Buddy Boeheim develops into Syracuse’s zone buster during conference play

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 6, 2019 at 11:47 pm Contact Billy: [email protected] | @Wheyen3center_img In a 33-second span against Georgia Tech, Buddy Boeheim swished two 3s from the same spot on the right wing of Jim Boeheim Court. They didn’t make the difference in a disappointing, 14-point Syracuse loss. But coupled with a 3 earlier in the game, those shots changed the trajectory of Buddy’s season.“I obviously didn’t shoot overall well from the field,” Buddy said, “but those three 3s I hit were confidence boosters. It showed myself that I could go out there and do those type of things.”In conference play, Buddy has shot almost 44 percent from beyond the arc, a stark contrast from his 22 percent mark in nonconference play. Syracuse (16-7, 7-3 Atlantic Coast) has relied on the freshman guard to space the floor whenever an opposing team switches to a zone defense. Even after Buddy shot 8 for 36 from deep in nonconference action, players and coaches, including Buddy, had no doubt his shooting would come around. Buddy could prove crucial in the rematch with Boston College on Saturday, just like he did when he played in crunch time at BC on Jan. 30.“Playing against a zone is something that I capitalize on,” Buddy said after the first BC game,“and that’s what I’m called upon for, going in there and knocking down shots.”Syracuse assistant and all-time 3-point leader Gerry McNamara said Buddy’s shooting was the key to him contributing in his first season at SU. So to players and coaches, Buddy’s 0 for 5 opening night surely was just a blip. The 3 for 20 from deep in SU’s first six games, the same. And that’s how Buddy’s father saw it, too.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOn Jan. 30, Boeheim pointed out that former SU stars Andy Rautins and Demetris Nichols both began their college careers with poor 3-point percentages before shooting 40 percent by graduation. Whenever an Orange player was asked in the nonconference months about Buddy’s early struggles, the message was simple: He’s a shooter. If Buddy was on the floor when a technical foul was called on the opposition, he took the foul shots. But the 3-pointers still weren’t falling.He made a three against Northeastern on Dec. 4: “A good thing,” Boeheim called it. Buddy made just two of his next nine from deep, though, and then began ACC play with limited minutes against Notre Dame and Clemson.“He was playing good then,” Boeheim said. “He just wasn’t making shots to start.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorBuddy’s form didn’t change amidst the struggles. He still rose straight up and down, “the high release, perfect form” that McNamara compared to one of the NBA’s best marksmen, Klay Thompson. Frustrations showed, though.Some misses were followed by an aggressive clap of his hands. Others, a shake of the head, a grimace or even a laugh. The mannerisms mirrored an early-November practice, when Buddy struggled to keep up with the 35-year-old McNamara and walk-on Ky Feldman in a 3-point shooting contest.But when three more fell through against the Yellow Jackets, Buddy felt validated. He knew he was a shooter — from the playroom and Tykes hoop in his childhood home to the Manley Field House baskets, lowered below 10 feet when he was just a child.“Everyone here believes in me, which is great for me as a shooter, you need that,” Buddy said. “I know that they’re gonna drop eventually.”Syracuse’s 14th-all-time leading scorer, Eric Devendorf, didn’t change Buddy’s shot when Buddy was a high schooler, because it was already “unbelievable,” Devendorf said. It was the shot that made UNC head coach Roy Williams tell Boeheim, “You better take him,” after Buddy made seven 3s at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in summer 2017.After two months of limited makes at Syracuse, Buddy realized his shooting potential.“It’s a struggle to be able to make shots when you’re a young player,” Boeheim said. “He’s shot it well every day in practice, and he’s translated it over into the games.”Now, Buddy’s 3s prompt raised arms from his teammates and a leg lift from Boeheim while the ball is in midair. When they fall through, Boeheim will pump his fist or clap his hands, and Buddy himself has taken to occasionally lifting three fingers high.Buddy said his eyes light up when the opposition deploys a zone, like Georgia Tech did. Against BC, Boeheim played ahead of SU’s senior point guard for the final 13:18 because he was beating the Eagles’ zone with his shooting. In Pittsburgh last Saturday, the Panthers switched to the 2-3 zone on one possession, and Boeheim simultaneously sent Buddy to the scorers’ table to check in. Buddy took a 3 one minute after entering, and made another a few minutes later.“People are gonna be worried about Frank (Howard), Elijah (Hughes), myself, Oshae (Brissett),” Tyus Battle said. “So when he comes in the game that’s all he has to do. Come in and knock down some 3s, and he’s doing a great job of that so far.”After a few of Buddy’s zone-busting games, his father has cautioned that Buddy is still just a 3-ball specialist. When Virginia Tech used mostly man-to-man, Buddy played just four minutes. Against FSU, he played but couldn’t make a 3, struggling against tight perimeter defense. His playing time will almost always come at the expense of Battle or Howard. But by knocking down open shots against zones, Buddy has created a role for himself.It might’ve come faster than Boeheim expected, since he knows freshmen struggle to knock down shots, especially in the ACC. It might’ve come slower than Buddy expected, because he’s used to cashing open looks. When ACC opposition has tried to stifle SU with zone looks, Buddy’s been ready. For the Orange, that’s come exactly when needed.— Senior Staff Writer Matthew Gutierrez contributed reporting to this story.last_img

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