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Seton Hall Basketball: Freshman Progress Report

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My initial intention for this story was to grade each of our freshman regarding their performance as a Pirate thus far, but instead, I decided to go all Brown University on them… and not (Brown doesn't give traditional grades of A, B, C, etc.). After recapping each individual player’s development, it just didn’t seem to make sense at this point in the season to provide such an assessment; too incomplete and subjective a sample and not to mention, woefully unoriginal. That said, I have observed a multitude of development with each player since they initially arrived in South Orange (with clear variances between players), so perhaps I’ll write another piece at the conclusion of this season when there is more of a complete body of work from which to evaluate.

So, let’s get to it, mmk?

Aaron Cosby - Guard - After losing the third most prolific scorer in Seton Hall Basketball history to graduation last year, I would have never envisioned that a freshman shooting guard would come right in and make me forget(ish) about said scorer. Jeremy Hazell was awfully fun to watch, wasn’t he? He used to drill three’s from Nutley and could, on any given night, drop 40. True story. Sadly, the result often ended up on the wrong side of the Win / Loss column. As an aside, after seeing exponential improvement in both Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope, it makes me wonder what type of player Hazell may have evolved into under the tutelage of Head Coach Kevin Willard and staff - neither here nor there, I suppose.

Cosby has started all 17 of the Pirates’ games and is averaging 30.5 minutes per game. He really has a sweet stroke from behind the arc (giggity), and his elevation and quick release is impressive for a freshman. He reminds me a little of Brian Laing with a better / higher release point without the sky-high elevation. His shooting percentage has improved over the last several games, and he’s shooting 42% from deep but just 40% from the field; clearly a 3-point shooter thus far (Fuquan Edwin leads the Pirates in 3-point shooting percentage, shooting 45%). Much like fellow freshman Brandon Mobley, Aaron Cosby stepped up in a big way against then #8 UConn drilling 4 of 7 three-point attempts, tallying 12 points and dishing out 3 assists (both numbers higher than his season average of 8.4 and 2.5 respectively. Clutch.) It’s fairly common to see freshman hit the proverbial "wall" with high minutes played, but I’m certain that Coach Willard et .al are acutely aware of this. In fact, Cosby has dropped from 1st to 4th on the team in terms of minutes played since mid-December; shrewd adjustment, and one likely to pay dividends come mid-February and March. Love me some fresh shooting guard legs down the stretch.

It must also be noted how important extended minutes, games started and overall experience is to the development of a young player. Will Cosby turn into the kind of leader that JT has developed into by virtue of this opportunity? Time will tell, but enjoying this type of success as a freshman should also provide an understanding of what it can be / should be / takes to be successful. Speaking of leadership, we are currently seeing the fruits of said experience and leadership in both JT and Pope, and that is precisely what I believe (hope) Aaron Cosby is on a path towards over the next 3 ½ years.

Haralds Karlis – Guard - Seton Hall’s out of conference schedule allowed fans to see a lot of minutes from the incredibly athletic Karlis, averaging roughly 22 minutes per game. Karlis didn’t disappoint, as he showed flashes of tremendous skill and athleticism. His passing is always crisp with a bunch of zip on it, and I get the feeling he’s walking on hot coals – tons of energy. Since then, Karlis has seen a significant decline in minutes, as he is now averaging only 10 minutes per game in Big East Conference play (the bulk of those minutes came in mop-up time toward the end of the Syracuse massacre). In large part, Karlis’ dip in minutes is due to the return of fellow freshman Brandon Mobley, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury until recently. Additionally, Coach Willard explained that Fu is playing just "too well to be taken out" right now, so, no soup for you. I believe that Karlis will be an intricate piece for the future Pirates, but it will take him time to learn the American game, as it’s clearly been an adjustment for him, Auda and A.G. But again, I do believe that Harlds Karlils will have a bright future as a Seton Hall Pirate.

