5-foot-8 Raven Fox is the first forward off the bench for Syracuse

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ During an early season practice, Syracuse’s coaching staff situated players around the court in the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. The team, stocked with new faces, was learning the playbook and Raven Fox didn’t expect what happened next.Fox is listed as a guard on the Orange roster. She considers herself a guard, and it’s the position she’s played for most of her life. Yet coaches positioned the junior as a forward, giving her a look into what her first season at SU would bring.“I kind of knew,” Fox said. “If I have to learn these plays then this is most likely the position that I’m going to be playing during the season.”Players and coaches alike have admitted that the Orange’s frontcourt is its thinnest position group. Aside from freshman starters Amaya Finklea-Guity and Digna Strautmane, there are no true bigs on the team.Enter Fox, a 5-foot-8 junior-college transfer. Averaging 2.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, respectively, Fox’s impact transcends the stat sheet. She’s SU’s backup power forward and center, thrust into the paint and in the middle of the Orange’s 2-3 zone by necessity.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFox will continue to work alongside Finklea-Guity and Strautmane as Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast) enters the ACC tournament as the eight seed and squares off against No. 9 seed Virginia Tech, the only unranked team to beat the Orange in the Carrier Dome this season.“I guess I fit that spot because of my body size,” Fox said. “I can bump against those bigger players. At first, it was hard for me to get adjusted to it.”The last time Fox was the tallest player on her team, she was 8 years old and in AAU ball. Harold Fox, her father and then-coach, remembers his daughter trying out every position, learning every possible job on the court. He didn’t know that Fox would end up replacing two 6-foot-plus players as the anchor in the Orange’s rotation.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorFox spent her first two collegiate seasons at Gulf Coast State after battling eligibility restrictions. At GC, she was a three guard. Now, she’s had to fill in for Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi and Marie-Paule Foppossi, two freshman forwards that are redshirting the 2017-18 campaign.“(Fox) wanted to come in and wanted to help us in any facet that we needed to,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She’s taking on roles that she probably wouldn’t normally have and she’s doing a good job.”Fox has tried to use her natural “guard quickness” to her advantage. She’s acknowledged that most, if not all, of her opponents have a few inches on her, and her speed can be an equalizer. On the offensive end, Fox tries to “wear out” her defender by flying around the baseline and setting screens. Defensively, Fox attempts to rush in front of her assignment so she can win position under the rim and corral a board.She cited SU’s game against then-No. 17 Duke on Feb. 15, when she realized that her quickness was making a drastic impact. Finklea-Guity spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench, making Fox the Orange’s anchor in crunch time. Fox finished with eight points and three boards, including a late, game-tying shot in the eventual upset win.“She works really hard to do that even if they are two, three times bigger than her,” Finklea-Guity said. “She just works hard regardless. Whenever she gets the layup or the and-1, everybody goes nuts for her because we all see that she’s working.”The Bladensburg, Maryland, native attacks practice knowing that the competition she faces in the Melo Center will mimic her in-game tasks. Working with assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou, Fox is the smallest in the position group of Finklea-Guity (6-foot-4), Strautmane (6-foot-2), Djaldi-Tabdi (6-foot-2) and Foppossi (6-foot-1).Fox singled out one drill, a 2-on-2 rebounding exercise, that she’s used as her measuring stick. Starting on the baseline, a player runs and has to box out their assignment swiftly. For Fox, going against players like Finklea-Guity can be frustrating because of the height disparity and the latter’s quick feet. With each drill, practice and game, Fox is playing catch-up.“It’s great,” point guard Tiana Mangakahia said of Fox’s production. “Sometimes she doesn’t play that much. But when she’s in, every little thing matters to her.”Against the Blue Devils late in the fourth quarter, Fox stood in the paint and made eye contact with Hillsman. He swung his arm forward and motioned Fox to set a screen for Mangakahia. Fox set the pick, and watched as the designed play resulted in an open 3 for Mangakahia, who nailed the game-winner. The same sequence is normally kicked off with a Finklea-Guity screen, but Fox filled in, just as she had all year.“I think it’s just mainly having heart,” Fox said. “Knowing that I am undersized, I just try to play as hard as I can … I think it’s that part, understanding your role … Taking pride in what you do.”— Assistant Sports Editor Billy Heyen contributed reporting for this article. Comments Published on February 28, 2018 at 9:58 pm Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarezlast_img read more

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