Great college basketball conferences often have great inner-conference rivalries. What happens when a player joins forces with their rival?
JJ Starling – Notre Dame to Syracuse
Starling, a Central New York native, is thrilled to come home and play for the hometown team. This past season was a rough one for Starling who was part of a struggling Fighting Irish squad. Injuring both shoulders, tearing your left meniscus and your coach announcing his retirement halfway through the season isn’t an easy go for anyone. An optimistic Starling chose to return to Syracuse and play for first year head coach Adrian Autry, and he’s impressed fans with his style of play. Our own Mat Mlodzinski said Starling is “the real deal” after watching him perform. Syracuse will host Notre Dame on Feb. 2 where Starling can chop it up with some old friends and maybe win with his new ones.
A few takeaways from Monroe Madness (Syracuse basketball in Rochester):
1. JJ Starling is the real deal
2. Quadir Copeland is much improved
3. Naheem McLeod is large
4. Kyle Cuffe could be a major underrated piece off the bench
— Mat Mlodzinski (@MatMlodzinski) October 21, 2023
LJ Cryer – Baylor to Houston
Cryer was a force to be reckoned with in green and gold. His resume of several Big 12 honors and a national championship speaks for itself alone. So why would he leave a place that seemed so perfect? Cryer states that he went through “lots of ups and downs” while in Waco and was wanting a fresh start. While many teams sought after him, he ultimately committed to the new Big 12 Houston Cougars. Cryer says he had a previous relationship with Houston, as they recruited him while in high school, and is excited to play for a team who will win games and take his game to the next level. Cryer will return to Baylor on Feb. 24 to a crowd that might not welcome him with open arms. However, Cryer stated in an Instagram post that he will always be grateful for his time as a Baylor Bear.
Ernest Udeh Jr. – Kansas to TCU
Udeh leaves one of the most blue blooded basketball programs in the Kansas Jayhawks, but the TCU Horned Frogs are nothing to joke about. They were in the 22 in the final A.P. Poll last season, and have high hopes for even more success in the coming season. Udeh says, “An opportunity to grow as a basketball player and a young man is all I wanted; coach [Jamie] Dixon and TCU can provide that for me.” Udeh could be expected to fill the shoes of Eddie Lampkin Jr., another powerful force that left the TCU program. You can catch Udeh mixing it up with with his former team in Kansas on Jan. 6.
Matthew Cleveland – Florida State to Miami
The man who used to be a villain in Miami will now sport the green and orange this upcoming season. While at Florida State, Cleveland sunk a last minute shot in Miami to win the game and end Miami’s home game win streak. Miami fans will look to Cleveland to make more of those shots and will feel better about it this time around. Cleveland says he chose Miami because of their reputation with transforming transfers into extraordinary players (notably Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty). Miami will face Florida State twice this season; once at home on Jan. 17 and again in Tallahassee on March 9.
Joe Girard III – Syracuse to Clemson
Girard spent four years with the Syracuse Orange, but now he will fly south and play for another orange team. The new Clemson guard says he wanted to play for a team that was going to make the tournament, and if they perform like they did last season, Clemson can make it back in March. Girard also says that he hopes to coach in the future, and his masters degree at Clemson will let him skip a graduate assistantship and go right into coaching after graduation. Girard will make his return to Syracuse on Feb 12 at the Dome. The Tigers will face the Orange again on March 5 at the Littlejohn Coliseum.
Jordan Wright – Vanderbilt to LSU
Wright is making his childhood dreams come true by returning to Baton Rouge and playing for his hometown LSU Tigers. He told SEC Network he grew up attending LSU football games with his dad, and has always rooted for the gold and purple. Soon after he entered the transfer portal, Tiger head coach Matt McMahon called him about playing for his team. The rest is history and we’ll see Wright face his former team in Baton Rouge on Jan. 9. Wright will return to Nashville for a second match up on March 2.
Cormac Ryan – Notre Dame to UNC
Cormac Ryan is about to accomplish something that has never been done by a Tarheel before. He will be the first Tarheel to wear two different uniforms, as well as a Carolina uniform, in the Smith Center. But these aren’t the sort of things that Ryan is focused on. Ryan is determined to become a leader on this UNC squad alongside the likes of RJ Davis and Armando Bacot. Both guys helped convince Ryan that Chapel Hill was his next stop, and the chemistry between the three of them has been great in practice. Ryan and company will host the Fighting Irish on March 5 at the Smith Center.