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first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Strange and different. In the minds of Quentin Hillsman and Erica Morrow, that’s what Syracuse women’s basketball feels like without Nicole Michael in an Orange uniform. When Hillsman took over the SU program four years ago, Michael was one of his first recruits. She had an immediate influence in her first season with the Orange, setting school records and leading the team in scoring and rebounding.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text For Morrow, now a senior guard, Michael played a major role in her decision to come to Syracuse. The two had played AAU ball together since Morrow was in eighth grade. She described their relationship as big sister to little sister. But this year, there will be no big sister for Morrow at SU. Michael now plays halfway across the world for Gran Canaria in Spain, where she ranks second in the Liga Femenina de Baloncesto with 17.3 points per game. When the former SU forward graduated last year, she left as the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, creating a major void in Syracuse’s lineup. This season, Hillsman, Morrow and the rest of the Orange will have to learn how to play without Michael’s presence on the floor. SU takes on Northeastern in its first game since Michael’s departure at 9:30 p.m. Friday in the Carrier Dome. ‘It’s strange,’ Morrow said. ‘I’ve been playing with Slinky (Michael) since I was in eighth grade. … It’s a little strange definitely when I know that’s my go-to person at the end of every game. If it wasn’t me, it was Nicole. I had all the confidence in her.’ Hillsman feels the Orange has the talent to fill that hole created by Michael’s departure. He said in October there are seven players that could start in any given game for the Orange this year. Seniors Morrow and Tasha Harris return as starters. Tyler Ash, Kayla Alexander, Carmen Tyson-Thomas and Elashier Hall will look to improve upon their performances from a year ago. Iasia Hemingway joins the Orange after transferring from Georgia Tech. Hillsman also added that he prefers to rotate 10 players into a game and felt he had the depth to do so. It may be all 10 of those players that have to fill in that gap left by the departed Michael. ‘She has big shoes to fill, very big shoes, size nine,’ Tyson-Thomas said. ‘… I think we’re going to come together as a team. Slinky (Michael) led us a lot last year. We were on her back for the most part. But I think we are looking to fill those size nines very quickly.’ In addition to depth, Hillsman also said the Orange will need a slight change in scheme to adjust to playing without Michael. When she played, he tried to keep her out on the perimeter. She shot 32.6 percent from beyond the arc throughout her career, ranking her eighth on SU’s all-time list. But now, Hillsman wants that small forward position to slide in a few steps in SU’s sets. He said the players this year will become more effective shooting from the free throw line area or working the baseline. Instead of raining 3-pointers from the outside, Hillsman hopes the Michael-less Orange will be able to score more in the paint. ‘Hopefully, we have enough inside where we can step in and make some more baskets at the rim,’ Hillsman said, ‘and take up her slack with some rebounding from our perimeter guards.’ Even with the talent on this year’s team and the scheme adjustment to make up for Michael’s absence, it is still a major loss for the program. Last year, the forward led the Orange with 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. She led SU in scoring 14 times and led the team in rebounding 15 times. Her averages were slightly higher in rugged Big East play, with conference standings on the line. As a freshman, she became the only player in Syracuse history to score more than 500 points in a season and then did it again her senior year. Replacing the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder will not be easy, and Hillsman acknowledged that. But he is optimistic the talent on this year’s team can step up and fill in for one of SU’s all-time greats. ‘It’s a humongous loss,’ Hillsman said. ‘She’s been around since I’ve been here so we’ve been together and just not having her face here is different. But we have plenty of capable players to come in and take up the slack.’ [email protected]center_img Published on November 10, 2010 at 12:00 pmlast_img read more