Brandon Mobley – Forward - Having recently returned to action myself after similar reconstructive shoulder surgery (and by action, I mean sitting at my desk enjoying a bottomless bag of red Twizzlers), I know how painful the surgical process, rehab and therapy is for this particular surgery; it’s ghastly. Mobley’s injury occurred over the summer, and he officially returned to game-play on December 18th, 2011 and has participated in all 8 games since then. In an effort to curb my expectations of the talented freshman, I set the bar very low in terms of projecting a realistic output for his production. Egg. Meet. Face. I feel fairly confident in saying that Mobley has far exceeded expectations to this point. More importantly, he appears to continuously get stronger, provide more minutes off the bench, and show that he’s really acclimating to Kevin Willard’s system. Think, for just a moment, about what it might feel to be a freshman coming off of a significant shoulder surgery – having yet to play at the collegiate level – and then return for Big East conference play (sans Mercer, Dayton and Longwood). That’s a tall order, and the freshman almost immediately responded in a way that shows character, poise and production.

YEKSHEMESH! Through just eight games, Mobley has averaged roughly 4 points, 4 rebounds and is giving his team an average of 16.5 important minutes per game off of the bench. Most notably, Mobley’s performance against then #8 UConn, was gargantuan. He poured in 10 points and grabbed 7 boards in the FIRST HALF of that game - off the bench. One might say it would be fatuous to tinker with a starting lineup that’s gone 15-2, has an RPI of 3, a SOS of 4 and is ranked #24 in the nation (honestly, people, how bloody brilliant is it to say "Seton Hall is ranked #24 in the nation"?). But, how long can Mobley remain out of the starting lineup, especially since Patrick Auda, to this point, isn’t having the kind of breakout sophomore season that most had hoped? To draw a parallel, highly touted recruit from the wrong side of the Raritan River, Myles Mack, now comes off the bench for Rutgers and is excelling in the 6th man roll. Perhaps Auda would excel in such a roll? Time will tell (dum, dum, dum – insert dramatic music).

Sean Grennan – guard - I like this kid. I do. He’s gritty, and he plays with intensity… when he plays. Look, I get it; Grennan appears to be a step behind in terms of skill at the Big East level (see the last 1:30 of the UConn game; the kid looked like Bambi on ice. Granted, that’s tough, tough assignment). That said, there is a lot of season left, so certainly things could change in terms of involvement and playing time, albeit unlikely unless there is an injury. At this point, we have a 17 game sample with which to evaluate our new players, and I simply don’t think that Grennan is a viable option at the starting point guard position in the Big East Conference moving forward. Additionally, if Seton Hall continues to win and remains in the top 25, invariably recruiting will pick up and more options will become available (look to the recent verbal commitment by blue chip recruit Acquille Carr.)

Close friend and avid reader of SOJ, Nick Raudenski, asked me why Carr committed so early, as he’s a 2013 recruit; my response was simple, we are winning now and Carr wants to be sure to cement his spot early before Seton Hall really becomes a viable destination for other big-time recruits. In fact, his coach called Seton Hall a "school on the rise" and indeed this is becoming more and more apparent on a national level. The Carr signing is essentially the inverse of a school trying to land a player whose recruiting is beginning to "blow up". However, if Grennan continues to work hard, and by all accounts, this kid REALLY gets after it in practice and pushes JT to work hard, he may be able to develop into a reliable backup point guard.

Freddie Wilson – Guard - Freddie is a player who I just can’t get a great read on. He’s averaging 7.3 minutes per game and the most he’s played was the very first game (16 minutes) against St. Francis, NY (I still can’t believe we almost lost that game). Freddie has shown some flashes of being a guard who can slice to the basket, exemplified in this clip against Auburn Even last night, Wilson somehow drained a circus move layup against DePaul for which I have no video. Personally, I see Freddie as more of a viable candidate than Sean Grennan for the back up point guard position (although I think Grennan has a better shot from long range). To be fair, I just haven't seen enough of Wilson to make a truly informed evaluation. I do, however, think he has a good build for the position and again, under the tutelage of Associate Head Coach and point guard extraordinaire, Shaheen Holloway, Wilson may have the ability to be quite serviceable. I recall, vividly, having essentially zero faith in Donald Copland going into his senior year, and he certainly made a believer out of many of us. These kids can mature late and become smart and decisive players with a lot to give a team.

Kevin Johnson – DNP – Center - ineligible. Not too much to say here, but he was a part of this recruiting class. Sooooooo, there’s that?

In summation, I’m pleased with the Seton Hall freshman class. I believe these players compliment the veteran players very well. They appear to be good student-athletes (I’ve always maintained how important that is to me) and they play with a high basketball IQ. I look forward to seeing their continued development through the rest of their Pirate career.