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Wednesday, August 24, 2005



2005-2006 Team Roster from Official Team Site: ROSTER.

The Seton Hall Coaching Staff: SHU STAFF.

Home Court: Continental Airlines Arena, at the Meadowlands: CAA.

OVERVIEW: Heading into the 2004-2005 season, expectations and excitement at Seton Hall were on the upswing. The program was coming off a successful season that included a 1st round NCAA tournament win against Arizona and they were returning four double digit scorers with Big East experience to the fold. On top of that, highly rated Justin Cerasoli was expected to be the replacement to heart and soul point guard Andre Barrett and the Pirates were expecting to continue their resurgence in the Big East behind head coach Louis Orr. A disappointing season opening home loss to Richmond seemed to set the tone for a season of discontent that has turned into an off-season nightmare for Coach Orr and SHU fans.

Last season, Seton Hall made it through their out of conference schedule with an 8-3 record. Not too bad, but not a quality win on the slate and once the Big East season began, things unraveled quickly en route to a 4-12 conference finish and an opening round loss to Georgetown in the conference tournament. Along the way, SHU endured several suspensions of important players as JR Morris, Jamar Nutter, Kelly Whitney, Justin Cerasoli, etc all sat out at least a game for disciplinary reasons. Immediately following the season Morris and Cerasoli left the program with eligibility remaining and Nutter and Whitney also contemplated their futures with the program and a series of newspaper articles and stories have made head coach Louis Orr’s job very much one of questionable status as reports of boosters and alumni urging the Seton Hall administration to take action. Seton Hall athletic director Jeff Fogelson resigned in late June and this only added fuel to the fire. Orr will be entering his fifth season on the SHU bench and after a couple seasons in which things looked to be heading in the right direction, things have evaporated quickly. The 2003 Big East coach of the year is now definitely on the hot seat, even after back to back 10 win conference seasons and the 2004 NCAA tournament appearance, the taste of the 2005 season and tough off-season has erased most of those highs created previously.

DO ORR DIE: College basketball columnist Dick Weiss termed the upcoming season as such (Do Orr Die) in his Newsday column recently and that can not help the image of Orr and the Pirates in the most fertile recruiting area, which is also their local home. If you have been following the Seton Hall program the last few months, you definitely have the perception that this is it for Orr. With Fogelsong’s resignation effective September 30th and the ever present circulation of an expected contract buyout, you have to feel that recruiting in the fertile NYC/NJ area is pretty much on hold for Seton Hall and everybody is waiting to see if Orr can somehow pull out a successful season out of his hat. The odds are definitely against Orr in the new look Big East conference that is only going to be tougher and the losses of four key players to a 4-12 conference team doesn’t bode well for their fortunes to turn around in the near future.

RETURNEES: One bright spot is that Kelly Whitney is returning. Whitney, as a sophomore, was an all-league level performer averaging nearly 14 PPG and shooting over 56% from the floor. Much was expected from the 6’8 245 lb Chicago native, but the season never took off for Whitney who was a preseason 2nd team all-Big East pick. His scoring sunk to below 12 PPG and his shooting fell to 43%! I am not sure if anyone missed Andre Barrett more than Kelly Whitney. Whitney will return for his senior season, despite many off-season rumors of his departure, looking to turn his professional stock back around. He will be relying on fellow senior Donald Copeland to get him the ball. Copeland will return to run the point. Copeland started the majority of the season at the point spot and will need to raise his 34% shooting from the floor as well. Jamar Nutter, who actually asked for his release from scholarship before reconsidering, also returns in the backcourt and will try to build on a solid season ending run. Nutter got more time as the season wore on and seemed to give the team some energy. Not exactly a point guard and a little on the small side to play the off-guard, Nutter will try to add that same spark again for an entire season. Big man Grant Billmeier will also return and the role player inside known to dish out some fouls and add some rebounding will be asked to score a little more this year. Another player to keep an eye on this year is athletic Brian Laing, a 6’5 F/G that showed some promise late in the season last year and could be a player to step up this year. Seldom used Marcus Cousin and Mani Messy also return and will be counted on to add some rebounding and scoring.

INCOMING: Five new faces will see the court for the Pirates this year, including heralded recruit John Garcia from Long Island. Garcia is a BF/C that should be able to fit into the rotation immediately with Whitney and Billmeier in the front court as long as he is over some issues with a knee that caused him to miss much of the later half of his high school season last year. He will also have to improve his conditioning to be ready for the Big East battles up front. Another freshmen addition to the front court will be David Palmer from Oak Hill Academy. Palmer was a reserve on the loaded Oak Hill squad and originally was a commit for Illinois before both parties parted ways and he signed with Seton Hall late. A source of need for Seton Hall was definitely offense and perimeter shooting and the Pirates may have found a late treasure in Paul Gause. Only 5’11, Gause is an exceptional athlete that can score and light it up from deep. However, he is a tad on the small size and will team with Copeland and Nutter in the backcourt, a very small backcourt at that. Two new transfers will also be eligible this coming season, Stan Gaines, a 6’7 245 lb forward who played 2 seasons at Minnesota should add some toughness and defense to the front court and athletic forward Mike Pilgrim, who was ineligible as a freshmen at Cincinnati also joins the mix up front. Both players should compete for immediate playing time.

LOSSES: John Allen, Andre Sweet, JR Morris, Juston Cerasoli and Alex Gambino are all no longer with Seton Hall. Each of those 5 players left the Hall not quite reaching what was expected of them during their time with the Pirates. Allen and Sweet completed their eligibility and Morris and Cerasoli left with time yet to play for the Pirates and pretty much sum up, in each their own way, the frustration of the last 8 months around the program.

SCHEDULE: Definitely on the easier side of the slate for the Pirates. Rutgers, St John’s and South Florida are their mirror games and they do not have to face Louisville or Georgetown. The schedule definitely serves up some winnable home games in the conference and lightens the load on the road compared to other teams, but this is going to be a challenging slate for the young Pirates.

OVERVIEW: With the pressure on Orr and the Pirates to improve their standing this year, it nearly looks like a daunting task to accomplish. The influx of talent into the Big East with the new clubs and the exodus of talent from their roster with out the immediate impact recruits to help out, repeating last season’s 4-12 conference record should be more of a goal than a mark of disappointment. The schedule is definitely set-up to help them beat the 4-12 mark, but will other teams be playing a little more hungry than Seton Hall if the team continues to read about Orr’s demise? Looking at the Pirates at this point in time, making the Big East tournament would be a surprise to me and with recruiting at a nearly standstill while everyone waits on the fate of Louis Orr, the immediate prospects don’t look too good for the program.


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