Syracuse basketball holds practice ahead of Canada exhibition trip

Guard Tyler Ennis dunks during ballhandling drills.

There were smiles on familiar and new faces alike at the Carmelo Anthony Center Thursday afternoon as the Syracuse menâ??s basketball team gathered for its first practice of the season ahead of a series of exhibition games in Canada next week.

Senior forward C.J. Fair and center Baye Moussa Keita spoke to the media before practice, and talked about how they were looking ahead to the upcoming season. CNY Central sports director Niko Tamurian asked them about the announcement that ESPNâ??s College GameDay will come to campus on February 1st as the Orange host Duke, and got their thoughts on the possibility of the University packing 50,000 fans into the Carrier Dome for that game. Click on the attached videos to watch Nikoâ??s report and the full interviews with Fair and Keita.

Practice was upbeat as the coaching staff put veterans and rookies through their paces. Media were allowed to watch the first few minutes of the workout, which consisted of shooting and ballhandling drills under the watchful eye of Jim Boeheim and his staff.

Some observations from what I was able to witness:

Fair looked confident with his jump shot as he glided through a shooting drill. As you can see from the attached video, the lefty sank jumper after jumper and appeared confident in his stroke. He will no doubt be called upon to diversify his offensive game in order to pick up some of the slack left by the departures of Brandon Triche, James Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams to the professional ranks.

Sophomore center Dajuan Coleman appeared significantly slimmer than when we last saw him in the spring. He clearly has been working on his conditioning, and spent a few weeks this summer playing in Uticaâ??s â??King of Kingsâ?? summer league (with Fair and Christmas) on a team coached by Tricheâ??s father Melvin.

Sophomore forward Jerami Grant was back in action after suffering a bout with mononucleosis over the summer, an illness which kept him off of USA Basketballâ??s under-19 national team which competed in the FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic.

One slight downer to the otherwise positive atmosphere is the fact that the eligibility status of freshmen Chinoso Obokoh and Tyler Roberson is still up in the air. According to published reports, neither has been cleared by the NCAA to play in the exhibition games next week, and their status for the season is not yet known. Neither Obokoh nor Roberson attended practice on Thursday, missing out on their first taste of college basketball alongside classmates Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson, and Tyler Ennis. Patterson and Ennis looked particularly explosive, each throwing down several dunks during drills.

The Orange will play McGill University on August 21 and Bishop's University on Aug. 22 in Montreal. They will then head to Ottawa to take on Carleton University on Aug. 23 and the University of Ottawa on Aug. 24. SU Athletics says there are still tickets available for all four games.

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