Syracuse basketball welcomes new faces as transfer portal heats up

Basketball welcomes new faces as transfer portal heats up

Shalexxus Aaron and Cole Swider join the Orange during an offseason of departures.
Published: April 5, 2021
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The first half of Syracuse’s game against Florida State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

As March Madness wanes and the men’s and women’s basketball seasons conclude, Syracuse welcomed two new players from the transfer portal to offset players who have left the program. The women will be joined by former USC guard Shalexxus Aaron, and the men landed former Villanova forward Cole Swider.

The transfer portal has been the hot-button topic of the basketball season after the men’s and women’s teams were eliminated from the tournament. Both teams lost role players, but a group of starters and key contributors chose not to rejoin the Orange next season.

Insert Aaron, a redshirt sophomore who primarily came off the bench as a three-point shooting threat for the Trojans. As the Orange lose guards Tiana Mangakahia, Kiara Lewis and others, Aaron’s presence will help fill the gap.

She started seven games as a true freshman in 2019 before losing her 2020 season and the first half of her 2021 season due to injury. After returning, she picked up just one start but was prominent off the bench for the Trojans. Aaron was a top prospect and won numerous honors throughout her high school basketball career in Southern California.

In her two seasons at USC, she averaged 6.6 points on .422 shooting from the floor and .411 shooting from three on over four attempts per game. With the loss of last year’s starters, a larger role may be in play for Aaron as she spends the offseason adjusting to the team.

During a stretch in February that included a start, Aaron dropped 15- and 16-point games. She concluded her run at USC with more turnovers than assists, hinting at more of a shooting guard skillset, but time will tell her role with ‘Cuse.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim talks with his players during a time-out in the first half against N.C. State on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 during the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim talks with his players during a time-out in the first half against N.C. State on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 during the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

As the men’s team deals with significant losses of their own, Cole Swider joins the team from Villanova after the Wildcats were knocked out of the tournament. He will join recent signee Symir Torrence from Marquette as the men make another run at the NCAA Tournament in 2022.

The 6’9’’ junior will add size to the smaller Syracuse team. He was more utilized in the 2020 season, starting 15 games and appearing in 31, but he saw just two starts in 2021. He shot .424 from the field with the Wildcats and shot .402 from three in his most recent season.

Across three years, he contributed 5.2 points per game, but as a sophomore, his high was 6.1 per game. Despite coming off the bench, 2021 saw his high in minutes per game at 18.8, and he pulled down 2.8 rebounds per game.

Three years ago, Swider chose Villanova over Syracuse and Xavier, but assistant coach and former star player Gerry McNamara helped draw him in as a transfer. Coming out of high school in 2018, he was ranked No. 34 by ESPN’s Top 100 Prep Seniors, and was selected to the USA Junior National Team.

While neither player will be expected to single-handedly replace the names and games that were lost to graduation and the transfer portal, both signal a move in the right direction from two programs that had 2021 tournament runs. More moves are expected to fill out the rosters in coming weeks.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and lead sports producer for The NewsHouse.