As I walked what seemed like 20 miles to Chelsea Piers yesterday (no close subway stops + several avenue blocks + early morning rush = grumpy JP), I contemplated what to make of the new league. When I arrived just before the opening remarks by Commissioner Ackerman, I glanced at the preseason poll and saw the Pirates were picked 8th. But that's not all that caught my eye- Marquette was the favorite, but only received five first place votes out of a possible nine.
This is a wide-open league, folks. It should be quite the fun time come winter.
Anyway, many quotes have already been posted on here, so here are some more tidbits that haven't already been put up on the proverbial bulletin board:
Kevin Willard, on avoiding the injury bug:
"You can't stop broken legs, dislocated shoulders, a guy stepping on someone's foot...those things happen. Luckily everyone's back and everyone's healthy. Right now, we have more depth to sustain an injury. Last year, we didn't have the depth to [be able to do that], but this year, if someone goes down for a couple weeks, we can have someone fill in that spot much easier than we did last year. I think that's one way you fix injuries- you get depth."
Willard on the new backcourt:
"I think our guard situation has improved 100% with Sterling, Jaren Sina, and Tommy. You have three guys that can play that position, so instead of Tommy having all of the pressure like he did last year, you have two guys that can help him out. I think it will allow us to be more functional at times on the offensive end."
"Sterling and Jaren have been tremendous, not only from a basketball standpoint, but also a leadership standpoint. Jaren is mature beyond his years...Sterling is a guy that, although he hasn't played a ton, gives us a competitive edge at the point guard position."
Willard on the recent big recruiting splash:
"The funny thing is that my team now has really helped more than anything else. We're to the point now where kids come see our guys work, and they get excited and want to be a part of that. It's taken a long time to get to that point where kids are excited about coming into the gym and watching what our guys are doing. I said this the other day- our guys are responsible for what's going on now. It's taken that time to get momentum, but it's also taken the guys that are on the court right now.
I'm more excited about this team than I have been about any team in a long time."
Willard on possible lineup combinations:
"With the new practice schedule, we haven't gotten up and down that much. It's mainly been basics and defense. I do know that you're probably looking a two of (the starting five) [Teague and Edwin], but beyond that it will probably be based on who's practicing well and matchups."
"We're going to play two guards a lot more than we have in the past. I like playing with two smaller guards on the court. I think it helps guys get shots, I think it helps defensively. One of the issues we had last year was defending that position. And obviously we were one of the worst teams in the country at turning the ball over, and that's something having two guards on the floor should help."
"We have a lot more interchangeable parts (this year). I've got twelve guys that can all play at some point."
Willard on Preseason Big East Player of the Year Doug McDermott:
"I think the fact that everyone plays him twice will help. The toughest thing will probably be the first time you go against him live. What I've been impressed about him on film is not only how hard he plays, but how he makes everyone else around him better. That's what makes him tough to defend.
When you look at size, skill set... it's very similar to the way Austin (Croshere) was. I hate to say it to Austin, but I think Doug's a little more talented."
Willard on the other newcomers:
"Hakeem Harris has really impressed me with his work ethic and his defense. He can also shoot the basketball, but Hakeem gives us a toughness on the defensive end that we didn't have last year. Steph Manga gives us someone who can play small forward or power foward- if we're playing both he can play (the three) better than Brandon or Patrik can. Steph's been a nice surprise with his physicality. Both of those guys give us depth, but they also give us toughness."
Willard on Patrik Auda's health:
"He's a little rusty. He was up off his foot for seven months, and it's healed great. He's practicing, but he's just a little rusty on some of the offensive stuff. All the stuff that he brings- the intangibles, the extra passes, the defense, knowing our system- it's amazing what a different team we look like with him and Brandon on the court.
Patrik will be 100%. I'll limit his minutes just for the fact that he's not gonna play 30 minutes a night early because I don't want to put the load on the foot."
Willard, on whether this team could be better than the 2011-12 team:
"Absolutely. Two years ago, we had two great seniors, but we didn't have the depth to sustain what we were trying to do with those two guys. This year, we have four seniors that are hungry to win but even if they have a game that's not great, we have five juniors that have been through it, plus we have some talented young kids that can step up which we didn't have two years ago."
Fuquan Edwin on team goals this season:
"Having a winning record, definitely, and not turning the ball over. In practice, if you turn the ball over once, you do 20 push-ups. Coach is trying to make us think better, because as players, you tend to want to make that one pass, but it's a 50/50 chance... coach doesn't want us to take 50/50 chances. He wants us to be 100% sure it's going to get there."
Edwin on the backcourt:
"We don't have one 'special' guard. Sterling's not gonna make it all happen, Sina's not gonna make it all happen- it's gonna take Sterling, Sina and Hakeem Harris. It might sound crazy, but it all (goes back) to Jordan (Theodore). Jordan had the ballhandling, he had the creation, he had the jump shot, and he had the defense. Sterling has the creation and the jump shot, Hakeem has the defense to get up on you, and Sina has the jump shot. It's going to take all of them to gel together."
Edwin on any personal goals for this season:
"I definitely want to be remembered as a winner, as a guy who brought the program up. Personally, (I want to) just being the best I can be as a captain, picking my team up. I know we're gonna have games where it's not gonna be going our way, and players tend to get down on themselves, especially freshmen. That's when I'll be there to pick them up."
Seton Hall Media Day is set for October 29th, so more quotes to come then. Hazard Zet Forward, all!