While most of the nitty gritty preseason Seton Hall coverage was included in our 2014 Big East Media Day hub, headlined by two feature stories on the Pirates' frontcourt and backcourt composition, I followed up today at Media Day for further details.
Kevin Willard answered questions during a 30-minute press conference which was followed by a 30-minute player interview session that allowed access to Seton Hall's entire roster except Mike Nzei. Then, Seton Hall's practice was opened up to media access for about 45 minutes, which I'll give my thoughts on tomorrow.
I've provided context to the quotes below (about 80%+ of total) and am happy to answer any further questions readers may have in the comments section. Highlights include a scary medical situation for Khadeen Carrington, NBA comparisons for Carrington and Angel Delgado, a look at the 'Country Boys', and who Sterling Gibbs was texting after his shot against Villanova last season.
On leadership from Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs: "They aren't the most vocal guys, but from the time the freshmen got on campus, July 7th, they've shown them how to work hard ... The fact that Sterling and Jaren showed these guys how to work hard with individual instruction, the weight room, the classroom -- they really led by example."
Brandon Mobley's leadership: "I think he's still trying to get to the point of how hard he has to work every day now ... Now with just Brandon [cited Auda's departure], he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. I think he has the game to handle it, but he just has to get to that point. He's not there yet, but he's starting to work to that point where he might have to play 32 mpg and if you're going to play 32 mpg, you have to work in practice like you're going to play 32 mpg. And I think he's now starting to understand that concept."
On his freshman class: "Khadeen Carrington is really going to be a special player. He's going to struggle a little bit early because we had to sit him out 4 weeks because we thought he had a heart issue - he doesn't, but we had to be careful and check him out. I think Khadeen, he's a little bit smaller than Dwayne Wade, but reminds me of Dwayne Wade. Lefty, he's very smooth, scores in transition.
"The other really big surprise, probably both of them, have been Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo. Both of those guys I think kind of flew under the radar in this class and both of them have come in and really given us a jump start with their enthusiasm their athleticism. We are more athletic at that position [small/power forward] than we've ever been. Both of those guys play above the rim, they play fast and give us a different dynamic than what Brandon is or some of our other wings are.
When asked about Angel Delgado: "I think in the two scrimmages that we've had, he's had 17 rebounds in one and 15 rebounds in the last one."
"Angel is one of those high energy guys that kind of reminds me of Dennis Rodman the way he rebounds, he's just relentless in how he rebounds the basketball. His offensive skills surprised me, passes the basketball tremendously. His biggest thing: he's just learning how to handle his emotions, he's a young kid, the more he gets to handle his emotions the better off he's going to be."
Willard was then asked about his physicality compared to the rest of the Big East. Willard said that when Angel plays Matt Stainbrook, "that's going to be an eye-opener for him", but said that he will be able to match the Big East on the glass.
On redshirt freshman forward Rashed Anthony: "I have very high hopes for Rashed. Rashed's going to be, as a [redshirt] freshman, he's going to be a guy that goes out there and rebounds, he's going to be our guy that really defends. He's got that ability to bang people up, he's physically gotten stronger. Rashed's going to rebound the basketball, set good screens, that's going to be his job this year. None of our inside big guys are ready to do what Eugene [Teague] did. Eugene was a 24-year-old man who was a fifth year senior that understood and got to that role. These guys are going to score by running up and down, rebounding, and setting good screens. They're also going to play with 4 or 5 really good guards."
When reflecting on redshirting Anthony last year: "Looking back at it, I won't redshirt another kid, probably, ever again. I just think it really hurts it [development]. If we had him I think we would have been able to survive that early stretch [post-Teageu concussion] probably a little better, even when Patrik [Auda] went down against Oklahoma, he probably would have played there. Looking back at it, it wasn't a very smart decision, but I think its worked out great for him, which at the end of the day, I'm more happy about."
Some detailed X's and O's on guard play that build and expand upon what I wrote here:
"The thing that we're going to need, Sterling doesn't have that much of a problem adjusting to it right now, Isaiah's having a little bit of an issue - not a big one, but I need Sterling and Isaiah to score the basketball a little bit, somebodys going to have to replace Fuquan's points and Eugene's points. I think Angel, Desi, Brandon, the committee at the 4 and 5, we're going to rebound much better than we did last year, but we're going to have to bring those points back at the 4 and 5 that replace Eugene and Patrik.
