When I spoke to the first member of Kevin Willard's 2015 recruiting class earlier today, it only took one question for Dalton Soffer to touch on something other than basketball.
"The academics, in my opinion, don't even compare," said Dalton when asked about his interest in East Coast schools compared to the locals during the recruitment process. "And I think the basketball back there fits me a little bit more, the style of play back East, I see myself playing there. And if you have the opportunity to go back and experience that when you're young, it's hard to say no to that opportunity."
As I quickly found out, off-court factors played equally important roles in Dalton's college decision as did on-court considerations. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Poway High School, nestled 30 minutes north of San Diego, signed his NLI this morning with a bigger picture in mind when he put pen to paper at the San Diego Hall of Champions Signing Day event.
Initially committed to Loyola (Md.), Soffer ultimately reconsidered his verbal a few weeks ago and then pledged to Seton Hall after taking an official visit this past weekend.
"The commitment to Loyola was a rushed decision on my part," he said. "I didn't think about everything in the big picture. It's not just basketball, it's the next four years of my life, it's a big part of my life. I want it to be where I'm happy, and where I feel comfortable. I just think my heart wasn't fully in it. Seton Hall, it's where I wanted to be."
Seton Hall's close proximity to the Big Apple, but not for the commonly mentioned media exposure and NBA scouting opportunities, played a significant part in his decision. Dalton also mentioned how his Aunt and Uncle live in nearby Metuchen, N.J., which adds a home away from home aspect to playing at Seton Hall.
"The fact that it's right near New York City, that played a big role. The basketball will be great, the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden and the fact that the city's right there and the job opportunities it will present after college and the connections I can make."
As for the basketball-only side of the equation, Soffer, who didn't have any Division I offers prior to this summer's live period and is now signed to play in the Big East, sounded confident that they would eventually arise despite the relative uncertainty.
"It feels great," he said of the transition from no D-I offers to being signed with a Big East school. "I'm confident in my game, and I don't think anyone is as confident in my game as myself. I knew coming into this summer without any offers, there wasn't any way I was going to end this summer without any."
Other schools reportedly withheld offers from the sharpshooting guard due to deficiencies in other parts of his game, but it looks looks like the Seton Hall coaching staff are focused on what he can do: shoot the rock.
Dalton was already strongly considering Seton Hall prior to his official visit to watch the Caldwell exhibition this past weekend, he also took an unofficial in late August, but meeting the team and seeing them play and work out sealed the deal. Kevin Willard and assistant Fred Hill were the main recruiters here.
"All along the coaches have been great, Coach Willard has been awesome, Coach Hill. All the rest of the guys on the team have been cool. I really see myself having fun which is the most important thing, having fun and then playing for a good team. Also watching the exhibition game this past weekend too, I can see myself playing in that offense and playing for that coach, it really feels good.
"I think I bring that [shooting] to the table. The team already has a lot of athleticism and the bigs are looking good, so if I think I can bring a scoring aspect shooting the ball, I fill a need, I think, for the team."
As for the next nine months before Dalton sets foot on Seton Hall's South Orange, N.J. campus for good, he plans to take his work ethic to the next level and improve the parts of his game that fans and other coaches may be doubting. Seeing time during his freshman season behind seasoned guys like Sterling Gibbs, Jaren Sina, Khadeen Carrington, and possibly Isaiah Whitehead won't be easy, he will have to earn it, something that Willard and Hill have expressed to Soffer during his recruitment.
"I'm trying to improve my ball handling and my pull-up game a lot and getting stronger and more sound on the defensive end, just becoming a better basketball player. There's always room for improvement, that's a big thing that the coaches stressed, get better because they want to make me the best I can be and that's where I want to be.
"I'm definitely trying to get in the best shape of my life. It's a whole 'nother level, a huge transition. The season starts for us high school-wise this Saturday, I'll be in the gym every single day putting in work. I don't think anything will change, it will just pick up more. I've been a basketball player my whole life, it's a 24/7/365 kind of sport."
Dalton Soffer's commitment leaves two open scholarships for Seton Hall's 2015 class and makes landing a forward a necessity. 2015 power forward Myles Carter (St. Rita, Ill.) also officially visited last weekend, but may be looking to wait until the spring to commit.