Syracuse’s glue — forward-turned-center Marek Dolezaj

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Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has seen a factor or two in his 45 seasons at his alma mater, and he is usually considerably reserved in heaping extreme reward on his gamers. He is made an exception for senior Marek Dolezaj.

“He’s by far the most valuable player on our team. It’s not even close. He’s just a tremendous player,” Boeheim stated. “It’s hard to even — you can’t even look at the stat sheet because his importance is so much more. I mean, he has a good stat sheet, but his importance to our team is so much.”

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 heart Bourama Sidibe suffered a knee damage 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 is 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 due to slick passes from Dolezaj that arrange junior guard Buddy Boeheim for a pair of 3s. After Dolezaj went to the bench, backup heart Jesse Edwards shortly picked up his fourth foul, so again in went Dolezaj and out went the Mountaineers from the NCAA Event because the Eleventh-seeded Orange (18-9) earned a berth within the spherical of 16 on Saturday night time towards third-seeded Houston (26-3).

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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 heart Derek Culver of the Mountaineers completed 2 of 9 from the ground, one in all his worst showings of the season.

“I think the key really was Marek, you know, make the decision — the game is going to get away … if he doesn’t play,” Jim Boeheim said. “He has to be in the game. We run our offense through him. He’s so key for us.”

In two event video games Dolezaj has scored 23 factors on 7-of-10 taking pictures, snared 10 rebounds, had 5 assists in every sport, hasn’t missed a free throw in 9 makes an attempt, and in addition has three blocks and two steals. On the season, he’s averaging 10 factors whereas eschewing the lengthy ball — he is 0 of two from the arc — and is taking pictures 55.8%, tops on the workforce. He additionally averages 5.3 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 workforce, which implies his listed 200-pound body has taken an terrible lot of pounding from the large males within the Atlantic Coast Convention.

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“I’ve been here four years and I think this is the hardest year for me,” stated Dolezaj, who has added about 20 kilos since he arrived at Syracuse, his love of pizza a part of the load achieve.

What makes him particular is his versatility, and his basketball IQ is thru the roof. Form of a Wayne Gretzky on hardwood, a deft passer who’s completely satisfied to create for his teammates.

“He just sees things better than anybody else,” Jim Boeheim stated. “He knows when somebody is going to go back door. He’s just a great, great team player. He makes winning plays that are not noticed sometimes, but they’re there. He’s one of the most underrated players in the country.”

Dolezaj with the ball on the high of the important thing creates a risk for defenses due to his quickness, and that’s allowed shooters like the pinnacle coach’s youngest son to extra simply work their magic.

“He’s a five man that can bring the ball up, make plays, go coast-to-coast, can shut down any big there is no matter what size, just an all-around great player, one of the smartest players you can have,” stated Buddy Boeheim, who has hit 13 of 23 pictures from the arc within the event. “Any five man that can make plays is just a dream for a shooter. It helps me a lot. I get clean looks because of him.”

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To not be misplaced is the truth that Dolezaj is one robust character, the seemingly perpetual smile however. Late in a five-point dwelling 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 Court docket. 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 all 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 all his trademark slam dunks and Dolezaj, greater than 100 kilos lighter on the time, bravely stood in his means, greater than keen to endure the affect for the great of the workforce. He stated within the locker room afterward that he actually didn’t know what he was considering.

Positive, he did.

Closing rating: Syracuse 95, top-ranked Duke 91, in time beyond regulation.

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