NCB On The Trail: Seton Hall Pirates

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ESPN 100 guard Isaiah Whitehead is a prospect who could be a major factor in the resurgence of Seton Hall basketball. He has been up and down in terms of his consistency and production, but he owns all the tools to be a great college player. Whitehead has a strong body, a competitive spirit, potent scoring skills and great court vision.

Now the flip side to that is there are nights he doesn't move well without the ball to get open. And he sometimes displays poor shot selection and takes a high volume of attempts, which freezes his teammates out of the action.

At the Elite 24 game in New York last summer, Whitehead dropped 26 points in front of the home crowd and did it within the flow of the game. He is at his best when he is attacking the basket because he can take a hit and finish. His jumper is more than capable from distance, and he thrives in the transition game. When he plays the right way and within the team concept, he can be very good.

Whitehead is on the East roster for the Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2) but may have to sit out due to a sore hamstring.

There is talk that his high school coach, Tiny Morton, will join the Pirates' coaching staff and have the chance to coach him again at Seton Hall. Whitehead certainly has the talent to make Seton Hall relevant again.

McDonald's Game players to watch 

April, 2, 2014
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The basketball world will be watching the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) from the United Center in Chicago.

The 24 players selected to participate have already received the greatest honor in high school basketball, but with practices having started, they’re quickly realizing that this week is as much about things to come as it is a celebration of their careers to date.

The game isn’t just a chance for these players to excite their future fan bases, but also to perform, in many cases for the first time in their career, in front of NBA scouts and front office personnel expected from all 30 teams. It all but ensures a competitive few days of action as the players are always anxious to make a good impression.

That type of environment is also ideal for our ESPN RecruitingNation staff as we take one of our final looks at the top players in the country before ultimately putting the Class of 2014 player rankings to bed. With that in mind, we asked our team of evaluators which player they were most interested in observing this week:


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CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.


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Playing the comparison game 

February, 20, 2014
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It's a constant topic of conversation: Which player does this prospect remind us of?

Well, given that the current college basketball season has been dominated by freshmen, we took a look at Jeff Goodman’s latest ranking of college freshmen and played the comparison game.

Duke’s Jabari Parker reminds us of Duke signee Jahlil Okafor.
Although they obviously don’t play the same position or have the same style, the similarities are there, and not just the superficial ones such as their hometown of Chicago or college destination. Although Parker does his work primarily from the perimeter and Okafor on the block, Okafor has that same level of maturity that will allow him to adjust to offensive structure just as quickly as Parker has. Furthermore, Okafor likely will take over for Parker and become the immediate focal point of the way Duke plays in the half court. The Blue Devils have tailored what they do offensively to Parker this season, and they’re likely to do the same for Okafor next season.


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Seton Hall welcomes four-man class

November, 16, 2013
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Seton Hall basketball coach Kevin Willard announced the signing of four student-athletes -- including two ESPN 100 prospects -- to letters of intent on Friday.

Leading the way for the Pirates are ESPN 100 shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and ESPN 100 power forward Angel Delgado (Bronx, N.Y./Huntington Prep), along with three-star shooting guard Khadeen Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin) and three-star small forward Ismael Sanogo (Newark, N.J./East Side).

"We are excited to officially welcome Isaiah, Angel, Khadeen and Ismael to the Seton Hall basketball family," Willard said. "The future for Pirate basketball looks bright with this talented group headed to South Orange next season. This class has an opportunity to elevate Seton Hall basketball to new heights and leave their mark on this program."

 

The early signing period arrives Wednesday, marking the first time 2014 prospects can officially sign their national letters of intent, turning previously unbinding verbal commitments into contractually binding scholarship agreements.

Here are 10 storylines to watch for during the eight-day signing period:

Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaJahlil Okafor is hoping to sign during the early signing period. Where will he end up?
1. Package-deal decision day
Word is that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both hoping to sign during the early period, and that means the country’s biggest package deal should have a decision within days. All indications are that the duo still intends to go to school together, but the final destination has become unclear of late. Duke has long since been considered the front-runner, but there’s been growing chatter for Kansas, especially as it pertains to Okafor. Baylor is the dark horse, and while nobody seems to be talking about the Bears anymore, neither prospect has said they’re out of the running just yet.

