Seton Hall 2014-15 Record: 16-15, 6-12 in the Big East
Key Players Lost: Sterling Gibbs, Jaren Sina, Brandon Mobley, Haralds Karlis and Stephane Manga
Key Players Coming Back: Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado, Khadeem Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Rashed Anthony.
New Recruits/Transfers: Derrick Gordon (transfer from Massachusetts), Braeden Anderson (transfer from Fresno State), Dalton Soffer, Amarveer Singh, Michael Nzei (redshirt) and Myles Carter.
Twas a tale a two halves for the Seton Hall Pirates this past season.
The first part of the season was what many Seton Hall fans had been waiting a long time to see. What they saw was a fabulous freshmen class merge with some talented upperclassmen, while taking the Pirates from also-rans in the Big East to a top-20 team in early January.
Everything was clicking.
Led by stud junior guard Sterling Gibbs and a freshman class highlighted by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado, the Pirates stormed out of the gate, winning their first seven games and 13 of their first 16. Along the way the Pirates would beat top-20 teams Villanova and St. John’s back-to-back to open Big East play and all seemed right in the world. An NCAA Tournament berth seemed inevitable.
Sometime shortly after that, though, a rift started to develop. There were reports that the locker room was divided among the upperclassmen (namely Gibbs and backcourt mate Jaren Sina) and the frosh. And if that is to blame for their struggles or not—which in all honesty makes perfect sense— the team was never the same after beating Creighton on a Gibbs’ buzzer-beating three pointer on January 10.
After that game the Pirates would then proceed to drop 12 of their last 15 games. In that time, Sina decided to transfer before the season was over; Gibbs lost his temper in a game at Villanova where he elbowed opponent Ryan Arcidiacono in the face (resulting in a suspension) and the the team did not show up to compete in their last game against Marquette in the Big East Tournament first round. On top of all that—rather predictably—Gibbs decided to transfer after the season as well.
With all that had transpired, many thought head coach Kevin Willard would be out the door, too. But he was spared the ax based on his close ties to athletic director Patrick Lyons and the talent he has returning.
Individually, both Gibbs and Delgado had fine seasons.
Gibbs was named second team all-Big East after averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting .436 percent from three-point range. Just a few weeks ago, Gibbs decided to spend his graduate year at Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Delgado was named Big East Rookie of the Year after averaging close to a double-double on the season. For the year, Delgado averaged 9.3 points to go with 9.8 rebounds per game. Whitehead, who was second on the team in scoring (12 ppg), was also named to the Big East all-freshman team.
2015-16 Look Ahead:
Simply put, this is a make or break season for Willard. Gone are Gibbs, Sina and Brandon Mobley. And whether they wanted the responsibility or not, this team will go as far as Whitehead, Delgado and the gifted sophomore class can take them.
On talent alone, Whitehead and Delgado are as good a duo in the Big East.
Whitehead is a strong-bodied guard that can take over a game. He has jaw-dropping athleticism and he uses his natural skills to the fullest. However, so many times during his freshman season, he tried to do too much, and overcompensated. He took a lot of bad shots and that was perhaps what rubbed some of the upperclassmen the wrong way.
Also, it bears mentioning that it didn’t help that Whitehead missed nine games with a foot injury in the middle of the year. Regardless, Whitehead has to mature, commit to being a team player and be more efficient on the court. If he does all that, he’ll contend for all-Big East honors and have the Pirates on the right track.
Delgado along with another talented sophomore Khadeem Carrington will prove to be good supporting players.
You know what you are getting from Delgado. He is a grinder under the basket and he will battle you to death with a ferocious mean streak. He’ll rebound, defend and do all the dirty work.
Carrington (8.8 ppg) should get more looks in the offense this year, and with more responsibility he could be on the verge of a breakout season. Look for him to be a major part of Willard’s rotation.
Also providing a boost will be Massachusetts transfer Derrick Gordon. He’s a steady guard who can offer a veteran presence in the backcourt, especially with Gibbs and Sina gone.
Again, if the Pirates can’t make headway this coming season and have sustained success with this crop of players, Willard could face the chopping block. We’ll see if the Pirates can get past last season’s turmoil and turn over a new leaf. If they can, the Pirates can conceivably challenge for an NCAA bid if all goes right, as there is no denying the pure talent on the Pirate roster.