1. Seton Hall (2006-07 Record: 13-16, 4-12 Big East)
Head coach: Bobby Gonzalez
Returning Starters: 3- G Eugene Harvey (sophomore): 6-0, 165; G Jamar Nutter (senior): 6-2, 205; G/F Brian Laing (senior): 6-5, 215.
Year one of the Bobby Gonzalez era at Seton Hall was one filled with ups and downs. While there was plenty of talent on the perimeter, the lack of depth inside ultimately kept the Pirates out of the Big East Tournament. While the backcourt will once again be this team’s strength, a very good recruiting class comes in to add some much-needed depth to the frontcourt. The one returnee up front is sophomore John Garcia (4.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg), who was finally able to contribute in the final thirteen games of the season after missing nearly a year and a half due to knee issues. But after Garcia, it’s all about the newcomers.
Junior college transfer Augustine Okosun (Benin City, Nigeria; Harcum JC) stands 6-10, 240, and still has a way to go before he fully understands the game. But he can rebound and defend his position, which is all the Pirates will need from him right now. Three true freshmen also stand to get serious playing time inside, beginning with 6-11 Mike Davis (Brooklyn, NY). In regards to size and ability, Davis may be the newcomer best prepared to make a major contribution. Also joining the program are Michael Glover (Bronx, NY) and Brandon Walters (Brooklyn, NY). While Glover is only 6-6, he’s a low-post banger in the mold of his older brother Anthony, who was a stalwart at St. John’s despite being undersized himself. Meanwhile, Walters, who played at Lincoln HS on Coney Island, has a body ready for the Big East at 6-9, 225 was an All-PSAL selection last year.
If you’re looking for the experience on this team, then look no further than the backcourt, which returns all three starters and a wealth of experience on the bench. The man who runs the show is sophomore Eugene Harvey (16.5 ppg, 4.2 apg), a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Rookie Team last season. Harvey only stands to get better in his second tour through the Big East. Joining him as starters are a pair of seniors, Jamar Nutter (12.3 ppg) and Brian Laing (16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Nutter was the Hall’s best three-point shooter last year, and is also a solid perimeter defender. Laing, who led the Pirates in rebounding and scoring last year, was a member of the All-Big East Second Team in 06-07. From his sophomore to junior season, Laing’s scoring average jumped some ten points per game.
Off the bench in the backcourt is a junior who seems to master the art of creating mayhem on the floor, and a sophomore who is steadily maturing into a solid player. The junior is Paul Gause, a 5-11 guard with quick hands and feet who set a school record with 90 steals last season. Gause’s 3.1 steals per game also led the conference. With an uptempo style being the defense of choice for Coach Gonzalez, Gause’s athletic ability and effort are invaluable. Larry Davis (7.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg) is the sophomore who seemed to grow more comfortable with his role in the Seton Hall attack as the season progressed last season. Davis also made forty percent of his shots behind the arc, and should be able to provide even more of a spark off the bench this season. There are two newcomers in the backcourt, Jeremy Hazell (Bronx, NY) and Chris Smith (Millstone, NJ), with Hazell be the one more likely to earn some playing time this season.
Well, the most important addition to the Seton Hall program may not be a player when it’s all said and done. After more than two decades in the sparsely attended Meadowlands, home games move to the sparkling Prudential Center in downtown Newark. Located much closer to both campuses (the main school in South Orange and the law school in Newark), “The Rock” could mean a spike in attendance of Pirate home games. It’s tough enough to win consistently in the Big East, and if you don’t have much of a home court advantage then it can become impossible.
The schedule will offer up some challenges before the Pirates head into an 18-game Big East slate. Seton Hall will take part in the new Philly Classic, taking on a pair of teams thought to be contenders in their respective conferences before heading to the Palestra for two more games. The Philly Classic will open with games against Robert Morris (November 18th) and Loyola (MD) (November 20th) in Newark, with games against Navy and either Virginia or Penn at the Palestra on the 23rd and 24th. Other non-conference games of note include St. Mary’s on the road (December 1st), Penn State (December 8th) and NC State (December 27th). Repeat conference foes this season are Marquette, South Florida and rival Rutgers.
Well, we pretty much know what to expect from the backcourt this season. But just how good Seton Hall is this season will depend on the young frontcourt. Will Garcia’s knees hold up for an entire season? How long will it take the newcomers to become familiar with the physical nature of basketball in the Big East? Along with Providence, the Pirates are one of the toughest teams in the Big East to peg in the preseason. They can finish anywhere from an NCAA bid to the NIT to not even qualifying for the Big East Tournament. The best bet right now would be to predict a finish anywhere from 9th-12th and a trip to the NIT. But don’t be surprised if Coach Gonzalez has the Hall back in the NCAA Tournament.