Through 7 games, Syracuse senior center Paschal Chukwu stuck in neutral

first_img Comments Jim Boeheim’s first move Saturday night mirrored his first motion Wednesday at No. 16 Ohio State. To start both games, he jolted off his seat after SU’s first time on defense. Both times, it was because Paschal Chukwu hadn’t slide correctly at the bottom of the 2-3 zone. Both times, it was because Chukwu wasn’t where he needed to be.The tallest player in Syracuse basketball history has struggled over his last five games, not playing more than 20 minutes in any game. He’s attempted a grand total of five shots, scored nine points and grabbed fewer than seven boards in all but one game over that span. That won’t cut it, Boeheim has said, because he needs to be at minimum the player he was last season, when he averaged 5.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and averaged three shot attempts per game.“He got some rebounds, he made a big block, but he’s not a factor at really either end of the court right now,” Boeheim said Saturday after Syracuse’s 63-55 win over Cornell. “I don’t think either one of our centers is. They have to get better for us to be effective. Right now they’re not very effective.”The other center is sophomore Bourama Sidibe, who said before the first game of the season that he felt much better from last year, when he was dealing with tendinitis. He had surgery over the offseason and wanted to break out early, start his sophomore campaign well. He thought about his explosion last January at Pittsburgh, when he erupted for 18 points and 16 rebounds.Yet his production has also slid, putting the Orange in an interior predicament. There’s time for correction — the Orange are projected to handily win each of their remaining six nonconference games — but their performance, both individually and collectively, raises questions about how they’ll play when matched up against big bodies in the ACC. The clock is ticking with one month until conference play begins.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOver 20 minutes Saturday, Chukwu attempted only one shot, a layup he made, grabbed five turnovers, blocked two shots and turned the ball over twice. He was at least five inches taller than every Cornell player. Still, his only shot attempt was a layup at the start of the second half.Chukwu was not available for interviews Saturday. Players said their biggest concern is his groin injury. He sustained an injury against Colgate on Nov. 21 that has set back any development he’d made entering the season. The injury is subtle, players said, but he’s wobbly and slower as a result.“He’s dealing with a groin injury that’s got him a few steps slow,” said Syracuse senior point guard Frank Howard, who scored three points and had four assists against the Big Red. “You can see that on his explosion at the rim. He came in from the summer really explosive really active, moving a lot. We’ll get him back there. He has to fight through this.”That the groin injury explains Chukwu’s recent struggles doesn’t add up with Boeheim’s assessments. Even before his groin injury, Boeheim has been mostly unimpressed with Chukwu’s anemic output. On Nov.15, after SU lost to Connecticut, Boeheim said Chukwu got “absolutely destroyed,” and “he’s trying, but he’s not accomplishing anything.” That was before the groin injury.Chukwu’s best game this season was Nov. 10 against Morehead State. He scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “He’s improving,” Boeheim said, adding that last year was Chukwu’s first full season of playing competitive basketball. “He’s closing on the ball better. He’s getting in better position rebound-wise.”Since then, he’s shied away from attacking the rim when he has the ball. He hasn’t challenged as many shots as last season, and he’s been relegated to the bench when he makes a mistake. Freshman forward Robert Braswell said he’s turnover begins with confidence: “It’s about not getting down on himself when he messes up,” Braswell said on Saturday.Whether it’s his confidence, groin injury or a larger issue in his basketball development — or all of the above — Chukwu’s improvement is essential. Published on December 2, 2018 at 12:00 am Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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