Replacing Isaiah Whitehead: Leadership, facilitating and three-point threats

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Isaiah Whitehead’s departure to the NBA Draft leaves several areas of great concern for a Seton Hall team that does return a lot of talent.

Whitehead’s leadership on and off the court compounds the departure of Derrick Gordon. Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Isaiah leaving is how Seton Hall will cope mentally in more than one way.

Gordon and Whitehead were the Hall’s 1A and 1B leaders, respectively, last season which will be as hard if not more difficult to replace than their on-court talent. When the going gets tough and Seton Hall needs a go-to guy on the court, who will step up? When there is a bad loss like Creighton at home last season, who will be on the front lines circling the wagons like Gordon did with a season-saving players only meeting?

The solution will remains to be seen with a still-maturing Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez, quiet but tough-as-nails Ish Sanogo and Khadeen Carrington, who has all the tools to step up as a leader.

The most obvious void left by Whitehead is at point guard. Some of you are confident Shaheen Holloway will work some magic and convert two-guard Carrington, but I don’t agree at this stage. He just isn’t the same style of player as Isaiah and hasn’t shown any natural distribution skills over his first two seasons. Despite that, it sounds like Kevin Willard is going to give Khadeen a shot.

The torch will likely be passed to a pending natural point guard graduate transfer that the Hall had recruited back in 2011, who can be roughly compared to Tom Maayan but with better stats and much more experience. The unnamed guard will probably be spelled by Carrington until a more explosive Jevon Thomas is hypothetically handed the reins in December, giving Kevin Willard solid backcourt depth for the Big East slate.

Any way you slice it, point guard goes from Seton Hall’s biggest strength to their biggest weakness and could turn out to be the fulcrum for any post-season success, despite the orbiting talent around that position.

Let’s not forget Isaiah Whitehead’s ever-growing threat from beyond the arc. He started as a purely volume shooter but developed into a guy capable of knocking it down at over 50-percent toward the back-end of the 2015-16 Big East season. Whitehead took 37-percent of the Hall’s threes last season and 39-percent of their makes, in addition to the aforementioned go-to guy status with the clock winding down.

In this department though, Whitehead’s teammates seem more capable of picking up the slack, though shot creation will remain a question mark. Carrington improved to shoot 33-percent from three last season while Desi Rodriguez (32-83, 38%) also vastly worked on his ability to hit the open triple from the wing.

Billed as one of the best shooters in his class, incoming freshman sniper Myles Powell is a potent variable here while Veer Singh will be given another shot as an impact bench player that can stretch defenses on the wing.

My projections:

Ish Sanogo and Khadeen Carrington will pair as Seton Hall’s two leaders this season, while the latter could be their best three-point threat pending his requirement to play point guard as well as Myles Powell’s ability to step right into the college game.

As for a go-to guy, I don’t think it is possible to replace the mojo that Isaiah Whitehead brought to the table, especially down the stretch last season. This won’t be easily replaced, if at all, and must be done by committee. Returning four junior starters will be a sound platform to build off of.

It’s really hard to predict Seton Hall’s floor general situation, but it sounds like they will at least have one natural point guard to lean on at the start of the season. If Jevon Thomas can last sitting out until December — which would mark 20 months since he last suited up — then Kevin Willard will face the challenge of integrating an apparently volatile play-maker into a team that has already played over a third of their schedule.

Seton Hall remains NCAA-caliber in nearly all aspects except for leadership, three-point shooting and capable floor generals.

Willard has five months to sort all of that out in preparation to defend the Hall’s Big East crown and seek back-to-back NCAA berths for the first time since 1993-94.

  • Fishjam

    All good points Chris and I agree with everything. I’ve seen so many people say that Carrington will develop into a PG but I don’t see it at all. Deeno is a scorer first and foremost and just doesn’t see the game the way a PG must. Isaiah had such incredible floor-vision and when he attacked he would most often look to dish. When KC attacks he is thinking finish the whole way. He also is not a great ball-handler and committed a lot of careless turnovers the last 2 years in the open floor.

    I’ve been reading and watching whatever video I can find on JT and MJ and they are both very similar type players. MJ is slightly bigger while JT seems quicker but both are good athletes and dribble-drive-dish type PGs. Neither shoot the ball well but they can breakdown their defender and find open teammates. They also appear to be willing and able defenders for their size. But whenever you incorporate new PGs there is a learning curve so the fact that JT must sit out at least the first 10-12 games is a huge detriment.

