You remember the drill: Run to your mailbox, throw it in the trash, or try to turn a ‘D’ into a ‘B’ with some permanent ink, because Seton Hall’s annual report card is in.
Due to a few requests from you guys, I’ve decided to take a stab at grading the overall 2015-16 performance of Seton Hall’s coaching staff along with every player.
Now that the dust has settled following the Hall’s short-lived trip to Denver, it’s time to look back at the expectations going into the season, the actual performances of the staff and players, plus intangible contributions. We’ll start with the coaching staff and then move onto the players.
Kevin Willard: A
Coming into his sixth year at the helm, Willard was certainly on the hot-seat and came fairly close to being let go last spring. He exceeded all expectations on way to winning Big East Co-Coach of the year and bringing a conference tournament crown back to South Orange.
This grade easily could have turned into a C or D if things went south, but they didn’t with a little help from his players as well as maturing on Willard’s part.
We saw almost no long-heaving baseline inbounds passes this year, an improvement in scoring success rates coming out of timeouts and the implementation of a respected defense that finished 8th in KenPom defensive efficiency, a number that was actually matched in Willard’s first year in charge (2011).
The early NCAA exit had a faint stamp of mismanagement from Willard, but it’s nothing to really gripe about when looking at the big picture. He could have handled the unfortunate seeding/site situation better and I think his in-game coaching against Gonzaga deserves a B-. The technical arguably came out at a poor time and Seton Hall wasn’t able to adjust well to Isaiah Whitehead’s off-night.
Shaheen Holloway and Fred Hill stayed on from last season while Grant Billmeier started his second stint, coming from Fairleigh Dickinson to replace Dwayne ‘Tiny’ Morton. His addition certainly upgraded the staff as Billmeier bleeds Blue, most recently seen with him ferociously trying to amp up the crowd during the second half of the Gonzaga game.
In no surprise, Holloway has been tireless on the recruiting trails and the overseeing of Isaiah Whitehead’s transition to a point guard can be at least partially attributed to him. He appears ready for a local low-major job but that might have to wait another season; Sha is another Hall alum on the staff that loves his University and is referred to by Willard as a younger brother.
Derrick Gordon: A
Nothing breaking here, we all know by now how much Derrick really saved this season. His calling of a players-only meeting after the home loss to Creighton in January was a season-changing moment and just the beginning of the emergence of DG as the team’s captain.
On the court, Gordon also added what Seton Hall had been missing last year in the absence of Fuquan Edwin: a defender who can be asked to hound the other team’s best player in the 1-through-3 spots. His free throw shooting and inaccuracy within the paint were sometimes frustrating but were surely made up for in other areas.
I’ve referred to Derrick as a life-preserver and I’m sticking to it. He kept the Hall and Kevin Willard float this season in some choppy January waters.
Isaiah Whitehead: A
He ultimately laid an egg in Denver and had a topsy turvy non-conference season but Whitehead played at the levels everyone expected coming out of Lincoln. His 44th-best assist rate really peaked during Big East play and helped earn him first-team honors that are well-deserved.
Seton Hall needed a three-point specialist coming into the season and Isaiah assumed that role, particularly in Big East play (52-122, 42.6%) after shooting just 32-percent in league play as a freshman (18-56). His 42.6 rate was seventh-best for conference-only shooting from beyond the arc.
I won’t speculate about his NBA future here, but the fact that we’re even hearing that sort of talk is due to how well he played this year. Looking back two years ago, not many thought Isaiah would be in South Orange for more than two seasons, now many fans are hoping and praying that becomes a reality.
Khadeen Carrington: A-
Like Whitehead, Deen-o/Dino put in a ton of work during the off-season to improve his jumper and it paid big dividends. Along with a scoring average increase from 8.8 to 14.1, Carrington improved from 28-percent in three-point shooting a year ago to 33.5% (56-167) this year.
A year ago, defenders were closing out on him last like they’d do Derrick Gordon but that all changed as this campaign went on and scouting reports adjusted to his development; Carrington was 13-39 (39%) from three over his final five games of the year.
Any sort of serious drive and distribute skills are keeping Khadeen from a place in the all-conference teams but he certainly showed the desire and ability to improve from his freshman year.
Angel Delgado: B+
Sometimes we get spoiled with Delgado’s ability to register 10+ rebounds with ease on any given night but Angel did so 19 times this year, though just once his last seven games.
His inconsistency and ability to disappear in games against teams with superior height is probably the biggest knock but he can also take complete control with his offensive rebounding really helping Seton Hall’s style of play.
