What happens when a team that makes it to the NCAA Tournament has to replace its coach and top two scorers from last year? It usually means rebuilding and tons question marks for that team.
Luckily for the Pirates it has brought in a dynamic new coach and the roster is loaded with young talented guards. Coach Bobby Gonzalez brings in a great track record of success with him from Manhattan along with a very guard friendly system. Get ready for full court pressing on defense and fast breaks on offense. But what kind of team will Gonzo have to work with this year?
Leading the way for the Pirates this year should be returning leading scorer, shooting guard Jamar Nutter. Nutter who averaged 12 PPG last year was really inconsistent with numerous scoring games in the high teens and low twenties but also some poor games in the low single digits. Nutter's shape has always been a question due to a bout with lymes. But Gonzo put the team through an intense off season work out program which should really help Nutter. Gonzo will see a lot of similarities to in Jamar to former Manhattan All American Luis Flores but can he get that kind of production from Jamar? Will Jamar step up and be the leader?
The other four guards on the roster are Sophomore guard Paul Gause,Carl Marshall and pair of highly touted freshman guards in Larry Davis and Eugene Harvey. Gause was asked to come off the bench last year to provide fire power and a spark. Most likely he will be looking at that role again and should do quite well. The up-tempo style should fit this little dynamo's game perfectly. Eugene Harvey is next in the line of great Seton Hall point guards. He will be asked to take over the reins from the departed Donald Copeland who was the heart and soul last year. Harvey is the prototypical floor general who loves to push the tempo and distribute the ball to teammates. In my opinion he is the perfect fit for Gonzo's run and gun style of offense. Larry Davis is silky smooth shooting guard who can do it all. He will probably be asked to come off the bench and provide scoring. Back up point guard Carl Marshall was seldom used last year but hopes to provide energy and speed for the up-tempo attack.
Expect Jr. Forward Brian Laing to take his game to the next level this year. The returning small forward should find the new style of play more to his liking. Laing excels in the fast break with his tremendous athleticism. Laing will also be counted on to rebound the ball. Despite being about 6'4 he might be the Pirates best rebounder this year. The other small forward on the roster is a player who I really like in freshman Kashif Pratt from Rice HS. He too played in a similar system in HS to Gonzo's. Pratt is that jack of all trades that is needed for this type of system. He will be a key bench player this year and play more mins then most thought. I think Pratt will be the steal of this past recruiting class.
What is missing though is anything that resembles a front-court. The team lost three big-men to transfer in Mike Pilgrim, David Palmer, and Marcus Cousin from last years team. To make matters worst highly regarded Sophomore center John Garcia had off season knee surgery and is out at least until Big East season starts. Seton Hall needs Garcia back and ready to play do to the lack of depth. The Pirates do return Capt Grant Billmeier at center and starting power forward Stan Gaines but both players only averaged 3 points per game last year. The emotional leader Billmeier needs to improve on his 3 and 3 output from last year if the Pirates are to win. He has the heart and determination but does he have the skill? Gaines who struggled with injuries for most of last year is finally healthy and should provide a boost to the front-court. He has some small forward skills which will be a good fit for the new style of play.
Shakes' Take- With the team's favorable schedule and fire power I don't see why the team can't win 19 or 20 games this year. This young team should bring a lot of energy and fun to the season. Expect to see lots of 3 guard sets and pressing. The Pirates will need to team rebound and create lots of turnovers but I think the pieces are here to be effective. I am really excited to see the start of the Gonzo era at Seton Hall!
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