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.
Desi Rodriguez expects to play on Senior Night as banged-up Seton Hall makes postseason push
By ADAM ZAGORIANEWARK — Desi Rodriguez was forced to watch Seton Hall’s thrilling 69-68 overtime loss to No. 4 Villanova at Prudential Center while sitting on the bench and wearing a black sweatsuit.
But with only a handful of games remaining in his college career, Rodriguez told ZAGSBLOG he expects to be back on the court for Senior Night on Saturday against Butler.
“Yeah, hopefully Saturday I know I’m going to give it a try,” said Rodriguez, who has been sitting out with an ankle injury since turning it on a slippery floor at Providence last Wednesday and is averaging a team-best 18.1 points to go with 5.0 rebounds.
“I know I’m getting better every day, so I’m just happy about that. I’m moving in the right direction with my injury. I sprained my tendon in my ankle so that’s kind of what I use to jump off. It’s still sore, it still hurts, but it’s getting better.”
Pirates coach Kevin Willard officially listed Rodriguez as doubtful for Saturday, and also said Ish Sanogo, who twisted his ankle in the loss, and Jordan Walker, who re-injured his thumb during practice this week, won’t play Saturday. Myles Cale, who left the Villanova game in the second half with cramps, is expected to be OK. Willard said he expects Sanogo back for the Big East opener.
“When they get Desi back, that’s a hell of a team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Said Willard: “It’s very important that we get healthy. Once we get Desi back, it puts everything back to normal.”
Said Rodriguez: “We definitely got to stay healthy. Just some minor injuries with ankles and cramps and things like that. We got to stay healthy, eat the right foods, get the right fluids in our body and we’ll be successful.”
Seton Hall now sits at 20-10 on the season, 9-8 in the Big East.
If they beat Butler and Creighton loses at Marquette on Saturday, Seton Hall could move as high as the No. 3 seed behind Xavier and Villanova. Seton Hall would fall to the No. 7 seed with a loss to Butler combined with a Marquette win over Creighton and a Providence win over visiting St. John’s, which beat Butler Wednesday night without Shamorie Ponds.
To say the stakes are huge on Saturday, then, would be an understatement.
“Oh it’s definitely important for two reasons,” Rodriguez said. “Senior Night is my last home game and we hopefully need a win. To get that win, it would be great. Just hoping we don’t play the first night in the Big East Tournament so getting that win is going to be very important for us.
“And I’m confident about that, and who wouldn’t want to play on Senior Night? You know you got to give it a try.”
On Wednesday night at the Garden, the No. 7 seed will play No. 10, while 8 will play 9 in a game that could feature St. John’s and Chris Mullin against Georgetown and Patrick Ewing.
Despite the loss, Rodriguez said his teammates were “optimistic” heading into March. The Pirates were once a Top-25 team and still have high hopes of making a deep run in March despite dropping out several weeks ago.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Without me today, my guys battled, man. I’m proud of them. They’ve been battling since I was gone. Everybody that came off the bench was productive, they fought today. They fought till the last second. We lost by 1 without me being the leading scorer. Just to show you that my team can fight and play against anybody. This loss today made us very confident, just losing by 1 and I felt when I get back I can bring some more production to the team.”
Aside from the injuries, off-the-court distractions have swirled around Seton Hall. The Pirates were linked to the FBI investigation into college basketball when former guard Isaiah Whitehead and former assistant Tiny Morton were both listed in last week’s Yahoo report as having received payments from former NBA agent Andy Miller.
Seton Hall has hired outside counsel to handle the situation, while Morton told ZAGSBLOG he did not take money from Miller.
“Yeah, we’re just focusing on the on-the-court stuff,” Rodriguez said. “Everything else just stays to the side until we handle business and finish business and that’s what we’re looking forward to do. We gotta be mentally strong at this point in time of the season and I feel like my guys got that. We got a lot of confidence.”
The Pirates will get at least one game in the Big East Tournament at the Garden, and hope for more, and then will likely get at least one NCAA Tournament game where they have lost two straight first-round games. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has Seton Hall as a No. 8 seed playing in Charlotte.
“Just knowing that the season flew by so fast and now after this game on Saturday we got basically two more guaranteed games left so it’s just surreal, man,” he said. “I’m just ready to take on the rest of the season.”
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.