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Friday, October 03, 2008


October 4, 2008

Seton Hall…hmmmm…

When ranking this year’s teams, a long pause begun when I got to Seton Hall. The first issue, and today is October 3rd, is we still do not know the make-up of this year’s team. There is the eligibility question of freshman Melvyn Oliver, the ongoing battle of Michael Glover’s eligibility, which is now being played out in courts, and now the hardship waiver cases opened by Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence as they attempt to be eligible immediately after transferring into Seton Hall. So, Bobby Gonzalez could have as little as eight players available to tackle the brutal Big East, or they could have a very interesting team of eleven or more.

A realistic look at the situation and you might believe that Oliver is granted eligibility and he adds needed depth to their frontcourt. Maybe Keon Lawrence gets a hardship waiver, but since he is short on credits, he would not be eligible to compete until the second semester while Pope and Glover seem to be somewhat unrealistic at this point. It will be a tough order for the Pirates to improve this season, and with a roster of eight, well, that is nearly an impossible task in this conference. Still, there is some hope with some intriguing talent on this club, that if the pieces fall into place with the NCAA, this team could be on a fun roller coaster for fans.

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The most impressive incoming recruit that Bobby Gonzalez added to the Pirate line-up this year is point guard Jordan Theodore. The 6-foot guard from Paterson Catholic looks like a perfect fit in Gonzalez’s preferred style of play, which is uptempo all the time.

The other freshman on the roster is the aforementioned Oliver. At 6-foot-11 and 340 pounds, the physique of Oliver might not be one expected to fit into the Gonzo scheme. However, Oliver is a very skilled big man and if his weight can be controlled, he would be a steal of a recruit. However, one of the reasons why a skilled 6-foot-11 big man is available in the spring signing period is questions about academics and the NCAA continues to go over his varied academic past that has included a few stops along the prep school world, finishing up at Mississippi Elite Christian Academy last year.

One transfer that IS eligible this year might be the newcomer making the most of an impact, Robert ‘Stix’ Mitchell. After being named the Atlantic 10’s newcomer of the year, Mitchell decided to part ways with Duquesne and Seton Hall was more than happy to add the 6-foot-6 NYC native to their program. Mitchell averaged over 16 points a game as a frosh at Duquesne.

The wildcards for Seton Hall will be Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence. Both players have transferred back east after starting their college careers at other locales. Pope played one season at New Mexico State, averaging over 11 points and 6 rebounds a contest. Lawrence also averaged over 11 points in his sophomore season at Missouri. The Newark (NJ) native has come back home to finish his college career. Both players are attempting to obtain hardship waivers in order to play the 2008-2009 season instead of having to sit out. If either has their waiver granted, they will certainly change the reflection of this year’s team.


Seton Hall losses two of their top four scorers from last season as Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter have graduated from the program. Laing will be extremely tough to replace as he provided leadership and toughness despite playing out of position. Laing scored over 18 points a game and was among their rebound leaders despite being just 6-foot-5. Nutter was an inconsistent long range shooter, but came up VERY big in the clutch time and time again last season. His 11 points a game will likely be replaced, but will his ability to hit clutch shots?

Leaving the program prior to their eligibility expiring are Larry Davis, a guard from NYC, and big man Augustine Okosun. Both definitely could have come in handy adding depth, but the unknown situation of the others makes it a tough call.

Net Impact:

It’s a tough call. If the eight man roster is what it is for the Pirates this season, the net impact would be a negative for the Pirates. Adding Oliver and one of the three other unknowns (Glover, Pope or Lawrence) and your moving into, or closer to, the plus territory. It is quite a unique situation being so close to the season and so many question marks remaining for the personnel available of the Pirates.

2008-2009 Backcourt Outlook:

Seton Hall has a backcourt that will definitely compete in the Big East. Junior Eugene Harvey returns as the starting point guard for the third straight season. Harvey struggled as a sophomore at times in grasping the leadership role on the floor and being a true point guard. As a freshman he was asked to score and score a lot, with some added talent around him, Harvey never seemed to take the role of making his teammates better to heart. The great point guards have a knack of knowing when to score and knowing when to be the coach on the floor that runs the offense and gets everyone involved efficiently. That is the area to look for improvement from Harvey this season.

A staple of the Bobby Gonzalez system is pressure defense all over the court. A perfect fit is Paul Gause, one of the elite backcourt defenders in college basketball. Seton Hall was limited last season in extending their full court pressure as Gause suffered a hand injury and then a season-ending knee injury and only appeared in half of the games. This year, they will hope Gause is back at 100% because the 5-foot-11 guard can make a big impact on the defensive end of the floor.

