Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pirate seniors beginning season with determination to prove their value

Angel Delgado was his usual dominant self with 19 points and 11 rebounds against Indiana Wednesday night as All-American senior big man insists Seton Hall's upperclassmen are playing with something to prove. (Photo by Wendell Cruz/

NEWARK, NJ -- When a senior class can already count a Big East championship and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances among its accomplishments, the need for improvement may not be a prerequisite for going about its business.

Try telling Seton Hall's quartet of fourth-year players that.

Three of the soon-to-be graduating Pirates; Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez, took matters into their own hands Wednesday night for the third time in as many games, combining for 59 of the 84 points amassed by the No. 22 team in the nation, jointly driving Seton Hall to a 3-0 start with a convincing 84-68 victory against Indiana at the Prudential Center.

"This is one of the best ones," said Delgado of just scoring a win over Indiana, a longtime member of college basketball's upper crust. "I always see Indiana on TV doing good, and everybody wants to play against Indiana. It's a big team and I'm really going to enjoy this win, because it's one of the schools you always want to beat and be better than them."

One game does not necessarily make or break a season, and in the case of Seton Hall Wednesday, their effort against the Hoosiers and head coach Archie Miller only furthered the need to provide the defining stamp on a rich legacy, the fuel that has been driving Kevin Willard's seniors since the offseason, a topic discussed at length on the October media day circuit.

"It's our last year," a matter-of-fact Carrington stated. "There is no next year for us, so we just want to leave a legacy right now."

Never a group to rest on its laurels, Seton Hall's big three; coupled with forward Ismael Sanogo, has always been a unit to take even the most superficial flaw in its collective and individual skill sets and hone each to perfection. Take Delgado's floor game as an example. Arguably the last person to be mistaken for the next John Stockton during his first two years in South Orange, the 6-foot-10 Dominican has become more adept at finding the open man, a trait he forced himself to learn after becoming the product of constant double-teams.

"When you get double-teamed so much, you've gotta become a great passer," Delgado said, with a tone of pride noticeable in his education over the years and subsequent mastery of being proficient in the art of assists. "That's what I've been working on all these years and what Coach is always telling me. If you're the type of guy who's always passing the ball, it's going to be hard to double. When they try to take me one-on-one or double-team me, I still pass the ball. I just want to get the best shot we can get."

"I think the biggest difference in his game is he's become, I feel, an elite passer," Willard echoed. "He knows most nights he's going to get a lot of touches, so he's become unselfish, where I think early in his career where he didn't get it as much, every time he got it, he tried to make a play. Now he kind of understands he's got some really good players around him, and he's gotta make sure he gets them involved."

Carrington has made strides in his own development as well, even as an all-Big East guard heading into his final season with a chance to move into rarified air on the Pirates' all-time scoring list, alongside the company of such luminaries as Terry Dehere and Jeremy Hazell. The point guard on this year's team following the graduation of Madison Jones, Carrington has continued to demonstrate the need to bring everybody into the picture, racking up 15 assists against only five turnovers and eschewing some of the take-charge plays that he may have made in previous seasons playing off the ball. Because of this, the confidence his coach has in him has not waned; rather, it has been enriched.

"I wasn't worried about Khadeen at all," said Willard when prompted to express any potential concern he may have had over Carrington not being as much of a focal point on the scoreboard. "The more minutes he plays, his legs will get fresher. I never once was worried about 'is he in a shooting slump?' We worked out in the morning the other day and I think he was 82-for-110. When a guy's making shots in practice, eventually he's always going to make shots in games."

Finally, Rodriguez had his most efficient game of the young season Wednesday, leading all scorers with 23 points on just 8-of-12 shooting in a performance that prompted Willard to anoint the Bronx product as one of the best players in all of college basketball.

"If I'm aggressive at the start and I keep that going throughout the game, we're going to be a tough team to beat," he said when asked for the deciding factor in each game being one where his star shines brightest. "I've just gotta keep my composure and just be efficient throughout the game. The leadership is on me to bring that energy to the team, and that's what I'm doing. I feel like I'm doing a good job."

"As long as we get better every game, I know we're gonna be a tough team to beat later in the season. I'm just proud of how everyone is playing and how everyone is efficient coming off the bench. The younger guys have been very effective. Knowing that Coach can go deeper into the bench like he's doing this year, giving guys breaks and giving guys a lot of energy, it's great for us."

"I'm older now," Delgado admitted. "I've got a lot more to put on my chest and I just want to get to work, make my senior year with these guys great. I want to win. That's all I want to do."

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