Tyus Battle ‘getting more comfortable’ after 2 exhibition games at point guard

first_imgLast season, when a Syracuse point guard dribbled toward the right wing for a handoff, Tyus Battle usually took the ball to attack left. But late in the first half Wednesday night in Syracuse’s 89-52 exhibition win over Le Moyne, Battle did the dribbling and handing off to Elijah Hughes, who pulled up to knock down a 3. Battle, after two exhibition games against Division II opponents as Syracuse’s point guard due to injury, is settling into his temporary role. He finished with five assists and no turnovers against Le Moyne.“I was low on turnovers, tried to find the open guy, tried to make the right play,” Battle said. “So I’m getting more comfortable with it as time goes on.”Battle, a 6-foot-6 junior, exemplifies the modern shooting guard. His size gives him the length he needs to blow by defenders with a quick, long first step. He operated most of last season, during which he averaged a team-leading 19.2 points per game, from the wings, where he could work off high screens to showcase the one-on-one ability that made him a near-NBA Draft pick.The former five-star recruit decided to come back to No. 16 Syracuse for his junior season. But he didn’t anticipate moving down from shooting guard to the point.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textA series of injuries set him up as the Orange’s point guard, at least for now, with returning starter Frank Howard, freshman Jalen Carey and sophomore Howard Washington all sidelined with injuries in varying degrees. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said Wednesday night that he’s “not a doctor,” and doesn’t know exactly when his point guards will return to game action. SU’s regular season starts Tuesday, Nov. 6.“We’ll see how the health of our point guards is over the next few days, but at least now we’ve had two games where we’ve played with Tyus handling the ball,” Boeheim said. “That’s good for us.”Because Syracuse’s offense a season ago centered on three players — Battle, Howard and forward Oshae Brissett — Battle did a lot of ball handling himself. But then, Battle knew Boeheim wanted him to score. He’d receive a down screen and attack the basket. In SU’s two exhibitions, though, Battle’s movement has been more side-to-side, drive and kick to Hughes, Buddy Boeheim or Brissett on a wing. After Wednesday’s win, Battle spoke about the importance of the point guard recognizing the hot hand, and Hughes’ 21, Brissett’s 14 and Buddy’s 13 were due in large part to Battle’s facilitation.“This year, other guys score the ball and any player can get going on any given night,” Battle said. “And when they get going, we want to give them the ball.”Position change is not foreign to Battle over his Syracuse career. A year ago, he bumped down to forward when Syracuse played its three-guard lineup, usually due to foul trouble with its bigs. That put Battle at the bottom of the zone on occasion and in somewhat awkward spots offensively, because he wasn’t where he’s used to being: up top, near or at the wings. Entering 2018, before SU’s point guard injuries, this much was clear: He thrives as a true shooting guard.Yet Battle’s progression in reading the floor from the point is encouraging, he said Wednesday. He said he’s seeing plays develop and is hitting players with passes he may not have made a year ago. He also said he’s more confident in his ball handling, which was suspect during his first two seasons at SU. His ball-handling development could make him more of a threat when he returns to his usual role.“He’s a pretty good ball handler,” Boeheim said. “It’s hard to make that switch, he’s always been a scoring guard. I think he’s done a good job of it but he’s still more of a scoring guard. I think the thing he did tonight, what he’s gotta do is get to the basket, that’s what he does best.”When Battle checked out with 8:36 to go on Wednesday, he sat down with Howard and Carey to his left on the SU bench. They laughed on and off for the rest of the game. Battle said that at that point, the guards weren’t talking about playing point, just “playing around.”But come next Tuesday, for Syracuse’s regular-season opener, one of those three will have to run the show. Published on October 31, 2018 at 10:36 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img read more