2. Awaiting word from Alexander
We’re anticipating an announcement from Cliff Alexander, the nation’s third-ranked prospect. The 6-foot-8 big man took the nation by storm during the recent EYBL season and picked up offers from some of college basketball’s most prestigious programs in the process. Four of those remain in the hunt for his services. While Illinois and DePaul have been the perceived favorites, Kansas and Memphis are in the mix as well. Look for Alexander to trim one of those four off his list before his announcement -- and ultimately make his choice from a list of three final schools.

3. Early or late? That is the question
While Okafor, Jones, and Alexander are all expected to make their decisions in time to sign during the early signing period (that is, on or before Nov. 20), there is another group of prospects we still don’t know what to expect from. Justise Winslow just took his last visit, and he could be ready to decide. William Lee is another ESPN 100 prospect who could very well be ready in the coming days. Stanley Johnson was once targeting a January decision, but he now appears to be on the fence, as there has been mounting speculation that he could abandon those original plans in time to sign early.

4. What’s left for the spring?
With 87 players in the current ESPN 100 already committed and at least four more expected to make their decisions in time to sign early, we’re expecting over 90 percent of the current ESPN 100 to officially be off the board within the next 10 days. That’s an almost unprecedented percentage, leaving very little left on the table for the spring’s late signing period. The big prizes for those playing the waiting game are likely to be Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle, along with any of the previously mentioned top prospects who ultimately decide against early signatures.

5. Care for a contingency plan
With so few prospects remaining on the board following this period, the major question is what happens to the programs that have gone the distance with top remaining prospects -- only to end up missing out on them. The best examples are Duke and Kansas. The Blue Devils and Jayhawks have gone head-to-head for Okafor and Jones and have passed on other talented guys as a result. Now they’re in a spot where the consequences of losing out on Okafor and Jones could be especially high, with no good contingency plans left on the board unless they’re able to score Turner, who isn’t likely to be excited about being perceived as anybody’s runner-up.

6. Competition for Kentucky
Kentucky currently has the top-ranked recruiting class in the country. If the Wildcats can hold on to that spot, it would be the fifth time in John Calipari’s six years in Lexington he has secured that distinction. The reality, however, is that it may be unlikely. And while Kentucky’s class is undeniably loaded, the 2014 group will be remembered as much for the guys who passed on the Wildcats -- Okafor, Alexander, Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kelly Oubre and James Blackmon Jr. among others -- perhaps signaling a decline in what has been one of the most dominant recruiting periods for any program in recent history.

7. The Big East is back (or never left)
If this season's recruiting class is any indication, the demise of the Big East has been somewhat exaggerated. While conference realignment might have forever changed one of the country’s most historic conferences, it apparently has not done much to hurt the brand. Xavier, Seton Hall and Georgetown have all put together top-10 classes, and Marquette and Providence are not far behind. With five different programs among the top-20 classes in the country and a total of 15 ESPN 100 prospects having already popped for the Big East, the league is recruiting as well as any in the country.

8. What’s the Matta with this class?
Ohio State has the second-ranked recruiting class in the country, a group loaded with four ESPN 100 prospects and another big man who is just on the cusp of that list. Yet nobody seems to be talking about the Buckeyes. With so much attention being paid to the potential classes at Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, Ohio State has flown under the radar. The reality is that coach Thad Matta did his work early and did it well. D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are all coming in next year, and Payton Dastrup is essentially joining the Class of 2016 after he takes a two-year Mormon mission. The Buckeyes have solidified their future as well as any program in America.

9. Talking about the Tar Heels
Roy Williams and North Carolina are in a similar situation. They have a trio of ESPN 100 prospects on board for next season, all ranked among the top 15 prospects in the country. However, because all three were already committed by last May, the Tar Heels haven’t been at the forefront of any recent recruiting headlines. It’s a mistake to sleep on them, though, as they have one of the country’s best scorers on the wing in Justin Jackson, a swingman with elite athleticism; an alpha-male mentality in Theo Pinson; and one of the most dependable point guards in the country in Joel Berry.