There was some early talk of regression in Angel’s game but that was dispelled as the season progressed. It looks like he had added somewhat of a jump shot and ability to face up defenders; both will need to be improved upon next year as the Dominican native will look to build upon an honorary all-league mention.
Desi Rodriguez: B+
Rodriguez is in a very similar category as Angel. Desi averaged 17.1 ppg over a seven-game span in league play but was also notably in Kevin Willard’s dog house a pair of times for talking back and not giving maximum effort on the defense side of the ball.
His ability to score in a multitude of ways including highlight-reel dunks is hard to match when he goes on hot streaks, contributing to a doubling of his scoring average from 5.6 to 12.4. Rodriguez most-notably improved his outside shot which became a sure-bet if his feet were set; Dunkin’ Desi was 38-percent from three on the year.
Ish Sanogo: A
From 5.3 minutes per game as a freshman to 28 per game this year, Ish is my vote for the biggest improvement since last March. We weren’t sure who was going to step in for Brandon Mobley at the four but Sanogo did that and more. His lock-down defending was on display from Dartmouth until he was paired against Kyle Wiltjer in Denver and was a breath of fresh air alongside Derrick Gordon.
Ish took some poor free throw shooting to heart early in the season and has improved since but his interior scoring will be the area to watch going into next campaign. He missed a fair amount of bunnies around the paint with Kevin Willard admitting during the Big East tournament that he doesn’t have any plays drawn up for his power forward. If that can change next season, the Newark native could become a household name as he’d certainly be on an all-league defensive team as of now.
Mike Nzei: B-
After sitting out his freshman year with a redshirt but also injured, Nzei was a pleasant surprise coming off the bench at the four. His positioning on the offensive glass is a staple of his game as it provides a bunch of put-back offensive boards.
Nzei gets a B- because he only played 13.5 mpg but there looks to be a promising future for the native of Nigeria.
Veer Singh: first semester C, second semester N/A
A lanky small forward, Veer started the season with a hand injury that limited him but he then went on to see a bunch of time on the court until the Creighton loss; he played just 73 minutes after.
He gets an average grade in the Cs since he doesn’t bring much outside of three-point shooting where he was just 30.9% (17-55) on the year. Adding some muscle and another aspect to his offensive game will do the rising sophomore well.
Braeden Anderson: A+
Just kidding, but that’s probably what Braeden was aiming for in the Seton Hall Law School classrooms that are just a short walk from the Prudential Center. A two-year graduate transfer from Fresno State, Anderson was expected to play a role at center this year but his limited time to focus on basketball-related activities surely handicapped him in multiple ways; Anderson wasn’t even available for walkthrough during the Creighton game in New York due to class.
Braeden played just 113 minutes this season, which is less than what he spent studying in just one day this past year.
Rashed Anthony: C-
I was somewhat surprised when I saw that Anthony played about half of the minutes that he did as a freshman, but it makes sense as he was sometimes little more than a foul machine.
It’s easy to judge young forwards harshly as they develop slower than guards, but it’s not radical to say that his off-season will be a turning point in Sheed-o’s career: Will he take his game to the next level and become a very serviceable backup to Angel Delgado or will he remain a reserve or possibly even transfer?
Myles Carter: N/A
Still very raw and not worthy of a grade after playing just 32 minutes as a freshman forward, we did see some flashes of explosive promise from Myles against Creighton and St. John’s at the Garden. Carter will again compete with Anthony, Nzei and Anderson for time in the frontcourt next season.
Dalton Soffer: N/A
Another Pirate who doesn’t receive a grade, Dalton has his work cut out for him from now until November. We didn’t see much from the freshman sharpshooter from San Diego outside of a late flurry of threes against Rutgers in garbage time. Incoming freshman Myles Powell will clash with him for minutes at the two next year as he is considered one of the best three-point shooters in the Class of 2016.
Jevon Thomas: F
Sitting out due to transfer regulations, Thomas wasn’t even enrolled in figurative classes this season and still managed to fail. While there is context to his early February public choking at the Seton Hall Rec Center (Jevon’s friend was killed days prior), it’s still unacceptable and adds validity to a tweet that indicates he had a similar incident at Kansas State’s rec center.
Currently suspended indefinitely, Thomas’ future may depend on what becomes of Isaiah Whitehead. One would think he’d be kicked off the team by now if that were to be the ultimate outcome so it’s may be more about when he’ll return.
Think I screwed up someone’s grade? Drop a comment below.