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.”
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.”
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  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. “