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.