10. Mid-major impact
A quick glance at the class rankings will show that the mid-majors are once again well-represented among this year’s top recruiting classes. San Diego State, VCU and UNLV have all asserted themselves as national recruiters. Steve Fisher’s four-man class is headlined by a trio of ESPN 100 products in Malik Pope, Trey Kell and Zylan Cheatham, while Terry Larrier and Mike Gilmore lead a similar four-man group for Shaka Smart and VCU. Dave Rice and the Rebels have one of the best incoming frontcourt tandems in the country in Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.
Khadeem Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin) made a verbal commitment to Seton Hall on Thursday night, one week after taking an unofficial visit to the school.

Carrington becomes the second product of the New York Lightning to commit to the Pirates so far this year, joining ESPN 100 PF Angel Delgado (Dominican Republic/Huntington Prep).


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The power forward position has traditionally been a player with a combination of size and strength who can score in the paint. Specifically, the “four man” plays in the high post facing the basket or in low post with his back to the basket scoring, passing and using his dribble.

Since the inception of the 3-point shot, some forwards have utilized the line by becoming “stretch forwards.” Some forwards handle the ball extremely well for their size and have even become point forwards.

In today’s game, it’s hard to box some players into a specific position because the game is being coached differently. Coaches from the NBA level down to the high school game are reconstructing the power forward position into a hybrid spot and taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. They can adapt by playing faster or more zone if the matchup is not in their favor from a defensive perspective.

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Weekly commitment roundup

August, 23, 2013
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Big Ten conference
Ohio State
Mickey Mitchell SF Plano, Texas/Plano West
HT: 6-foot-6 WT: 210 pounds
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 31
Stars: 4
ESPN 60: 31

Big East conference
Seton Hall
Angel Delgado PF Troy, N.Y./Huntington Prep
HT: 6-8 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 63

Pac-12 conference
Arizona
Craig Victor PF New Orleans/Findlay Prep)
HT: 6-8 WT: 205
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 5
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 31

ACC
Syracuse
Kaleb Joseph PG Nashua, N.H./Cushing Academy
HT: 6-3 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 10
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 51

Maryland
Trayvon Reed C Snellville, Ga./Shiloh
HT: 7-1 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 9
ESPN 100: 84

SEC
Missouri
JaKeenan Gant PF Springfield, Ga./Effingham County
HT: 6-8 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 7
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 37

Tennessee
C.J. Turman C Madison, Ga./Morgan County
HT: 6-9 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 15
Stars: 4

Alabama
Brandon Austin SF Montgomery, Ala./Carver
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 14
Stars: 4

Big West conference
UC-Santa Barbara
Justin Burks SF Las Vegas/Arbor View
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

CAA
Drexel
Rashann London SG Philadelphia/Roman Catholic
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ivy League
Princeton
Mike LeBlanc SF Dover, N.H./New Hampton School
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

NEC
Farleigh Dickinson
Devin Eke PF Scotch Plains, N.J./Union Catholic
HT: 6-6
Class of 2014
Position Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
Binghamton
Justin McFadden SG Ardmore, Pa./Lower Merion
HT: 6-5 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Vermont
Brandon Hatton SG Covington, Ky./Dixie Heights
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Cam Ward SG Marshall, Wisc./Marshall
HT: 6-2 WT: 155
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending
ESPN 100 power forward Angel Delgado (Troy, N.Y./Huntington Prep) committed to Seton Hall on Friday night over a combination of offers and interest from Florida State, Fordham, Kentucky, Virginia and others.

This is a major pickup for Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard because it not only lands him the nation’s No. 63 overall player in the Class of 2014 but also because Delgado is one of the best rebounding power forwards in the country regardless of class.

Why did Delgado pick Seton Hall and what will he bring to the Pirates? Let's break it down.

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Momentum is a powerful thing in the world of college basketball recruiting. While it tends to be a constant for a select few national powerhouses like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas, virtually all other programs in the country are constantly competing for any edge that can push them to that next level.

In the wake of our initial 2014 ESPN 100 player rankings release last week and as we start a team-by-team breakdown of 2014 recruiting targets by conference over the next two weeks, here’s a look at five college hoops programs that are trending in the wrong direction on the momentum meter heading into the 2014 recruiting class.

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