    The 3-pt shooting is a concern bc although Desi & Khadeen are capable of hitting open looks they can’t create their own 3s and without IW creating those open looks will they get the same opportunities? Can Angel improve as a passer out of the post to find these guys? I think Powell will really help in this area since he is capable of creating his own opportunities and doesn’t need to be wide open to hit 3s. However, he will have ups and downs as all freshman do. Veer is a big question mark….I know he’s a capable shooter but unlike Powell can’t create his own shots.

    The leadership void will be immense. DG’s presence and guidance was huge and he could get the team going with his intensity and defensive effort. Isaiah led with his work ethic and commitment and carried so much of the load on offense. Khadeen is going to have to step up, I think he is well-liked and respected but has to mature more and take on a leadership role. Ish plays and trains extremley hard at all times so will be a good leader. I’d like to see Desi and Angel mature more and become more consistent now in their Junior years because they are both inspirational players.

    Probably the biggest thing they will miss from isaiah is his ability to make everyone around him bettter. He created opportunities for every player on the court and absorbed so much of the defensive focus. He set Desi up for open jumpers and alley-oops…he fed Ish and Angel for easy bunnies all the time and created a lot of Khadeen’s open 3s. Can the new PGs set people up the way isaiah could? Remains to be seen. Team will need to rely on defense and running in transition even more

  • Andrew Herbst

    I don’t see Carrington developing into a PG. I see him as a 2 guard who is looking to score first. I like Desi at the 3. I think that Singh will get better and improve as a shooter. I think Powell will help a lot. PG is still a huge question mark. I think KW will have to go the transfer route. If Anderson were to leave, that would free up a roster spot. That could help us. I trust Shaneen to help develop whoever our next PG is.

  • John

    Great article Chris. Very thorough.

    I disagree that Carrington can’t take on the PG responsibilities. I think it is pretty similar to Gibbs in his first year, he would be better off the ball, but is probably much better at the point than whatever replacement they bring in to play PG. I just think that putting the best 5 guys on the court is probably more important than putting a Maayan-level point guard out there to relieve Deeno of some duties.

  • fouline

    For all of your reasons, Chris… leadership… facilitating and 3 point shooting we will be a totally different team. Totally different, no matter who the PG is. Now is the time that Willard & Company has to step up and find a solution to keep us at the top of the BE and in the top 25 nationally. This is what he’s being paid to do. If IW stepped up last year and carried us then the man who is making millions has to put up or get out.

    • Joe Schmoe

      100% spot on. The “solution” was to convince IW that he wasn’t NBA ready right now and have him return for another year in the top-25 spotlight. That was plan A. He failed at Plan A. Now were working Plan B. U never want to have to rely on Plan B.

      • RonD

        What? It was not KW’s job to “convince” IW that he wasn’t ready for the NBA. It was his job to get him all the info available and as objectively as possible so that IW and his family could make a decision that they believed is best for them, not what was best for SHU.
        By all accounts KW and Sha did just that. IW and his family made their decision. We all could agree or not but it was his decision on his future.

        • hallstorm

          I think you’re missing the point here: all players ultimately decide their own fate. However, there are mentors who can give advice which is best for the player and their are mentors who can give advice that’s best for the mentor. I don’t think KW gave any detrimental advice to IW. That being said, the point is that with IW back, there is a good chance SHU is in the top 25 for most of the season and would get a lot of air time and, thus more exposure for IW. It would also hone IW’s decision-making ability, improve his shooting percentage most likely and-again most likely-improve his draft status.

          I think SHU will be fine. Not as good had IW stayed, but they’ll be a tough out nonetheless. I think most of the posters here are speaking their mind with a lot of regard for IW’s future.

          But it really doesn’t matter what we all think.

          • RonD

            Agree with your points. But there is another school of thought that IW and his family decided to follow. That is, next year he will be 22 and would be a little old for high 1st round picks. There would be a whole new cast of colleg and foreign players coming out. He is viewed as not being overly athletic so that won’t improve by returning to college. Finally, yes he probably would improve some aspects of his playmaking and decision making, but against college players.
            From what I’ve read IW and his family felt he had enough assurances that he could land in a good situation and it was time to get on with his pro aspirations. But who really knows?
            We all wanted him to come back but it’s not about us. It’s not fair to say that KW “failed” to convince IW to return to SHU. KW and Sha are very close to IW. They did a great job getting him fair unbiased info. To do otherwise as you stated that would be bad mentoring.

