams will take part in Monroe Madness on Oct. 21 in Rochester before their exhibition games that will lead them into the start of the season.

Otto takes pictures with a young Syracuse basketball fan during the Orange Tipoff event at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 13, 2023.
Otto takes a photo with a young Syracuse basketball fan during the Orange Tipoff event.