Syracuse freshman Oshae Brissett making big impression
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — As the final seconds wind down in a tight game with St. Bonaventure, Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett spins and drives the lane and hits the go-ahead shot as the Carrier Dome crowd erupts in glee at the final horn.
In the blink of an eye, the winning basket is waved off when the 6-foot-8 Brissett is called for a charge and Syracuse goes on to lose in overtime, its first home loss of the season .
Lesson learned for the Orange’s standout freshman forward from Canada.
“I’ve just got to keep learning, get stronger, get smarter, so the games can be easier,” Brissett said. “It’s going great. I have a big role on the team.”
Among freshmen in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Brissett ranks near the top in scoring and rebounding. He’s averaging 14.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, behind Duke’s Marvin Bagley III (21.6, 11.4) and dead even with Wendell Carter Jr. (14.5, 9.3), who also plays for the Blue Devils. Brissett also ranks third among ACC freshmen with eight double-doubles.
“He’s our main offensive weapon on the front line,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s gotta score for us to win.”
Much of Brissett’s game revolves around drives to the basket, and his creativity has sent him to the free throw line a lot. He leads the conference with 103 made out of 130 trips to the line (79.21 percent). He’s also playing heavy minutes since the Orange are short-handed with only eight scholarship players, averaging 38.1 minutes.
That extra dose of experience bodes well for the future.
“I expected him to have an opportunity to play, get a chance to produce,” said Chris Cobbina, who coached Brissett at Athlete Institute Basketball Academy outside Toronto. “The numbers that he’s putting up are more than I expected coming into that league and that competition. For a freshman, he’s playing above and beyond his years.”
Brissett didn’t take long to demonstrate his potential, registering a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds against Cornell in his first college start. He continued his rise with back-to-back 25-point performances in wins over Georgetown and Buffalo and closed the nonconference portion of the schedule averaging a double-double — 15.2 points and 10 rebounds.
“Obviously, he’s a very good recruit,” said Tony Bennett, coach of second-ranked Virginia. “His versatility and his strength are very good, and his numbers are showing that. He’s in that line of next really good forwards, a guy that looks like he can get it going.”
Brissett’s attacking style was never more apparent than against Buffalo. He went 16 of 16 from the free throw line to set a Carrier Dome record for most free throws made in a game without a miss.
When Notre Dame visited Syracuse in early January, coach Mike Brey’s game plan revolved around preventing Brissett’s drives, and the strategy worked in a two-point victory accomplished without the Irish’s top two scorers . Brissett finished with his only double-double to date in ACC play (10 points, 11 rebounds), but he was 3 of 15 shooting and every shot was taken from beyond the arc, where he has struggled (27 of 86 for 31.4 percent). He also only went to the line twice, matching his season low.
“We were just able to keep him in front, force outside shots from him,” said Notre Dame junior guard Rex Pflueger, who scored the winning basket. “We know his percentages haven’t been the best (from long range), but he’s an incredible talent. He’s young and he’s going to be great in this league.”
Brissett rebounded with a 16-point, eight-rebound effort in a 68-61 loss at No. 2 Virginia and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds against Boston College last week.
BC coach Jim Christian still laments one that got away.
“He’s unbelievably quick off his feet,” said Christian, who recruited Brissett. “He’s a difference maker at both ends, a lot to handle. He’s become an elite player.”
That Brissett, who was born in Toronto, chose Syracuse was no surprise. He follows guard Tyler Ennis, who starred for one season at Syracuse (2013-14) before opting to leave for the NBA. Ennis’s father, Tony McIntyre, is director of basketball operations at the Athlete Institute.
“When you’re a Canadian kid and you want to play high-level basketball, what better place to do it at than Syracuse,” Cobbina said. “It’s as close to Toronto as you’re going to get. That was a factor.
“Coach Boeheim and (assistant coach Adrian) Autry did a great job recruiting and laying out a vision of what they see him becoming,” Cobbina said. “At the end of the day, Oshae and his family were able to see that Syracuse was a great fit.”
Soft-spoken and quick with a smile, Brissett has become a leader despite his youth, much like Ennis.
“He’s a polite kid, respectful. He genuinely, genuinely cares for his teammates,” Cobbina said. “Those kind of guys are easy to root for.”
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