Beyond the prominent post-season implications intertwined with Seton Hall's clash against Providence on Wednesday night, a pre-game ceremony will take place at center court in Prudential Center.
It's time for Senior Night at the Rock and a trio of them in Brandon Mobley, Haralds Karlis, and two-year junior college transfer Stephane Manga will be recognized before the opening tip. None of the three quite have the statsheet allure that Jeremy Hazell (‘11) and Fuquan Edwin (‘14) had nor the floor general leadership of Jordan Theodore (‘12), but a pair of four-year seniors in Mobley and Karlis deserve their moment in the spotlight too.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Brandon Mobley was one of Kevin Willard's more highly-rated recruits (3-stars) during his early recruiting years while Haralds Karlis, a Latvian product by way of the Canarias Basketball Academy, was thought of as a versatile guard that would be a lethal weapon from beyond the arc.
Both have played over 100 games for Seton Hall since coming to South Orange in that six-deep 2011 recruiting class and have stuck it out through a lot of hard times in the standings as well as a pair of shoulder injuries for Mobley and limited court time for Karlis despite an excellent work ethic.
"I hate senior night because each group is special in their own way," said Kevin Willard on Saturday after beating Creighton. "Obviously Brandon and ‘H' have been with me now for a full four years. You can't say anything bad about either one of those two guys.
"Steph has joined them and has done a great job of sacrificing his role for the last two years. I think all of them have, but they've represented the program and most importantly the university at the highest level. Haralds is a - he had a bad semester last year," joked Willard. "He's like a 3.6 [GPA] student, Brandon is a 3.2 student. Steph has worked extremely hard, they're all going to graduate, they've just been really good ambassadors to the program and to the university and I don't think you can say anything better about kids."
Brandon Mobley's first two seasons were interrupted by a nagging shoulder injury that eventually sidelined him for the last seven games of his sophomore year after battling through pain with a heavy bandage wrapped around his shoulder. Mobley was a 40 percent three-point shooter (40 of 100) over his first two years and was always complementing Patrik Auda at power forward until this season.
After plenty of debate about whether he should play more inside the arc or stick to his strength by stretching defenders to the perimeter, Mobley currently has the best single-season offensive rating of his career and has done more work inside the arc (69 of 144, 48%) than ever before.
"It was fun, I can remember my first game from my freshman year," said Mobley reflecting on his first minutes as a Pirate which fittingly came in 2011-12 against Macon, Georgia-based school Mercer.
"It's going to be bittersweet, but more sweet than anything because it's just an accomplishment to be able to stick it out, of the six guys that came in our freshman year [Sean Grennan, Freddie Wilson, Kevin Johnson, Aaron Cosby], me and Haralds are the only two that stuck it out the four years. We're just going to soak in the moment but we know it's not the last game of the season so we're not going to get too caught up in it," said Mobley, who noted post-Creighton that the team is far from done this season.
It comes as no surprise that Mobley, who rang the bell of confidence and a late-season run post-Creighton, spoke of sticking together as a team when asked about what legacy he hopes these seniors will leave at Seton Hall.
"Just to trust in the system. No matter the ups and downs you go through - you're going to have ups, you're going to have downs - if you can just stay together and trust in each other and trust in the coaches, you'll be alright. You can't just quit when things go south, you can't just start feeling sorry for yourself. If you can just stay together and play as a team and play as brothers you'll be alright no matter what you go through."
Oddly enough, Haralds Karlis had what he called the best game of his life on Saturday against Creighton, days before Senior Night. Karlis matched a career-high by scoring 14 and ignited a fire under his teammates by playing with unteachable energy on the court. Since the transfer of Jaren Sina, Stephane Manga has received the nod on the wing with several starts instead of Karlis, but expect Haralds to feature tomorrow night and beyond after proving what he can do when given a chance that he was patiently waiting for.
Reflecting on his four-year career, most of it coming alongside close friends and recent Seton Hall grads Aaron Geramipoor and Patrik Auda, Karlis said he's going to visit his buddies as soon as he graduates.
"Absolutely, [me and Pat Auda] we talk everyday, and Aaron Geramipoor," gushed Haralds of his still-strong connection with his former teammates. "I miss those guys everyday, we still make calls and group calls, still very very close. It's probably the first thing I'm going to do after the school year is go and see those guys.
"They've always been [there] through all my career here and CBA, those were the guys who got me through CBA and obviously helped me here a lot. I'm so blessed I've had those guys and still have them. They're my best friends and no one can take them away from me."
For the time being, it'll be the finale for Karlis, Mobley and Manga at the Rock, but there is still plenty of meaningful season to go and a potential post-season stage to extend their careers depending on results.
While the seniors will be the focus tomorrow night, especially before the game, at least one freshman is determined to send his mentors along their way on a positive note.
After speaking highly about how Brandon and Haralds are like teachers to him, freshman phenom Angel Delgado, smiling ear-to-ear and perhaps naive to the stage that is Wednesday night for his teammates said, "I'mma play really, really hard for them on Senior Night."