Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Riding Recruiting Momentum, Seton Hall Looks to Carry it Over to Season
NEW YORK — Fuquan Edwin knows full well that Seton Hall has a loaded recruiting class coming in next year.
The Pirates have ESPN.com’s No. 4-ranked class, led by Brooklyn Lincoln guard Isaiah Whitehead, Huntington Prep forward Angel Delgado and Bishop Loughlin guard Khadeen Carrington.
If Edwin could have his way, he would stick around South Orange to join them.
“Yeah, I know next year’s going to be a great team, too, so I just wish I could be a fifth-year senior,” the 6-foot-6 wing from Paterson, N.J., told SNY.tv Wednesday at Big East media day.
(Note to Fu: Give Grant Gibbs at Creighton a call to work that out.)
The Pirates were picked to finish eighth in the 10-team Big East, and head coach Kevin Willard said he can’t really blame his fellow coaches, considering the team finished 15-18 a year ago, 3-15 in the Big East, amid a hailstorm of injuries. They had only six healthy players in their final game.
“If I was picking us from last year’s team, I would’ve picked us eighth,” Willard said.
This year, Willard has a full complement of healthy players and is especially excited about freshmen guard Jaren Sina and redshirt sophomore Sterling Gibbs, the younger brother of former Pittsburgh standout Ashton Gibbs. Willard said it was possible he would start the two point guards at times, the way the Knicks did for much of last season.
“We’re going to play two guards,” he said. “I like having two small guards on the court. I think it helps everybody get shots.” Willard said his guards will also be able to better defend the opponent’s point guard.
Willard plans to alter his lineups — going big or small — depending on the situation.
Edwin and 6-9, slimmed-down, 265-pound senior redshirt center Gene Teague will also start on a regular basis, and Willard can also work in 6-7 senior Brian Oliver, 6-9 redshirt junior Patrik Auda and 6-9 junior Brandon Mobley.
“We have a lot more interchangeable parts,” Willard said. “I have legitimately 12 guys that can play at any point.”
What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, Mobley, Auda and Oliver were all sidelined to varying degrees with injuries.
Auda took a redshirt after breaking his right foot and remains “a little rusty,” Willard said, adding that he would put Auda on a minutes-restriction because of his foot.
“Brandon’s as healthy as he’s ever been,” Willard said. “His shoulder is as strong as it’s ever been. He’s probably as ready to play as he’s ever been. So he and Patrik are probably two of our best players in practice.
“It’s amazing having [Auda] and Brandon on the court, what a different team we look like.”
Willard also spoke highly of freshman guard Hakeem Harris and junior wing Stephane Manga, saying they can defend athletic guards and wings.
“Both Hakeem and Steph bring a physicality that we didn’t have on our roster,” he said. “Those guys give us not only depth, but they’re going to give us some toughness.”
Overall, Willard believes this team can be better than the one he had two years ago, which finished 21-13.
“Without a doubt,” Willard said, adding that the roster had four seniors and five juniors, “which we didn’t have two years ago.”
If the Pirates can exceed their eighth-place finish and make the top half of the league, it should also help their recruiting efforts going forward.
“I think guys are starting to see that Seton Hall has what it takes,” Edwin said. “The program is building up even though we had a down year last year. I think people believe in Seton Hall and I think with the year we’re going to have this year we’re going to get even more better players.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.