August 30th, 2006
Basketball Preview: Seton Hall
Seton Hall coach Louis Orr got as much as he could have last year out of a
team with limited talent and very little depth. Yet I don't disagree with
the decision to dismiss him and hire Bobby Gonzalez. The latter will breathe
life - and breed renewed optimism - into the program. The most important
addition to the Pirates’ program is Gonzalez, but it's going to take awhile
to pump sufficient BE-level recruits into the program to make it truly
Pirates lost their two best players from last season in Kelly Whitney (15.2
ppg and 7.9 rpg) and Donald Copeland (16.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, and an assist to
turnover ratio of 1.9/1.0). Copeland's improvement over his junior year was
one of the major surprises in the conference.
other contributing players transferred following Orr's dismissal - power
forward David Palmer, who averaged 3.0 ppg in 9.7 mpg, and center Marcus
Cousin, who averaged 2.1 ppg and 3.5 rpg in 13.1 mpg. Though their stats
don’t show it, both losses are important. Palmer showed flashes of his
potential late in the year, and he added some needed athleticism and height
(6'9") to the front line. He would have been in the hunt to take over the
starting 4 spot from Whitney. Cousin's departure also hurts as he, too,
would have been a big body (6'10"). The Pirates are now dangerously thin on
other player - 6'8" Mike Pilgrim, who is related to Orr, - also transferred.
He appeared in only one game last year after becoming eligible second
semester following his transfer from Cincinnati, but that's another
frontcourt player who said au revoir.
who's left up front? Grant Billmeier (6'10") will start at center. He
averaged a meager 3.8 ppg and 3.5 rpg in 17.6 mpg last season. He kind of
redefines "slow," and he's not very athletic. There are questions about his
effectiveness on both ends of the court, but he’s the primary option -
actually the only real option - at the 5. If Billmeier gets into foul
trouble, not an unlikely possibility, power forward Stanley Gaines will
probably have to fill the bill in the middle despite being only 6'7".
will start at the 4. He missed seven games last season due to injury but
averaged 23.1 mpg in those he did play. He's not much of a scorer (4.8 ppg),
or shooter (40.5% from the field). However, he is a quality defender, and he
will battle on the boards (3.9 rpg). Gaines would be a solid back-up on a
team with decent talent, but next year he'll be counted on to play at least
30 mpg since the only other option up front is 6'7" Mani Messy who played a
total of 5 minutes last season as a junior. Enough said.
wing Brian Laing returns. He was a Top 100 RSCI recruit (#95) in the class
of 2004. He averaged 5.8 ppg in 23.1 mpg last season. He shot 39% from the
field and only 31% on treys. More of a slasher than a shooter, he will have
to score in double figures this year, especially since neither Billmeier
nor Gaines has much of an offensive game.
most productive returning player is Jamar Nutter, who came on strong last
season, averaging 12.1 ppg and shooting 38% from behind the arc. He is the
Pirates' only legitimate perimeter threat. Nutter is not a great athlete,
and he sometimes struggles on the defensive end against quick, athletic
guards, but he'll be the Pirates’ main man on offense this season. He could
easily end up being among the conference’s leading scorers. How well he
responds to being the primary focus of opposing defenses rather than being
the third option (after Whitney and Copeland) is a major question mark.
final returning player is 5'10" point guard Paul Gause. He's a bundle of
energy, and he can score, especially in transition, but he's more of a
back-up caliber point guard than a starter. He's not a very good shooter -
37% overall from the field and 24% from behind the arc. His average of 1.0
apg illustrates that he’s really more of a 2 guard stuck in a 5'10" body.
Fortunately for Pirate fans, Gonzalez brought in three guards in the Class
of '06. Eugene Harvey, will start at point. He was ranked #73 on RSCI. At
St. Benedict (NJ) he earned a reputation as a solid ball-handler and
playmaker, but he's not much of a threat from the perimeter. He'll have to
grow up quickly and do more than bring the ball up the court for SH this
season. He’s going to have to show he can score. If he can, that will take
some of the pressure off Nutter.
freshman, Larry Davis, can play all three perimeter positions. After
initially committing to North Carolina State, he was released from his LOI
after Herb Sendik left to coach at Arizona State. He’s a nice athlete with
decent skills, but perimeter shooting isn't at or near the top of his list
of attributes. He's not a consensus Top 100 recruit, but he'll get quite a
few minutes next year backing up Nutter and Laing.
third recruit is Kashif Pratt from Rice High School in NYC. He's a 6'3" wing
who brings a solid defensive mindset to the court.
player who could have an extremely positive impact is 6'9" John Garcia, the
top recruit in Orr’s 2005 class. However, recurring knee problems caused
Garcia to miss part of his senior year in high school and to redshirt last
season. If fully recovered, he could start at the 5 and provide the low
post scoring and the rebounding the Pirates desperately need. However, at
this point SH fans seem resigned to another season without him, and, even if
he is relatively healthy, Garcia will have to shake off nearly two years’
worth of rust.
Overall, it's not a pretty picture. A starting lineup of Harvey, Nutter,
Laing, Gaines, and Billmeier will not strike fear into too many teams. There
is a lack of inside scoring as well as quickness and athleticism on the
interior, and not much perimeter shooting, except for Nutter. There is
virtually no depth at the 4 or the 5.
take a miracle for Seton Hall to make the Big East Tournament. The only
reason I'm not picking them for 15th or 16th in the conference is that two
teams actually return less talent than the Pirates. It'll be baptism by fire
for Coach Gonzalez.
- Predicted Finish: 14 of