Big East Media Day: Seton Hall Notebook

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NEW YORK – For Seton Hall, Big East Media Day revolved around a few general themes: replacing Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon, and everything that goes with it (point guard play, defense, leadership).

I’ve made sure to include some quotes about the above along with some funny and interesting additional tidbits from the first conference Media Day that took place on Madison Square Garden’s court.

On filling the void at point guard:

Desi when asked about Jevon Thomas, Madison Jones and Khadeen – “They both have similar games. Madison’s arms are long, he plays defense, he gets in passing lanes, he gets out on offense and finds teammates, he’s very unselfish. This off-season playing with him I’m very confident going into the season with him as our starting PG […]
Khadeen has been at the ‘one’ a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Khadeen plays the ‘one’ most of the time because Khadeen is a point guard but he can score and find teammates too.”

Regarding the new guys – “JT is a great defender. Madison is also a great defender. Madison is poised and gets guys involved. JT will just nag you the whole game, that’s two guys we need this year if we want to win.”

Angel Delgado – “Khadeen and Madison are going to do a really good job and when JT comes back for the Big East, I think they’re going to do great. A lot of people think we have problems with the point guard position, but I don’t think so.”

Kevin Willard on Jevon Thomas  and Madison Jones – “What JT can bring to our program is a defensive presence that we haven’t had. He can really defend the basketball in a way we haven’t had. He’s almost like a Paul Gause-type defender. Just from watching Paul, I didn’t get to coach Paul. He’s that type of defender, he can change the game that way. We can press more aggressively than we have in the past. With him coming in, we can be a little more aggressive on the defensive end.

“Madison has been phenomenal. He’s a lot like Derrick [Gordon]. He’s come in, he’s very mature, he’s gone through some ups and downs in his career. He’s come into this team understanding we have four starters back and he has to come in and get to know these guys on and off the court. He’s been extremely steady with the basketball, he’s given us a nice presence. He did play 80 ACC games, he’s played at a high level of basketball which is nice. He’s also been a good leader, ’cause hes a quiet kid, he doesn’t need attention.”

On leadership:

Desi on his role as a junior – “Just being more vocal on the court. Last year, Derrick [Gordon] was that guy talking to everyone. Me as a freshman, I needed help on the court, so I’m taking on that role helping Myles Powell, who is going to be a big player for us, Eron Gordon, Madison Jones and JT [Jevon Thomas].”

Angel Delgado – “I feel like our freshman and sophomore year, we were still kids. Now we have to show the young guys how grown we are, how they have to depend on us. Coach always talk to us and tells us we’re not kids anymore. He never says ‘good job today’ [for routine things], maybe our freshman year. It’s time for us to step up and really show we’ve grown every year we’ve been here.”

Kevin Willard speaking about team’s maturity – “Oh yeah… They’re not men yet, but they’re young men. They’re not kids. I think they’re being held more accountable on and off the court. Some minor things that I used to yet slide because they were young, give em freebies, there’s nothing letting slide. On the court, I’m probably a little bit easier on them because they’re more advanced. When they’re freshmen and sophomores you’re constantly trying to teach them, now you’re constantly trying to improve.”

When I asked if they’re puppies, dogs (using KW’s analogy) – “[They’re] Pain in the asses. No, they’re definitely not puppies anymore but again they’re not grown up yet. They’re still juniors and they still have a lot to learn. That’s what I love about this group, they don’t think that they’re there yet. Every day they come to practice, we practice hard. We’re probably practicing as hard as any program I’ve had. We don’t practice as long because we’re practicing harder. They’re eager to still learn, because sometimes when you get older you think you hae all the answers. What I love about this group is they still know they have a lot to improve on.”

Analyzing the non-conference schedule:

Desi, when asked if he’d like to rematch Gonzaga – “Our first game is against Florida, and they’re the home team. Definitely looking forward to the game against Florida, trying to beat them and definitely see Gonzaga again.”

Khadeen on who he’s looking forward to playing – “I think Iowa is going to be good test for us — at Iowa. Get us prepared for an away game. I heard it gets pretty crazy in there, I think it’ll be a good test for us.”

Willard on the schedule’s strength – “It’s terrible. The guy who left for EKU put it together [a joke/shot at Ryan Whalen]. It wasn’t supposed to be as tough travel but if you get the chance to play on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, to be there and give your kids the experience and let them understand the history and how many people have scarified their lives so you can play a game, you can’t pass up that opportunity. When FOX came to us and asked ‘can you play’, that put the schedule the way it is … That’s something you can’t pass up.”