Incoming freshman Jordan Theodore will also see significant time in the backcourt for the Pirates this season. Theodore has a lot of similar skills as Harvey, he is very quick with the basketball and can get to the rim to set up scoring opportunities for himself or teammates. If Harvey continues to struggle running the offense the way coach Gonzalez wants from his point guard, Theodore could see an expanded role. Although the trio of Harvery, Gause and Theodore are rather small, they could be pretty effective in the style of play their head coach prefers.

Also returning for a sophomore season is 6-foot-5, three-point shooter extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell. Last season, Hazell bombed away for nearly 13 points a game, hitting a team high 78 three’s. Hazell will likely find more consistency in his second go-round in the Big East, but he also will not be sneaking up on anyone either. He hit for big games including 30 against West Virginia, 29 versus Louisville, 28 more against UConn and 26 against Notre Dame. This season, Hazell should also become more comfortable in the system and increase his assist total (0.9/game last year), he showed some signs of good anticipation for steals defensively, but all in all, he does need to improve his all-around game for the Pirates to be a better team.

Although he is a true small forward, ‘Stix’ Mitchell might be asked to play the power forward position similar to Brian Laing. If that is the case, signs will not be too favorable for Seton Hall. Mitchell does not bring the physical presence that Laing brought to the table to battle in the Big East on the boards or defensively against the other big forwards of the conference. The Pirates will hopefully be able to use Mitchell in his natural wing position and take advantage of his ability to score the basketball either from long-range or slashing to the basket. At 6-foot-6 and a slight 180 pounds, ‘Stix’ could be swallowed alive inside. But, if the eligibility and waiver applications are not ruled in favor of SHU this season, this is the possible direction they will be forced to move and Mitchell will try to play a role similar to Brian Laing of last season, one I am not sure he can on both ends of the floor.

The final possibility in the backcourt is Lawrence. If he is given the green light to join the team in the second semester he adds an athletic presence with size in the backcourt. He has the game to gel well within the system and adding him to the mix will deepen the backcourt options and really give the Pirates a lift, however, the chances for him to play this year are up in the air.

2008-2009 Frontcourt Outlook:

As of today, the Pirates have three true frontcourt players eligible for the upcoming season in John Garcia, Mike Davis and Brandon Walters. Garcia, a 6-foot-9, 265 pound center from Brentwood (NY), led the Pirates in rebounding last season. Knee injuries have derailed the promising big man’s career and limited the amount of time he can be effective on the floor. Garcia has the skills to be a true back-to-the basket big man in the Big East, but he is not the athletic post player that would be a perfect fit in the preferred style of Bobby Gonzalez.

Davis is an intriguing option for Gonzalez and the Pirates. The 6-foot-11, 255 pounder had a tough freshman year as he never seemed to get into the shape his coach wanted. Davis has always had size and potential, if he can round into shape, he could be a shot-blocking presence at the end of the press to deter teams from attacking the rim. Staying out of foul trouble and improving his conditioning could lead to him having a solid season.

Walters is more of the athletic and versatile big man that would seem to fit in Gonzo’s style of play. At 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, Walters could be given a long look to fill the hole at the power forward position this season if his game begins to mature and he smoothes out some of the rough patches. He is athletic, can run the floor and has some face-up skills that could be put to good use if he can be more consistent with his efforts.

The frontcourt would become quite strong with the addition of Herb Pope, Michael Glover and/or Melvyn Oliver. Pope and Glover seem like made to order power forwards under Bobby Gonzalez. Oliver, on the other hand, would add depth and another option in the mix at center, but he has a ways to go to round into shape to see more than spot duty in the Big East.

2008-2009 Team Outlook:

It really is unprecedented to be less than two weeks from the start of practice and the availability of 33% of your roster is unknown. Talk about variables in your 2008-2009 College Basketball Odds!! The Pirates could have anywhere from eight to 12 players suiting up by the time the Big East schedule begins, so projecting SHU is a difficult task. The likely placement probably has them finishing either 10th or 15th, with some luck from the NCAA they could be pushing .500 or slightly better, but counting on luck from the NCAA is a stretch.

There are other distractions around the program that could derail their season as well. Last year at the Big East media day another media member wondered aloud about the drama and Seton Hall. At the time, it seemed like a comment from the hip, but with all that has transpired around the program since last year's regular season ending loss to Rutgers, maybe that media member had seen the future. The latest drama has been the two-game suspension of Robert 'Stix' Mitchell for violating NCAA rules by traveling with the team home from Georgetown last season. The suspension came from AD Joe Quinlan, the same person who levied a suspension towards Bobby Gonzalez for the opening Big East game this season. Mitchell's suspension is not for the first two games of the season, but the first two games of their tournament in Puerto Rico, televised by ESPN. As JP Pelzman said in his Green Machine blog the other day, the program resembles a three-ring circus. Every week a new story...

Seton Hall...ohhhh, the drama!

2008-2009 Big East Prediction: 7-11


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