Editor's Note: We are thrilled to have Jaden Daily contribute his thoughts from Seton Hall's Media Day. His blog, A Daly Dose of Hoops is a must-add to your college basketball blogroll. We look forward to continue working with Jaden in discussing Big East hoops, moving forward. Jaden, thank you for your contribution to the Juice!
Before I go any further, I'd like to thank everyone at South Orange Juice for allowing me to be a guest contributor to this great website. I may not be as close or emotionally attached to the Pirates as the rest of you having gone to St. John's and called three games against the Pirates during the Bobby Gonzalez era, but it is my hope that I can share some of what caught my eye yesterday afternoon when I made my way across the river to Walsh Gym for Seton Hall's annual media day. The Pirates were picked thirteenth in the Big East preseason poll; (I myself had them in the No. 11 spot when previewing the Big East on my blog, A Daly Dose Of Hoops) but after seeing the team up close and personal during the practice session that followed the interviews, I came away even further convinced that this team would be much better than fourth from the bottom in the conference standings. Exactly who and what stood out, you might ask? Here are some of the lasting impressions from my trip to the Garden State.
- No power, no problem.
Even though media day began amid a power outage throughout South Orange that was one of the factors in me getting there 20 minutes late and missing Kevin Willard's press conference, it didn't put a damper on the positive mood the team has been in on the hardwood. I was able to get a one-on-one interview with the coach not too long after I arrived, and he was already raving about Aaron Cosby and Haralds Karlis. (More on Karlis later when I get into practice observations) Willard was also confident that Aaron Geramipoor would be a bigger factor now that he will be around for a full season, and all indications are that the coach "would not be shocked" if Herb Pope led the Big East in rebounding. (I missed that quote personally, but caught it on my way in via Twitter).
- Herb Pope is back to the 2009-10 Herb Pope.
Yes, the Herb Pope that averaged a double-double per game on the Pirate team that went to the NIT in what was the final season in the four-year tenure of Bobby Gonzalez. After recovering from open-heart surgery in the summer of 2010, Pope's numbers regressed somewhat this past season; the Pennsylvania native insists everyone on the team is "fired up" and "trying to climb the ladder" in the Big East this season. Pope insists that all he is looking for is to stay in consideration for the Big East Player of the Year award, and was running up and down the court faster than half the team during practice.
Follow the jump for the rest of my observations including: Jordan Theodore's maturity and the rest of the 2011-12 roster.
- Jordan Theodore REALLY impressed me.
Now a senior, Jordan Theodore is ready to be the face of the Pirates this season. (Photo courtesy of Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com and SNY)
Jordan really blew me away in more ways than one when I interviewed him. I'm now in my fifth year as a broadcaster/writer, and I had never been around a more mature and well-spoken player until I spent a few minutes with the Pirates' senior point guard. Not only is he embracing the challenges present in being a leader, he's carrying himself like a future star while at the same time remaining grounded enough to realize the battle that lies ahead of him and his team. Theodore had perhaps the most revealing insight to how life without Jeremy Hazell will play out, telling me this:
"Now, the scouting report's not just 'Let Jeremy go off and keep the other guys contained.' They know I'm a good point guard, but they don't expect me to dominate." - Jordan Theodore on life without Jeremy Hazell
Jordan also recalled the adjustment process he went through last year trying to transition from the uptempo run-and-gun style of Gonzalez to the more well-rounded brand of basketball Willard is trying to foster in this incarnation of the Pirates. Now, Theodore has taken advantage of the opportunity to bond further with Willard over the summer and run with it. "Coming into this season, I don't think he has any problems with me running the show," said the point guard of his second-year coach. "Since I'm the coach on the floor, he expects me to let the other guys know what he wants." Theodore referenced his desire for a "fresh start" as the reason behind changing his number, (previously No. 10, Jordan will be wearing No. 1 this season) stating also that he "wants to go out on top" and return the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
- You probably haven't seen this team yet, but you'll love them.
That's how good they were in practice. No less than five minutes after Kevin Willard started doing shooting drills, I was convinced that these guys were going to be good; and shared that sentiment with two men who know the Pirates better than I do, fellow play-by-play men Jason Guerette of WSOU and Gary Cohen of WABC, both of whom were also on hand at various points during the impromptu session. Aside from Theodore and Pope, here's what I gathered while watching the rest of this team do what they do best: (players will be listed in alphabetical order)
Patrik Auda: Is still getting used to playing as a small forward. He showed a lot of promise offensively in 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 situations, but looked out of place when the Pirates broke out their 2-3 zone defense. Nothing more reps can't fix, though.
Aaron Cosby: Most likely the heir apparent to Theodore after this year. He'll probably be the backup point guard, and could even run the point with Theodore off the ball if Willard chooses to play small. Cosby struck me as more of a facilitator than a scorer early on; and playing with Jordan Theodore may give Pirates fans a flashback to the backcourt pairing of Paul Gause and Eugene Harvey, especially if Cosby turns into a great defender.
Fuquan Edwin: Hasn't established himself as the new Hazell like I thought he might. Instead, he's become more of a multifaceted player. Following a summer in which he put on about 15 pounds while also playing in the JSBL, Edwin is no longer the one-dimensional swingman I saw when he put on a show from long range against St. John's. Said Jordan Theodore of his former high school teammate: "He's going to impress a lot of people because he's improved his game a lot."
Aaron Geramipoor: An inside presence this team has desperately needed for a long time. If he can stay out of foul trouble and just be effective under the rim, he's the anti-Mike Davis: A big man who does all the little things right while also contributing to the cause offensively.
Sean Grennan: Maybe a third option at the point behind Theodore and Cosby. The Garden State native, much like Cosby, gave me the impression of being a passer first before looking for a way to take it himself. Really a work in progress from what I've seen early on.
Haralds Karlis: By far, the best of the newcomers. Karlis is most effective when he has an open shot, but does things inside that most European players struggle to figure out early on since they're still adjusting to the American style. Older NBA fans will agree with me when I say he reminds me a lot of Sarunas Marciulionis, the Lithuanian guard who played for the Golden State Warriors in the early 1990s alongside the "Run TMC" trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin.
Brian Oliver: He won't be eligible this year since he just transferred from Georgia Tech, but this kid is the new Jeremy if ever there could be one. A shooter by trade, Oliver would turn the Pirates from bubble team to tournament team if he were able to play. He'll definitely be one to watch in 2012.
Gene Teague: I've seen him before since I follow the Missouri Valley Conference (where he played at Southern Illinois), closely. A 6-9, 290-pound post presence that could be either really good or really bad depending on how he handles the Big East.
Freddie Wilson: Could be the real X-factor for the Pirates. A 6-2 freshman from New Haven, Wilson is more of a pick-and-pop guy who can drain an open shot rather than the conventional point guard you might think he is at first glance. This kid hit nearly every shot I saw him take in practice; and if he sees a considerable amount of playing time, he'll have opportunities to really change games for the better. To those that haven't seen him, he reminds me of a smaller Jamal Crawford when the NBA veteran is on a hot streak.