Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big East Media Day: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Big East coaches pose with commissioner Val Ackerman, including a noticeably casual Steve Lavin. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)

Today's annual Big East media day is officially in the books, and there was a different feel to the proceedings upon its return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2010 following two years at the New York Athletic Club and last season's renewal at Chelsea Piers. Check our Twitter feed for a complete list of quotes, as well as for our own Big East preview later this week, but here is a Cliff Note version of the festivities in Midtown:

- Villanova, to no one's surprise, was the unanimous choice at the top of the annual preseason coaches' poll, with Georgetown the consensus second choice and a somewhat surprising third-place prediction for St. John's, whose senior-laden roster will attempt to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

- Georgetown guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera was the pick for Preseason Player of the Year honors, the first Hoya to receive such billing since Austin Freeman in 2010. Smith-Rivera, Kellen Dunham of Butler, Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston, Xavier big man Matt Stainbrook, and reigning Haggerty Award winner D'Angelo Harrison of St. John's rounded out the first team all-conference selections.

"For him not to be a first team all-conference player is an absolute joke. If there's five players in this conference better than him, WOW. I want that on record."
- Providence head coach Ed Cooley on forward LaDontae Henton

Henton was voted to the all-Big East second team, joining last season's top two rookies in Billy Garrett of DePaul and Rysheed Jordan of St. John's, as well as Villanova guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard. Highly touted freshman Isaiah Whitehead, who committed to Seton Hall out of Lincoln High School in Coney Island, was recognized as the conference's preseason Rookie of the Year, the first Pirate to be fitted with that honor since the late Eddie Griffin in 2000.

Big East Quotebook 
Ed Cooley on Kris Dunn: "I'm seeing the Kris that we recruited. We're going to live and die with him. You'll see that he'll be one of the best players in the conference this year. He's the Tasmanian Devil. He gets deflections, he just runs practice. I can't wait to turn him loose. As long as he's healthy, everyone in this room will know who he is. He has 'IT.'"

On expectations: "Our players are excited, our community's excited. We've got our work cut out for us. Winning the Big East was awesome, but this is a new year. It's a 'what have you done for me lately' attitude in this business."

"I think our ball handling has improved. We're one of the longer, more athletic teams in the Big East, but we're an old-school Big East team. I don't think we're the new Big East. We're the same old status quo."

On LaDontae Henton: "He's an 'it' guy. I don't know how many guys like that there are in this conference. You guys see LaDontae the basketball player. I see how much he's grown as a person, as a student. I've seen him come from nothing, his vocabulary, his presence. When he graduates, that may be one of the saddest days I've had as a coach in 21 years. Everything about him epitomizes what college athletics does for individuals when you give them an opportunity."

On being picked fifth and a possible championship hangover: "As I'm getting a little bit older in coaching, before, we used to react to that. Now, yeah. You know who's really good? Villanova's really good, Georgetown's really good. They deserve to be picked where they are. The rest of us will figure it out. Come March 11, there's a different story to be told."

"Championship hangover? NEVER. NO. ZERO. That's a totally different team, a totally different culture. We're missing 47 points from that team, there's no hangover at all. We've just got to get this team prepared to be the best team it can be."

On pressure to win: "Honestly, I'm never surprised at winning because we pride ourselves on preparation. If I listened to everyone, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you today. My job is to keep these guys focused, a game at a time, 40 minutes at a time, 20 minutes at a time, be the best they can be. I know it's a cliche, but that's just the way I coach. I really don't give a damn what somebody thinks."

Seton Hall forward Brandon Mobley on Isaiah Whitehead: "Offensively, he's about as good as any guard in the country. Skill-wise, he's ahead of just about every freshman, and even some of the sophomores in this conference."

"I think the hype is only going to fuel him even more. Once he gets started, he's going to be tough to stop."

Mobley on his expectations: "I just want to lead my team to the NCAA Tournament, that's all. It's something I haven't tasted yet."

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard: "I think this year, we're not going to be as reliant on threes. We're going to try to get to the free throw line more, we have the ability to get to the free throw line more."

Willard on Isaiah Whitehead: "He understands the big stage, and he's a very humble kid. This stuff doesn't affect him. He's physically able to play at a very high level, and his game can back it up."

On Seton Hall in general: "We're a much quicker, more athletic team than I think any Seton Hall team has been in a while. We're playing above the rim, we can play so many different styles. If I want to play really small, I can play really small; if I want to play really big, I can play really big. I think that gives us a chance to be dynamic in that we can attack you the way we want to attack you. Last year, the guys we had were the guys we had."


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