Everything else:

Carrington’s reaction to returning to the Garden – “It’s the first time I’ve been here since we won. I stepped on the court and all the memories rolled back. I can’t wait to get here again. It’s a long season, we’re going to take it one game at a time, but we know what the goal is.”

Angel Delgado recalling the time he received his BET ring – “The first time I put it on, I put it on Snapchat, Instagram, I put it everywhere. That’s something you’re never going to forget in your life. You’re always going to have it in a special part of your house. My mom will cry every time she sees it.”

Delgado on losing Isaiah Whitehead –  “It was hard because he’s our best friend. He comes almost every weekend to see us. Somebody got to leave, every year, somebody got to leave.”

On who has stepped up this summer – “I think Mike Nzei, he’s really proving himself. That guy works every single day. He works so hard, he always goes hard, he never slows down like ‘Oh, I don’t wanna go today’ — he’s not that type of person. I really think he’s going to do really good this year.”

Kevin Willard on using the four spot (I asked him about another forward stepping up) – “ We’re going to use that spot [4] a lot more. He’s [Ish Sanogo] worked hard, he has a nice 15-foot jumper, he wants to shoot threes but until he can shoot 70% from the FT line he’s not going to shoot threes. Mike Nzei has really improved and I think we’re going to use Veer [Singh] in that position at certain times. Try to space the floor a bit and use our quickness at the guard spot and give Angel some more room. Ish played 28 mpg and is one of the best defenders in the conference, he’s still going to be out there, but we have to use that position a bit more that in the past […I then asked if he meant Veer as a stretch four…] At times. We can put him out there with Myles Powell, especially when JT gets back, to open up the floor.”

Willard on team’s progress – “We’re much more advanced than we were [at this point] last year. We have 12 plays in, 2 defenses in, our whole sideline out of bounds package, we have our end-of-game plays in. Last year we had 2 plays in at this point because it was constantly trying to teach. Obviously you’re still teaching, but its a much more accelerated pace. “

  • hallstorm

    Great quotes here Chris. Really good to hear that they are still working hard–still trying to improve. This group could be a bigger surprise than what it looks like on paper. I love the stress on defense and having defensive specialists like JT and Jones.

    This season is paramount for the program to keep continued success. Having a winning season and consistency will speak volumes to prospective recruits.

    • VinBick

      Big time pressure on Coach Willard to continue to build upon last year’s accomplishments. Hope the fans come out in big numbers to support the program.

      • fouline

        That’s the problem with winning – fans could get used to it. And if we don’t win we go back to our status as an also-ran. But more than ever this year is on Willard. He doesn’t have the field general to lead the charge. But the team is solid and talented. But he has to make the difference and coach this team to success.

        • hallstorm

          This season is so integral. I don’t want last season’s success to be predicated solely on IW’s perseverance and ability. The defense and ability to close out games was a huge step forward.

          Most importantly, recruits from 2018 and beyond (but especially the local guys for ’18) need to know Seton Hall will be a relevant program on a national level. That is paramount because that means the team will consist of more than just one star and that a continuum of local high school standouts will overlap years.

          This season’s team doesn’t have anyone getting national recognition right now, but AD and KC can change all of that and show Williard can develop players.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Can’t wait for this year to start. I think Jones will do well as starting PG. I think he will take on the role that Gordon had last year.

    • As I wrote above, will be fluid and will depend on opposition. Perhaps Khadeen starts at PG against a tougher team and then MJ comes in off the bench. Or KC goes to the ‘1’ when MJ needs to rest, and then Myles Powell slots in at the 2.

      We shall see

      • Andrew Herbst

        I like the depth we have at PG. Much more than in previous years

  • Matty P

    Thank you Chris for the coverage. I’m excited to see this team start playing in about a month from now. As much as I enjoyed watching Whitehead and everything he helped this team accomplish, I’m looking forward to someone who is more of a true PG in JT and Jones and being overall a more balanced team instead of having to rely on one player to carry the load.