"The big thing is replacing Fuquan ... I think Sterling and Isaiah are the two guys that are going to have to carry that load a little bit, especially early in the season. Sterling is definitely capable of doing it, he's capable of scoring a lot of different ways, and Isaiah is really capable of doing it, he's just a very unselfish player, he likes to pass the basketball. Not that he doesn't shoot it, but he's got to get comfortable, he's got to score some points for us. And that's where Jaren comes into the equation, Jaren will set those guys up, and then Khadeen, Khadeen can score. I look at all of those guys as interchangeable parts, we're going to play three guards a lot because I think it gives us a different and unique ability and we're going to play big at some times, I really like the way Haralds and Steph [Manga] are playing. We're going to go big and we're going to go small, we're going to constantly mix it up on people."
On senior wing Stephane Manga: "When you come from JuCo to this league, its' very hard to make that transition and Steph had a hard time with it last year. But he's starting to get comfortable and understanding what we want, plus he's back to the wing where last year we had to move him around a lot due to injuries."
A general observation from Willard on his talent at guard: "I think we have the guard play this year since we haven't had since Jordan [Theodore] left. It's my first time in two years I've had returning guards."
Willard doubled down on his statement re: recruiting infrastructure that I included at the bottom of this article from Big East Media Day: Four years ago when I got here, we just didn't have the infrastructure that we have now. I didn't have a president, I didn't have an AD. We didn't have a locker room, our offices hadn't been changed since Tommy [Amaker] was here, our locker room hadn't been changed since Tommy was here. We didn't have our own locker room down at Prudential Center, we do now.
"Just little things that kind of help you along, we've come a long way - the campus has come a long way in four years. My first year, a student got shot and killed just off campus. I remember Dr. Esteban and I were talking about this, our first year, it was nuts, some of the terrible things that happened. And now you look at where the University is as a whole, where our SAT scores have gone, where our enrollment has gone, where the facilities have gone. It's been a huge transformation, I would say over the last 3 years. Obviously I have great leadership at the athletic department, we have great leadership at the university, and I also think we have a great board who are very involved and very active in making this the best university possible ... I just kissed enough ass that should get me ‘till at least December. [Willard jokingly referencing a prior question about how important this season is for him job wise]
Redshirt freshman power forward Rashed Anthony:
"I think I bring a lot to the table, just being a big presence in the paint, being a big presence on the court, rebounding, playing my role."
On team chemistry: "I think the chemistry is a bit greater this year, even though we have a young group. We spend so much time together, being involved in so many events, I just feel like our chemistry is way better this year."
On new team leadership: "Leadership this year, is honestly far better. Even though we have two young leaders like Sterling and Jaren, we have a senior in Brandon. I feel like Brandon hes more than a great leader, honestly."
Describing his close relationship with Brandon Mobley: "We call each the 'Country Boys' "
Freshman shooting guard Khadeen Carrington:
Guard chemistry: "It's been great in practice, coach will just split us up and we'll just go at each other, everybody is pushing each other, it's been great in practice so far."
Leadership: "I try to look up to Sterling and Jaren ... I'm trying to see what they do, see what coach expects from them and try to do the same thing."
Sophomore guard Jaren Sina:
"We have great freshmen, we have some of the best freshmen in the country."
"Sterling and I are probably the closest on the team together. I think what's good is that I think our relationship has rubbed off on some of the other freshmen, we're just really close and I think that something overall with the team, forget about on the court, off the court as a team we're extremely close, we weren't really that close last year. And I think that helps a lot with team chemistry."
Senior forward Brandon Mobley:
On Sina and Gibbs: "Those guys are very key to what we do here. Sometimes I tell them, even in practice when coach wants the simple bounce pass to the big guys, if they don't make the bounce pass, then the young guys won't make the bounce pass, and I have to pull them to the side and say ‘Hey, if they're [freshmen] not not making the bounce pass, it's because they see you guys not making the bounce pass, so you've got to lead by example by showing them the basic, the simple things to do.' For the most part, they've took on the challenge very well and they've helped the young guys and the young guys are looking up to them."