          • hallstorm

            I understand your point regarding his age–I had mentioned that fact a while back on this forum–but I also pointed out back then that there are definitely 2–and maybe 3 with Valentine–lottery picks this year that are age 22 (Hield and Dunn are the other 2). All 3 will be guaranteed first round money. And Valentine and Hield aren’t the greatest athletes–they would not score very high on their performance tests. And to further the point–both Thon Maker and Skal Labissiere may not see teams take them in the first round either and they’re both 19 yrs. old and 7′ tall with an outside/inside game.

            I think Joe Schmoe was a little too zealous in allocating blame to Williard, but I get his inference. Williard can only support IW’s ultimate decision–especially publicly. That being said, it seems to me that IW’s mind was made up without respect to his competition results in the camps and combines–he didn’t wow anyone and most NBA scouts felt he should return to school.

            Perhaps it wasn’t communicated clearly above, but I think would all happily see IW leave if any of the scouting reports we saw had him in he vicinity–I repeat and say “in the vicinity” of the first round. I think we all worry about him getting lost in translation during this process. Lance Stephenson is the exception to the rule. I’m not say Isaiah can’t make it–I’m definitely rooting for him and it gives me reason the watch the draft this year–but it’s hella harder doing it this year rather than next.

            And remember–there are plenty of “assurances” from teams. But as Boeheim said: we have not one iota of real idea of what any team is thinking at this point.

            I hope I’m absolutely wrong and you can come back on this forum and say to me: “I told you so” this year and for the next bunch of years.

            But the odds are stacked against him at this present moment.

          • RonD

            Again, I agree with you. I was just pointing out how his thinking might have gone. Not trying to be proven right or wrong. His mom was supportive of him coming to SHU and apparently mom told him it was time to move on from SHU. He has a tough road ahead, we all hope he makes it. However I did have a real problem with the “Willard failed” comment.

          • Joe Schmoe

            The comment wasnt “Willard failed” the comment was “They are now working plan B” Plan B is a crap shoot. It might work, it might not. It might be another 5-13 “rebuilding year”…. It might be another NCAA year. Who knows.

          • Fishjam

            Hallstorm, I agree totally that age & athleticism weren’t big factors as I’ve seen lottery picks of all ages and athleticism.

            Bottom line is Isaiah’s plan was always to get to the NBA as soon as he could and once he started to play so well this year, his Mom and others in his camp (Tiny, Lance, etc) strongly felt it was time for him to go. They have been saying definitively that he’s going pro since January while he always tried to keep the decision open. After getting feedback from NBA teams and KW/Sha who all advised him he could improve his stock by retunring to school and showing bettter decision-making and shooting percentage, Isaiah began to waver and supposedly was ready to come back for 1 more year. BUT, eventually his “Camp” convinced him to do otherwise.

            From everything I’ve seen and read, Willard and Sha handled the situation wonderfully and supported Isaiah the entire time. From getting him prepared, to setting up workouts and acting as his Agents basically, they did everything they could to get him the most knowledge so he could decide. That’s all they could do and give their advice if asked. From what I gather they felt he should return also.

            Ms Rambert really seems like a great, caring and loving mother from everything I’ve read and observed. She believes in her son and strongly feels he will succeed. She and Z are taking a sizable gamble that he will succeed despite the popular opinion that he should wait. We shall see who is correct….I will root like hell that he becomes a star no matter where he’s drafted.

        • Joe Schmoe

          Remember….. the system is designed to lead people down the wrong path. If the rule didn’t change….and IW had to remove his name BEFORE the combine… Is he at SHU next season? Yes. The rules were changed to get more kids to opt out. Un-drafted is a real risk. He took the invite to the combine. He didn’t play particularly well. He took a pro workout and hurt himself. Hes not sniffing anywhere near 1st round on any mock draft. I don’t know what he and his mom are thinking….

