Malachi Richardson’s game is growing even more diverse with passing dimension

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 19, 2016 at 12:49 am Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse It was in December when Michael Gbinije first mentioned the face Malachi Richardson makes before he throws a no-look pass.Like he sees something no one else sees? No.Like he’s about to make a play that will put the crowd on its feet? Not quite.Like he wants you to move into open space so he can zip the ball to you? That’s not it.“It’s more like … something good just came out of the oven,” Gbinije said. “Yeah, that’s what the face is.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFrom the start of the season, it was evident that Richardson has great court vision and a knack for throwing flashy passes. But he never finished with more than three assists in non-conference play, and twice coupled double-digit scoring efforts with five turnovers. Now, with conference play rolling along and Richardson maturing with each passing game, he’s turned a previously hollow skill into a steady source of production for Syracuse (18-9, 8-6 Atlantic Coast) heading into a 2 p.m. date with Pittsburgh (18-7, 7-6) in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.The freshman finished with five assists against Florida State on Feb. 11 and five more against Boston College on Sunday, becoming the first SU player to collect five or more assists in back-to-back ACC games this season. And while he only had two assists in a loss to No. 18 Louisville on Wednesday, Richardson’s savvy passing remains a key part of the Orange’s guard-dominated offense.“Well he’s using the ball, he’s handling the ball more, he’s doing more with the ball,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after his team beat Boston College on Sunday. “… he’s a very good passer and he can make plays, and that’s important for us.” Richardson’s evolution into a sure-handed distributor hasn’t been without growing pains.In the first half against Florida State, he knifed through the lane and rocketed a no-look shovel pass that brushed Tyler Lydon’s hands and trickled out of bounds. As he jogged back on defense, Boeheim put his hands in the air as if to say “Slow down” and mouthed, “Softer … softer.”Later in the game, with the Orange coasting to victory, Richardson charged toward the lane in transition and lobbed a one-handed alley-oop to Gbinije. The pass was just out of Gbinije’s reach and he front-rimmed a dunk attempt before going to the free-throw line. This time Boeheim jumped off the bench, his face red with anger, and yelled at Richardson for not taking the easy layup.But unlike earlier in the season, the results are greatly outweighing Richardson’s mistakes. Before mistiming that alley-oop, Richardson made the nicest pass of the night when he drew two defenders in the paint and shoveled a pass to Lydon for a dunk. Boeheim skipped into the air, subtly pumped his fist and let up a small smirk before turning his attention back to the game.“I have to always be creative,” Richardson, who averages 13.5 points a game, said after the Florida State game, and he laughed and dropped his eyes when asked about Boeheim’s reaction to the failed alley-oop. “That’s just me.”When the Orange fell to Pittsburgh 72-61 on Dec. 30, Pitt’s in-your-face man-to-man defense held the Orange to just 13 assists and 20 made field goals, tied for its second lowest of the season.That only heightens the importance of Richardson’s playmaking abilities, as he’s proven time and again that he can go off the dribble and find open teammates while bounding toward the rim. Not only does that free up Syracuse’s big men around the rim, but it can also draw help defense from perimeter defenders and lead to open jumpers for Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.“He’s very deceptive when it comes to court vision,” Gbinije said after the Florida State game, adding that Richardson still makes “that face” when gearing to dish the basketball.“You think he’s not looking at you then all of a sudden he’s throwing a pass.”And of all of a sudden, those passes are turning into points with more regularity. Comments Luke Rafferty | Senior Staff Photographerlast_img