On Tuesday, Seton Hall’s Walsh gym was opened up to the media on it’s annual media day session. Coach Kevin Willard was made available for questions along with the rest of his staff and players. Here are some takeaways from the Willard press conference and conversations with some of the players.
New Year, New Defense
Last year, Seton Hall had one of the better defenses in the country, led by junior forward Ishmael Sanogo. With Sanogo back and two key transfers added into the fold, the defense looks to be better than ever. The additions of Madison Jones from Wake Forest and Jevon Thomas from Kansas State will allow the Pirates to play defense multiple ways. With Jones and Thomas on the floor, Seton Hall will be able to press more often, something they did not do a lot of during the 2015-2016 campaign. The bigger lineup, including freshmen Myles Powell and Eron Gordon, will play more zone. The press may not be in full effect until Thomas sets foot on the court (Thomas’ first game with the team will be December 23rd against Rutgers according to Willard), but don’t expect Seton Hall to slack off defensively.
Normally, the saying is senior leadership, but Seton Hall only has one senior on the roster. Instead, the Pirates will rely on their four returning junior starters to fill the leadership void left by the departure of Derrick Gordon. Gordon was the heart and soul of the team on and off the court and played with a fire that rubbed off on his teammates. According to Willard, the four juniors have stepped up as leaders in their own individual ways. This will play a large part in the naturalization of this team throughout the season.
Sanogo, Nzei standing out
Ishmael Sanogo and Michael Nzei were key parts throughout Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament run last season. This season, they will step into even bigger roles. Sanogo, who started last season, has been developing his offensive game since open gyms got underway in the Summer and has improved everyday.
‘He’s a hard-working fool.” Willard said. “And I mean that in the best way possible”.
Sanogo suffered a sprained MCL in practice last Wednesday, but will return to practice next Saturday and will be ready for the season opener for Farleigh Dickinson on November 11th.
Nzei has been labeled the most-improved player on the team by Angel Delgado and Willard agrees with that sentiment. As a result, Nzei will see an increase in minutes this season.
“He played around 12 minutes per game last season.” Willard said. “This season he’ll see around 20 minutes per game”.
Myles Powell has the Potential to be a Star
Coming out of high school, Myles Powell was considered one of, if not the best, shooter in the class of 2016. Some have even called him the missing shooter that the team needed last season.
“He’s the best freshman scorer I’ve coached.” Willard said.
That’s some pretty high praise coming from a coach who had Isaiah Whitehead as a freshman. Powell, who had 19 points in Saturday’s Blue/White scrimmage, has been a gym rat since he arrived at Seton Hall in May, slimming down from 240 to 195 in the process. It may not happen right away, but Powell will be one of the key cogs in this Seton Hall team by the end of the season.
Photo: Asbury Park Press