NEWARK — Saturday night’s post-game after Seton Hall’s Senior Night win over Butler contained more sound bites than any game I can recall — and for good reason.
Kevin Willard assumed the fatherly role his seniors have attributed to him, and those four seniors spoke at length and from the heart into the late hours as the curtains were drawn on Seton Hall’s regular season and the final time those seniors would see the Prudential Center court.
In addition to my game story, here are the remaining quotes (aside from some I pulled for an upcoming feature story) from a truly terrific night.
Kevin Willard on Desi Rodriguez not playing: “He said ‘Coach I’m playing tonight’ this morning. We worked out this morning and he looked OK. I watched him shoot this afternoon before the game, and he said he could probably give 5-10 minutes. I didn’t want to take the risk of him hurting his other foot, re-hurting his foot, or going 0-for-3 and ruining a terrific year he’s had offensively.
“I think Desi will be ready for Thursday. That’s the big thing win the win, we get an extra day. I’m not as optimistic as Ish (Sanogo) is (about his own ankle), but I don’t count him out.”
Willard also said that his decision not to officially check Desi into the game in the closing seconds was because he wanted Desi’s offensive numbers to stay in tact, they would have taken a hit if he did see the court.
Khadeen Carrington on hugging Angel Delgado at the end of the game: “That’s my brother, that’s one of my best friends, one of the purest people I know, but at the end of the day we’re still not done yet. … It was a tough win, a gritty win, and we’re going to need a lot more like those.”
Carrington on his stoic approach the pre-game ceremony: “That’s just my way. I don’t really cry too much, I’m not really an emotional kid. It definitely meant a lot, just because I didn’t cry doesn’t mean it didn’t mean a lot. It definitely meant a lot. It feels like we’ve been here forever. Suiting up in here for one last time, I took it all in from walking in the building ‘till now. It’s a great feeling.”
On being friends with the fellow seniors, and more thoughts on the occasion: “I know those guys forever. And I think I made the right decision to come here. We just showed emotion at the end of the game. Everything we’ve been through, in this building, every practice, every game, we just let it flow out.”
Desi Rodriguez on Willard keeping him out of the game: “That’s why I love Coach, he knows what’s best for me, I had to listen. I was excited about Senior Night, I practiced yesterday actually. … I was able to get up and down. This morning we came from the hotel and I went to coach and said ‘Coach, I can give you some minutes tonight’ and he was like ‘You’re sure? Let me see how you shoot around before the game.’
“So I got out there and I was shooting and he saw me not landing on my shot on my left foot, so he didn’t want to take the risk and he didn’t put me out there tonight. He told me 4-5 minutes into the game, he kept looking at me and I thought he was going to put me in, I was anxious, I was about to run to the (scorer’s) table, he just came to me and said ‘I can’t do it tonight man’ and I said ‘Alright coach’ so I knew I wasn’t playing about four minutes in.”
On the crowd chanting his name late in the game: “Yeah, they were rooting for me to get in! I was about to shove myself in! Just knowing they love us. This was a great win to go out with. All the seniors stepped up.”
On the pre-game ceremony: “It was emotional, I didn’t know I was going to cry that early! Seeing the packed stands, everybody looking at me, screaming my name, I thought I could hold it in but it started coming out in the lay-up line. I’m just happy we did so much here for this program. The fans have been great for us. I’m just happy we got the win today.”
Ismael Sanogo on finishing his career where he start, his hometown of Newark: “It’s always great to finish your college career in the town you begin. With the people you basically grew up around. There’s an African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a kid’ and I feel like I was a kid when I came here and the people I was around helped raise me and I’m just thankful for that.”
Angel Delgado quotes to be added later… There was not enough time to speak to everyone, but a fellow reporter is going to share what Angel said…