SYRACUSE Brandon Triche sits at the locker once occupied by the likes of Sherman Douglas, Gerry McNamara and Johnny Flynn in the Syracuse basketball locker room.
Its the first locker the media sees after coming through the doors, and Triche is always there to explain the nuts and bolts of an Orange loss or defeat calmly and with an understated tone.
This season, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is hoping that Triche, a three-year starter in the Orange backcourt, will reach the heights his predecessors did during their tenures at Syracuse. And if he can, another long postseason run for the Orange could become a reality.
Boeheim talked warmly about Triche at media day back in mid-October. Brandon has been a really good player for three years, Boeheim said. This year, we expect him to take his game up another notch to great.
Triche said hes also expecting great things in his fourth and final year at SU, and that no one puts more pressure on themselves than he does.
Ive deferred to some great guards here at Syracuse, and Ive been OK with that, said Triche, who has started all 107 games of his Orange career. But I realize Ive got to take my game a step forward and help this team win. Im ready to be a leader and give coach what he wants.
Triche, who is featured on one of Sports Illustrateds four regional covers for its college basketball issue, has been a steady contributor while playing mainly shooting guard and a little point guard. Hes averaged a modest 9.4 points per game, has shot 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range and has averaged nearly three assists for SU.
Hes reached double figures in 34 of those 107 games, and finished off his junior season with big games against Wisconsin (11 points) and Ohio State (15) in the NCAA Tournament.
Yet, fans always want more. They see the talent that allowed him to score nearly 2,000 points in high school and earn first-team all-state honors as both a junior and a senior at nearby Jamesville-DeWitt High School, and ask why hasnt he been more dynamic.
They point to the end of last season when Triche hit double figures in just three of his last 11 games, and disappeared at times.
SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said Triches unselfishness and team-oriented performance was basically what we asked Brandon to do. Hes played his role for three years and done the little things we needed of him to be successful. But now, Im positive he can take his game to another level because hes got the talent and determination.
Deferring to players such as Flynn, Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Wes Johnson and Kris Joseph over the years, Triche has never been the main go-to guy. But this year, with young backcourt mates in sophomore Michael Carter-Williams and freshman Trevor Cooney, he figures to not only have the ball more, but look to score more.
Im confident that I can score more if thats what we need, Triche said. Some games I may get 20 shots, and others five or six. Its what we need, and when we need it that will dictate my role.
In SUs two exhibition games, Triche looked more assertive and more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. He scored 11 points and had five assists against Pace, then netted 23 in a win over Bloomsburg.
Brandon is so strong and deceptively quick, Carter-Williams said. Hes like going against a tight end in practice. We know we can count on him to give us scoring and defense. And this year, we really need his leadership.
As one of only two seniors James Southerland is the other on the Orange roster, Triche realizes his voice needs to be heard more often.
Hes not one to yell at you, but you know when he speaks, Southerland said.
Boeheim said while Carter-Williams will be on the on-floor general with the ball in his hands much of the time, Triche is the undisputed team leader.
Brandon lets his play dictate his leadership role, Boeheim said. This year, hes going to be more vocal because he has to be.
Triche said its a role he understands, and is ready to assume. Four years here gives me a little bit of authority, he joked. I think the guys listen to what I have to say, and are willing to let me lead them.