Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has seen a factor or two in his 45 seasons at his alma mater, and he’s usually considerably reserved in heaping extreme reward on his gamers. He’s made an exception for senior Marek Dolezaj.
“He’s by far probably the most beneficial participant on our group. It’s not even shut. He’s only a super participant,” Boeheim mentioned. “It’s exhausting to even — you possibly can’t even take a look at the stat sheet as a result of his significance is a lot extra. I imply, he has a very good stat sheet, however his significance to our group is a lot.”
Dolezaj’s position this season was altered within the blink of an eye fixed simply 4 minutes into the opener towards Bryant in late November. Beginning middle Bourama Sidibe suffered a knee harm that successfully ended his season (he hass solely performed 11 minutes since) and the rail-thin, 6-foot-10 ahead from Slovakia changed him in Boeheim’s signature zone protection.
To say that Dolezaj responded effectively to a job he’s performed earlier than could be an understatement. The most recent exhibit got here in final Sunday’s 75-72 second-round victory over West Virginia, the third seed within the Midwest Area. Dolezaj was on the bench with 4 fouls nearing the midpoint of the second half because the Mountaineers mounted a rally.
The Orange had constructed an 11-point lead early within the interval because of slick passes from Dolezaj that arrange junior guard Buddy Boeheim for a pair of 3s. After Dolezaj went to the bench, backup middle Jesse Edwards rapidly picked up his fourth foul, so again in went Dolezaj and out went the Mountaineers from the NCAA Match because the 11th-seeded Orange (18-9) earned a berth within the spherical of 16 on Saturday night time towards third-seeded Houston (26-3).
Over the ultimate 9 minutes, Dolezaj had 4 factors, three rebounds and two assists because the Orange rallied from one level behind. First-team, All-Massive 12 middle Derek Culver of the Mountaineers completed 2 of 9 from the ground, one in every of his worst showings of the season.
“I believe the important thing actually was Marek, , make the choice — the sport goes to get away … if he doesn’t play,” Jim Boeheim mentioned. “He needs to be within the recreation. We run our offense by way of him. He’s so key for us.”
In two match video games Dolezaj has scored 23 factors on 7-of-10 taking pictures, snared 10 rebounds, had 5 assists in every recreation, hasn’t missed a free throw in 9 makes an attempt, and likewise has three blocks and two steals. On the season, he’s averaging 10 factors whereas eschewing the lengthy ball — he’s zero of two from the arc — and is taking pictures 55.8%, tops on the group. He additionally averages 5.Three rebounds, has transformed a team-best 87 free throws (in 102 makes an attempt), ranks second with 89 assists to go together with 47 turnovers, and his 946 minutes lead the group, which suggests his listed 200-pound body has taken an terrible lot of pounding from the large males within the Atlantic Coast Convention.
“I’ve been right here 4 years and I believe that is the toughest 12 months for me,” mentioned Dolezaj, who has added about 20 kilos since he arrived at Syracuse, his love of pizza a part of the burden achieve.
What makes him particular is his versatility, and his basketball IQ is thru the roof. Kind of a Wayne Gretzky on hardwood, a deft passer who’s completely happy to create for his teammates.
“He simply sees issues higher than anyone else,” Jim Boeheim mentioned. “He is aware of when any individual goes to return door. He’s only a nice, nice group participant. He makes profitable performs that aren’t observed generally, however they’re there. He’s one of the underrated gamers within the nation.”
Dolezaj with the ball on the prime of the important thing creates a menace for defenses due to his quickness, and that’s allowed shooters like the top coach’s youngest son to extra simply work their magic.
“He’s a 5 man that may convey the ball up, make performs, go coast-to-coast, can shut down any massive there is no such thing as a matter what dimension, simply an all-around nice participant, one of many smartest gamers you possibly can have,” mentioned Buddy Boeheim, who has hit 13 of 23 photographs from the arc within the match. “Any 5 man that may make performs is only a dream for a shooter. It helps me quite a bit. I get clear seems to be due to him.”
To not be misplaced is the truth that Dolezaj is one robust character, the seemingly perpetual smile however. Late in a five-point house win over Georgetown in early January, a stray elbow despatched blood streaming down Dolezaj’s chin and a part of a tooth bouncing onto Jim Boeheim Courtroom. He completed the sport at his coach’s urging.
Simply over two years in the past, the favored Dolezaj cemented his Orange legacy by merely executing one in every of his specialties — taking a cost. Not simply any cost. A cost from former Duke star Zion Williamson at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The 6-foot-7, 285-pounder was crusing into the lane for one in every of his trademark slam dunks and Dolezaj, greater than 100 kilos lighter on the time, bravely stood in his method, greater than prepared to endure the impression for the great of the group. He mentioned within the locker room afterward that he actually didn’t know what he was pondering.
Positive, he did.
Last rating: Syracuse 95, top-ranked Duke 91, in extra time.
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