On new assistant coach Dwayne 'Tiny' Morton: "Tiny is a character man, he's hilarious. He brings that swagger, that New York swagger. There's actually a couple things that he told me personally from guys that he knows in the NBA and things that they look for and things that they do. And he can talk to Isaiah [Whitehead] and Desi [Rodriguez] on a level that they understand, some of the other coaches don't know them as well as he does."
Describing dealing with his injured shoulder in the past: "It was tough, I tried playing with the brace on, and there were a couple times where it popped out when I had the brace on in practice. I just played through it, and then there was a point where we decided ‘OK, enough is a enough we're going to go ahead and get it [surgery] done.' Thats in the past, I don't think about it, there's no pain, I feel great."
On Rashed Anthony's contributions: "Rashed is going to get a lot of points off of offensive rebounds. That's what he does, him and Angel are just natural rebounders. Rashed has the advantage of having already practiced at the college level, so he knows what coach expects, so coach kind of holds him at a higher standard than he does the younger freshmen. Rashed is really going to help us a lot. He's quiet, sometimes he's a little bit too quiet, so you kind of got to get him mad to get him fired up."
On his multi-faceted bond with Rashed that stems from Southern roots: "Sometimes me and him will be talking to each other, and coach will be walking by and saying ‘I have no idea what you guys are saying.' But most of the guys up here, we've kind of got to slow down and talk because most of them say ‘We don't understand, you guys talk too fast.' But with each other, we can express to each other in our regular language and understand each other. When he first came, I kind of took him under my wing because I knew what it felt like to be away from home, no family, no friends. He loves it up here. When we're back home, me and his home are only an hour and half from each other. We're two country boys from Jersey."
I then asked Brandon about whether his southern accent was one of the seven national anthems that Willard referenced at Big East Media Day. Brandon continued by describing the diversity on the team: "When Angel gets upset, I don't know what he's saying. He tries to explain things to me, I just say ‘Oh, alright', I have no idea. When he talks so fast I have no idea what he's saying. Like Haralds, when Haralds first got here, I had no idea what Haralds was saying either."
"It's pretty cool to have guys from all over, from Paris, to Europe, to Africa, to the Dominican. It's pretty interesting, it's pretty comical as well, coach makes a lot of jokes like that."
On Seton Hall's scrimmage against Saint Joseph's tomorrow: "Finally just playing against people who don't know us. In practice, we know the plays, we might tend to cheat a little bit at times. It's going to show us as a team where we are."
When asked about preliminary starters for that game, Mobley described the role of a starter: "It's not starting, its being introduced, that's it. You can start and at the 19:30 mark, you may be subbed out.
The effects upon his own role of rebounders like Delgado, Anthony, and Sanogo being added to roster: "They kind of think everything is off of brute force and brute strength, but playing for three years I know I may not be the biggest or strongest but I'm smarter, so I know what to do. He [the defender] wants to box me out, all I have to do is fake one way. There's certain tactics that I use to get my rebounds, there's still a lot of things they have to learn, but natural rebounders, him [Angel] and Rashed are just natural rebounders."
Junior point guard Sterling Gibbs:
Segment was cut short due to practice starting...
Sterling said he modeled his scorers table celebration against post-Villanova after Eric Devendorf's against UConn, "I always wanted to do that." I then asked Sterling if he had received any notable or interesting tweets, texts, or calls after his shot, to which he recounted his texting conversation with his older brother Ashton. Playing overseas at the time, Ashton had texted Sterling "What time's your game?" and then "That shot better go in" after the game had ended while he was trying to find a stream. Ashton actually resorted to FaceTime (a family member would be at the game in the stands) to watch at least one Hall game last year.
How to build upon momentum from 2014 Big East Tournament: "We want to bring the energy that we brought to the Garden that week, bring it here and be able to bring it every single day. One thing we stress to each other, we don't have to be playing Villanova, we dont have to be at Madison Square Garden for us to be that up for a game. We want to bring that energy to the Mercer game, to the Virgin Islands, and every single game we play, we want to play with that energy we played with against Villanova."