          • HallBall10

            I get your upset we wont have iw next year but almost everything you said is incorrect…I strongly believe iw would have left if he had to commit before the combine. Everyone knew there was a good chance we would only have iw for 1-2 years max. And that came true. He didnt have a great combine and he still stayed in the draft…the system is set up to have underclassmen have a better understanding of where he’ll get drafted. Players such as melo trimble would have committed to the draft but are now returning… iw’s dream is to play in the nba and he feels he heard enough to believe he’ll make an nba roster.

  • Fishjam

    I’m very suprised to hear that Willard is going to use Khadeen at the point in the IW-role. I understand wanting to put the ball in the hands of your best player as much as possible but I just don’t think Deeno’s strong points equate to a PG. He’s really going to have to improve the way he sees the floor and keep his head up when he attacks to read the help defenders and decide to pass or shoot. He’ll also have to work hard at the fundamentals….ball-handling, passing and going to his right.

    Willard’s offenses have never been very creative so there isn’t much to learn as far as X’s and O’s. With the exception of out of bounds plays, we run the weave, the pick and roll and occassionly will look to get Angel the ball in the post.

    College ball and especially the Big East are PG-driven leagues so I get the move and it also will allow Willard the flexibility to go with his best players on the court regardless of position. That should allow Powell and Gordon the opportunity to earn more minutes which is crucial for the offense since Powell will be relied upon to create and hit from downtown.

  • PadrePirate

    Agree with Chris that leadership is going to have to come from Khadeen and Ish. But KC is just not the floor general/PG type, for all the reasons cited by Fish in both posts below.

    The unnamed transfer, JT, MP combo will have to do until one of the three emerges. But I really don’t like the idea of bringing JT on board in Dec when 1/3 of the season has passed. That could be a serious disruption just at the point when a team starts to gel.

    IW has left us quite a pickle. The boy better get drafted for this to be worth it.

  • fouline

    The ship has sailed… KC has been given charge of the team just like IW. Willard & Company is hoping lightning strikes twice. If it does, it will be very different. Only good sign is that KC has been working with a trainer in Washington according to the Post. Thank god for that…Boy!

  • shufaninva

    Welp….as always,

    Hazard Zet Forward! You can’t get to the next great thing unless you move on from the last great thing. Hazard Zet Forward!

  • Jersey Jerry

    Let’s all pause as Pirate Nation gives “THANKS” to ALL those who died defending ‘da USA!!!

    • 11yearplan

      Thanks Jerry

  • SHUblonde

    Just curious, what about Soffer? Is he not expected to make much of an impact? Or is he transferring? There were glimmers last season when he was on the court that he seemed to have a better eye for shots over Singh, he was rougher in all other areas but with another summer of training under his belt couldn’t he be a 3 pt threat, isn’t that why we signed him?

  • hallstorm

    I’m still confused as to why a transfer hasn’t been announced. Or the Jevon Thomas situation. Won’t a late announcement for a transfer hurt that transfer’s status with his upcoming team? I don’t understand the advantage to waiting until the end to make the announcement. Is there something i’m missing?

    • PadrePirate

      Yes, Puzzling. I’ve been checking this board everyday since IWs declaration, waiting to hear about the alleged, unnamed transfer…

      I’m beginning to fear that KWs premature and surprising announcement that KC will take the point has scared off any transfer looking for significant minutes/starting role.

      Not only that, but you gotta think that Taureens choice becomes almost certainly Syracuse now. Who wouldn’t choose a final four, high exposure team over SHU who now returns to bubble land?

    • Fishjam

      Taurean’s situation has dragged on a lot longer than expected. Until his situation is decided, other things are on hold. As it stands now the team is at 13 scholarships. They would like to add Taurean and a PG. It seemed the grad trnsfer PG was done but I’m still reading the Hall is in on 2016 PGs also so there may be a snag with the grad PG., In any event if TT and a PG are signed then 2 moves will be made….Braden Anderson will be 1 and the other TBD.

      Remember last year we were at the max 13 scholarships and out of the blue Derrick Gordon committed. Everyone knew Chier Ajou or Rasheed Anthony were likely gone but it wasn’t announced for about 3 weeks later that Ajou was transferring. Anyone possibly transferring out of the Hall now will have to sit a year anyway so they are not in a rush.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Isiash’s working out with the Knicks tomorrow. I would love to see them draft him in the 2nd round.