Syracuse emerged as a strong candidate to land Tyus Battle when he took an official visit to the school the weekend after he decommitted from Michigan in mid-June. On Monday, Battle announced his intentions to play with the Orange. “Excited to say I have officially committed to Syracuse University!!,” Battle wrote on Twitter.
Battle, Rivals.com's No. 21 player in the class of 2016, initially pledged to the Wolverines in May, days after taking a trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. According to Syracuse.com, Battle and his family began to question the commitment shortly after Battle announced it, and his father, Gary, urged Battle to visit Syracuse. Battle had canceled a previously planned visit to Syracuse when he committed to Michigan. Gary later declined to comment on his son’s recruitment, but Battle said late last month that “I still really like Michigan a lot.”
Ultimately Battle elected to commit to a different program than the one to which he originally pledged. In explaining his decision to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello, Battle said that he “wanted to be closer to home” and that Syracuse sold him on the chance to become a “versatile guard who could have the ball in my hands a lot.” Battle told the outlet that he picked the Orange over the following schools: Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, UConn and Virginia.
Battle also told ESPN.com that his commitment to Syracuse was influenced by the school’s announcement late last month that longtime assistant Mike Hopkins will take over for Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim when he steps down at the conclusion of the 2017–18 season. “It mattered," Battle said, according to ESPN. "He's a great guy who will be a terrific head coach. He's high-energy, and I'm very comfortable and confident in coach Hop."
For Syracuse, perhaps the most encouraging part of Battle’s commitment is the timing of it. In March, the Orange’s basketball future appeared bleak when the NCAA announced the program would lose 12 scholarships over a four-year period as part of sanctions stemming from numerous violations dating to 2001. The Orange faced a daunting task: competing against Duke, Virginia, Louisville and others in arguably the nation’s toughest conference without the same roster flexibility.
To be successful, Boeheim would need to avoid “misses” on the recruiting trail and, in a best case scenario, reel in players who could log minutes at multiple positions. We won’t know how good Battle is until he plays his first game for Syracuse more than a year from now, but his pledge represents a promising development in the present. At 6'6" and 180 pounds, Battle has gained acclaim for his athleticism, versatility, ability to knock down jump shots and feel for the game.
A capable ballhandler and scorer, Battle potentially could be slotted in multiple positions on the perimeter for the Orange while playing at the top of their 2–3 zone defense. As a junior at Gill St. Bernard's (N.J.) School last season, Battle averaged 16.9 points, four rebounds and one assist per game despite being hampered by a foot injury that limited him to only nine games. He posted per-game averages of 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and two steals the previous year.
With Battle set to join Syracuse next year, the program currently projects to be one over its scholarship limit of 10 for the 2016–17 season. There are a number of ways through which Syracuse could get to that number, including if a player decides to transfer to another school, pursue a professional career or leave the team for some other reason. There’s also the possibility that the Orange could see the sanctions rolled back on appeal.
However it gets sorted out, Battle will join a perimeter rotation that should include Kaleb Joseph and four-star shooting guards Franklin Howard and Malachi Richardson. Battle can initiate the offense but should also serve as a playmaker on the wing. Meanwhile, the Orange recently bolstered their frontcourt by adding Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu and are set to bring in four-star small forward Matthew Moyer alongside Battle as part of their 2016 class.