The Big East's head coaches were involved in the first league teleconference this afternoon ahead of Seton Hall's clash with No. 15 St. John's in the first game of the New Year's Eve Tip-Off event on Wednesday.
Steve Lavin spoke about Sir`Dominic Pointer's development and the team's progress going into the game while Kevin Willard discussed Angel Delgado's Big East Rookie of the Week award and gave an update on Isaiah Whitehead's injury.
On his team's progress: "I'm pleased with the development of our team yet we also realize we have to continue to improve in a number of facets if we're going to continue to be successful in Big East play. Our guards across the board, we have good balance, we have a number of players who are playing with confidence, and it just evolved, our upperclassmen continued to develop their game. Good momentum going into conference play, yet if we perform like we did in the second half against Tulane, we'll get blown out at Seton Hall, they've had a propensity to blow us out in recent years. Some of our biggest losses in recent years have been against Seton Hall."
On what really sparked Sir`Dominic Pointer's development: "Judgments in terms of when to attack offensively and gathering his feet - it sounds like something that would be simple - but when you play at high speeds the ability to gather and organize your feet to be balanced to take better shots, make mid-range [shots] and draw defenders. I would say Dom has always demonstrated electrifying athleticism throughout his career, but this year he's added the footwork, the body balance, and has been able to pick those spots where its so important to organize to shoot ad higher percentage, to draw defenders, and get the ball to open teammates like he did against Syracuse in the middle of their 2-3 zone ... The numbers indicate that, he has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team and he's shooting the best percentage on the team, and that means he's really making good decisions."
Opening statement: "It was good for us to get back on the winning side, we didn't play overly well against Georgia, but I thought we bounced back nicely against Maine. Obviously our focus is on arguably the best team in the Big East right now. I love the way St. John's is playing as a team both offensively and defensively. Going to be a real test for our young guys to play our first Big East game against St. John's, who I think is one of the best teams, and Villanova who is obviously the other best team. We have our hands full, going into Wednesday, but we're looking forward to the challenge."
When asked about if his guard depth lessens the Whitehead injury blow: "It's still a pretty big hit. He was involved in a lot of what we were trying to do offensively, but he was also involved in a lot of what we were trying to do defensively. The thing about Isaiah that most people don't understand, is that he's got a tremendously high basketball IQ, and the way were able to play with him on the defensive end really helped us out. From an offensive standpoint we have the depth to sustain that a little bit, but defensively it hurts us probably a little bit more than offensively because we're losing his basketball IQ."
On Angel Delgado earning Big East Rookie of the Week honors this morning: "Angel's been great for us, obviously rebounding at such a high level - we knew we were going to get that from him, he's understanding game plans, he's really been a good force down there for us. Playing a little out of position because he's more of a power forward than a center, but he's sacrificed some of his offensive skills for some things on defense for us. We've been really pleased with his energy and obviously his rebounding."
The focus going into Wednesday: "It's not easy, D`Angelo [Harrison] is playing at such a high level, offensively he's doing so many things. Not just shooting the basketball, what I'm most impressed about their guard play is how unselfish they are. They really do a great job of creating for each other. As crazy as this sounds, I think the key to the team is Sir`Dominic Pointer, the fact that he's now playing the power forward spot, having four guards on the floor that can beat you off the dribble and can create, he really causes nightmare match ups for everyone that they've played and it's going to be a big challenge for us to be able to contain him not only in the half court, most impressively with Dom is what he does in the fast break in creating shots for Phil Greene and shots for D`Angelo on the break. Their guards are tremendous, they're veterans, they've been through good times and bad times and now they're really blossoming at the right time and Lav is just doing a tremendous job with them."
Thoughts on the Big East's non-conference performance: "Everybody was looking forward to how everybody was going to do. I think all the coaches were not looking forward to the Big East schedule, because I think we knew going in there were great veteran players and then the influx of great talent that has come into the league. We all knew going into the Big East its going to be an 18-game absolute grind."
On Isaiah Whitehead's current status: "He's playing a lot of video games right now [laughs]. Right now, it's just rest. He's lifting weights, doing some upper cardio work, but with where the stress fracture is right in the middle of his foot, he needs two weeks of absolute rest, he's in a boot for two weeks, then we'll re-evaluate him after two weeks and get an MRI and see where it is and then we'll take actions from there. For right now, he's like having another coach on the sideline, he's helping his teammates, he's helping Haralds [Karlis] and Steph [Manga] understand what they need to do to help us. He's an assistant coach and a darn good one."