    • You’re welcome! I’m excited to see what MJ brings to the table, and JT in December. KW will have to be smart with his rotation as I don’t think either can do it all. He will have to juggle like he did with Gordon last season coming off the bench in almost every game around the u16 or u12 timeouts

  • shufaninva

    Any word on any Madness events planned? Reigning BE Tournament champs should really not miss an opportunity to create a buzz towards defending that crown with a great Madness night, combining the women’s and men’s teams that both went dancing last year. Sometimes some fans need to be shown that last year wasn’t a fluke, and a great Madness event would start the process of keeping hype on an all time high from November till April.

    • Unsure about Midnight Madness — I’d presume there is no event but I can check.

      There is a meet/greet for MBB+WBB next weekend (I believe Saturday). Think it’s open to season ticket holders only.

      There will be no exhibition game this year. Instead, team will play two closed door scrimmages (A-10 + Big Ten schools).

    • No Midnight Madness this year

  • VinBick

    An important component to this team’s success is Desi and how much he has improved going into the season. He is capable of making a big impact on both ends of the court. Desi is a strong weapon who has to contribute for a successful season for the Pirates.

    • Coach Mike

      As long as his maturity holds up!

  • Little off topic, but here is a brief update on Nojel Eastern: Apparently the staff did not feel very confident after his visit (as of early this week) — heard this from multiple people. He may have been leaning to a particular Big Ten school.

    I then heard later in the week that that has changed and they like their chances now. A B10 school on his list picked up a commit from a 2017 PG, for whatever that is worth. Coincidence? Direct cause?

      • hallstorm

        I’d love to say this has direct impact, but Michigan State is the major competitor for his services. And they already have a nice recruiting class now. All this is not to say we don’t have a great chance given the players on the roster now, but Izzo is a tough one to overcome.

        I like the updates though. And any hope of a prestigious midwestern recruit to come here is at least a moral win.

        I can only hope that our initial, early interest counts for something

  • Andrew Herbst

    O/T: We are ranked 32th in preseason USA Today poll

    • PadrePirate

      Amazing. Not that preseason polls mean much, but BE polls have us 4th or 5th in the conf. Wonder how that translates to 32 in the nation. Go Pirates!

      • PadrePirate

        Nova, Xav, Jays all make top 25, Pirates and Butler just outside. Month to wait…

      • Andrew Herbst

        I can’t wait for this season to start!

  • Matty P

    For anyone interested in the SHU media day from yesterday below is a link of interviews with Willard and some of the players. Just so you know it’s a long video (~ 1hr 10 mins) and the audio volume jumps around a little (I personally had to turn my volume all the way up to hear Willard’s interview).

    • Thanks for posting. I was unable to make it due to work constraints.

      • Matty P

        Glad to share. It was interesting listening to some of Willard’s thoughts on the team next year and what they plan on doing offensively. Not sure how I feel about the increase in the number of 3s this team might make, but that seems to be the direction that many teams are relying on. Also great to hear all of the players mentioning the focus on defense. If this team can play similar to the level they played defensively last year then that will take some pressure off the offensive side of the game.

  • Pelzman story on Jevon Thomas & choking incident last spring

  • Has been widely reported on, but still a good story on Myles Powell transforming his body after an injury that saw him gain weight

  • Jerry Carino on Seton Hall’s new look offense (also referenced in this notebook with Singh playing at the 4)

  • hallstorm


    How serious is Seton Hall’s recruitment of Jordan Walker? He’s seems a bit small. Of course, I know they are waiting for Eastern and Duvall to decide, but what if they wait it out until the spring signing period? Will Willard wait that long for a point guard? And should The Hall invest in a good but not great PG for the future?

    I only say this because he is now being forecast by 3 of the “crystal ball” experts to come to Seton Hall. I don’t see much in the local news regarding him at all other than the offer a couple months back.

  • VinBick

    How about a new comments section beyond this article? Let’s hear from regulars and their predictions for the upcoming season. Are season ticket sales on the upswing with the success of this past year? Will the “Rock Lobsters” be back this season? Ledger and the other local rags practically ignore Seton Hall Basketball. is obsessed with the Philly Eggles. Chris, you are our primary media outlet for all things Pirates!

    • Ill be rolling out new content starting Sunday. Polls, previews, predictions and more.

      • VinBick

        Thanks, I forget sometime that you do your part with no salary. Guess you are entitled to have a life beyond spoon-feeding us Pirate fans…

        • No problem. Any bit of prodding from you guys and gals only motivates…

          I had stuff ready to roll out as of a few weeks ago but have seen in past pre-seasons that fan interest isn’t quite there regardless of content until the week or two before opening night.

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