NEW YORK — As of Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, it appeared that Brooklyn Lincoln guard Isaiah Whitehead might stay home and play for his hometown team — St. John’s.
Ranked No. 12 nationally by Scout.com, Whitehead would have been St. John’s first commit in the Class of 2014 and the program’s first McDonald’s All-American to remain at the school since Omar Cook in 2000.
“After we went to St. John’s [Wednesday], we sat there and we spoke to them,” Whitehead’s mother, Ericka Rambert, said Thursday at Lincoln. “Up until [Wednesday] night St. John’s was heavy on his mind. He was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to give up on the city.’ Everybody was treating him, ‘Oh, stay home for New York City, New York City, New York City, New York City.
“But like he said, they recruited him, then they stopped. He was like in awe with them, like ‘Do they really want me?”
Whitehead ultimately picked Seton Hall in part because they promised to make him the face of the program and give him immediate playing time as a freshman.
At St. John’s, Whitehead would have entered a crowded backcourt in 2014 that currently includes incoming freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan, along with juniors D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene, among others.
“When Rysheed Jordan got there, it was like a thing where we had Rysheed Jordan, so do we really need Isaiah Whitehead?” his mother said of St. John’s situation. “So he just went to the person that recruited him [Seton Hall] and every time he went to visit them or every time he spoke to them, ‘You the guy we want, you the guy we want. We didn’t think about nobody else. You the guy, you the guy, you the guy.’ And for a young guy that’s trying to establish himself in college, I think that’s the perfect place to go.”
Rambert also said that when Syracuse got point guard Kaleb Joseph and when Louisville added two guard JaQuan Lyle (who has since decommitted), Whitehead didn’t feel wanted by those teams, either.
“Where’s he going to fit in at?” she asked. “So those schools was definitely not an option anymore because he wants to go someplace where he’s going to play and he’s going to develop at the next level.”
It remains unclear what would have happened had St. John’s coach Steve Lavin promised Lincoln coach Tiny Morton a spot on his staff, something that sources told SNY.tv Lavin would never do for any high school coach simply to add a player.
Morton said Thursday he spoke to Lavin and asked why there wasn’t a spot available for him at St. John’s.
Meantime, Morton could well be added to the Seton Hall staff in 2014 assuming someone on the current staff is demoted or moved on.
Whitehead said he made up his mind for Seton Hall on Wednesday night because he felt it was the best place for him to flourish and because he wants to help build the program back.
Whitehead said fellow Seton Hall commit Khadeen Carrington of Bishop Loughlin texted him before Carrington committed and said, “We can take over here. This is our show. New York City boys coming to Jersey. Just things like that, and I kind of fell for it.”
As for St. John’s, they still have a loaded backcourt going forward and will now focus on adding bigs — including Adonis DeLaRosa of Christ the King — in the Class of 2014.
“As a result of three consecutive elite recruiting classes we now have positioned the program nicely for a bright future,” Lavin told SNY.tv. “Barring injuries on our present roster will have as much depth as any team I’ve coached in my career. With only a few scholarships available for the 2014 class, we will be appropriately discerning in terms of who we target from a recruiting standpoint.
“We will use the next six months to continue evaluating and recruiting prospects that we believe to be the best fit for our particular needs.”
Photo: Kelly Kline / UA
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.