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Friday, June 13, 2008


June 13, 2008

Head Coach: Bobby Gonzalez
2007-2008 Record: 17-15 (7-11 Big East)

Returning Players:
Paul Gause, Senior (Guard)
Eugene Harvey, Junior (Guard)
John Garcia, Junior (Center)
Austin Okosun, Senior (Center)
Brandon Walters, Sophomore (Big Forward)
Jeremy Hazell, Sophomore (Guard)
Mike Davis, Sophomore (Center/Power Forward

Eligible Transfer:
Robert Mitchell, Sophomore (Guard/Forward)
Jamel Jackson, JUCO Sophomore (Shooting Guard)

Incoming Players:
Jordan Theodore, Point Guard
Melvyn Oliver, Center

Brian Laing, Senior (Guard/Forward)
Jamar Nutter, Senior (Guard)

Transferred Out:
Larry Davis, Sophomore (Guard)

Open Items/Issues:
It has been much more quiet of late around Seton Hall after a very tumultuous month following the end of the season. The drama began with a regular-season ending loss to rival Rutgers which featured some tense moments between the coaches and extended into Bobby Gonzalez's post game remarks. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese publicly spoke out against the antics of both coaches and before the league announced any form of punishment, Seton Hall athletic director Mike Quinlan announced a one-game suspension of Gonzalez for the opening Big East contest of the 2008-2009 season. As college basketball's focus shifted to the NCAA Final Four, rumors began swirling that Gonzalez's days as head coach at Seton Hall were numbered. However, those rumors were put to rest quickly with statements from the Seton Hall administration and led to a month of 'hiding' by Gonzalez as he worked to fill the holes on the Pirate roster. The spring recruiting ended with a commitment from Melvyn Oliver to help inside the paint and Jamel Jackson to patch up the perimeter.

The other long-standing issue following the Pirates has been the Mike Glover eligibility saga. At this time, it looks like Glover being deemed eligible at Seton Hall is pretty much the longest of long shots. No doubt making the issue even more difficult is the fact that both prep schools that Glover attended while finishing his high school requirements, American Christian Academy and Boys to Men Academy, are no longer open. At this point, it is not expected that Glover will be in uniform for SHU next year.

Sophomore guard Larry Davis also decided to transfer shortly after the season ended, leaving the Pirates with two open scholarships. They still seem to be turning over any rock they can to find some help, especially at power forward, but at this point, it looks like their roster is pretty much set going into the summer.

There seems to be little doubt that the pressure is on Bobby Gonzalez at Seton Hall. After all, the Pirates said good-bye to head coach Louis Orr, even after leading SHU to two NCAA Tournament appearances in three years. If Seton Hall fails to make the Big Dance for a third straight year under 'Gonzo', it probably will not seal his fate one way or the other, however, avoiding another late season collapse and showing improvement might be a must, especially with it known the AD is watching over every step of his.

To close the 2006-2007 season, SHU lost 10 of their last 12 games. Last season, the Pirates closed losing nine of their last 11. Last year's Pirates were definitely an improved team over the previous edition, but being classified as the 'best of the worst' in the Big East is not going to impress anyone if your not showing signs you are moving forward. The Pirates went just 1-9 against the top nine teams in the Big East last season, losing seven of them by 12 points or more. Against the lower portion of the Big East, SHU was 6-2. Furthermore, their 17-15 record was saved by some heroics, either overtime or huge rallies, to beat teams like Monmouth, Robert Morris, Navy and James Madison. Clutch play by Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter saved their season at times.

So, will Seton Hall improve in 2008-2009? Without Laing and Nutter (as well as Larry Davis, representing three of their top seven scorers), improvement will have to come from junior point guard Eugene Harvey. After a spectacular freshman season, Harvey seemed to struggle at times with the added talent around him in running the show and making the team better. Harvey is not a great outside shooter, so learning to adapt in the half court and improve upon setting up his teammates for opportunities will go a long way in helping SHU improve from within. The addition of freshman point guard Jordan Theodore will give the Pirates a legit second option at the point, something they did not really have previously, especially after Paul Gause went down with a knee injury. Gause's health goes a long way in allowing the Pirates to play the frantic style Bobby Gonzalez prefers, as he is one of the best defensive guards in the country.

Once again, it is likely the Pirates will not have a true power forward. Brian Laing was an athletically strong player that was able to make do at the position, but the Pirates always struggled on the boards and preventing easy baskets inside because of a lack of size. Robert Mitchell, a transfer from Duquesne where he was the Atlantic-10's freshman of the year in 2006-2007, should be one of the biggest impact transfers in the Big East, but asking him to play against Big East power forwards night in and night out is asking a lot. Mitchell does not have the experience or strength of Laing, but in order to get their best players on the floor, that looks to be what Gonzalez will have to do. John Garcia and his gimpy knees along with Mike Davis, Augustin Okosun and incoming recruit Melvyn Oliver complete the line-up in the front court. This group definitely can compete, as a committee, at the center position, but finding one of them to help at the power forward position is a key. Sophomore Brandon Walters also will likely get a chance to earn some time in a more traditional looking line-up as a power forward. He has great potential, but showed he had a long way to go last season in realizing that potential.

Rounding out the line-up is perimeter bombers Jeremy Hazell and Jamel Jackson, a pair of well-renowned NYC long-range bombers. They will both fit in well in the frantic style by spotting up beyond the three-point arc and letting shots fly. If they can help out rebounding and defensively at their positions, especially in a half court setting, that will be just as important for the team's success.

It really is tough to figure what to make of the Seton Hall Pirates for next season. The team is not likely to look much different than the club that fizzled down the stretch in 2007-2008 and Brian Laing was their heart and soul, that is a major loss. His numbers might be recouped by some of the new faces, but his toughness and ability to play bigger is not likely to be made up.

Bobby Gonzalez is definitely colorful and intense. There is definitely pressure on him this season, how will he respond to that pressure is probably going to make or break his Seton Hall coaching career and if he can not pass that pressure on to his players will be a major test of his coaching skills. I'd like to say they are heading up this year, but I do not see them closing the gap on any of the nine teams ahead of them last season. Many of those around them are improving quickly, too. Reaching last year's seven conference wins and a winning overall record to qualify for the NIT is likely a solid goal for the team. With only one senior, it could be progress, especially if they are playing better at the close of the season for a change.

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