Isaiah Whitehead’s official first collegiate game
In the preseason win against Caldwell, Isaiah Whitehead took the role of facilitator and did a good job getting his teammates involved. The freshman phenom finished with eight points, five assists and shot 25.0 percent (3-12 FG) from the field in just 22 minutes of action.
Now we will finally get to see him for real against Mercer and in this three guard set that head coach Kevin Willard will likely implement along with Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina. Expect Whitehead to pick up the role of scoring, but do not be surprised if his assist numbers stay around three or four per game. Whitehead’s ability to drive, dish and make the extra pass is an underrated part of his game.
The only part of Whitehead’s game that really needs to improve before the Mercer game is his shooting percentage and it mostly will. On Sunday, against Caldwell, all of the freshman seemed to dealing with nerves at the beginning of the game. However, as the game went along, the young players including Whitehead looked more comfortable on the court.
Loss of scoring and leadership for Mercer
Coach Bob Hoffman’s Bears are coming off a solid season that saw them defeat third seeded Duke in the NCAA Tournament and pull off on of the greatest upsets in recent memory. This season, however, things do not look as promising. Mercer lost seven seniors from a year ago, most notably Langston Hall who led the Bears to a win over Seton Hall a year ago with his 24 points.
In this game, expect players like senior forward Darious Moten to provide some leadership for a young and inexperienced team. Junior guard Ike Nwamu averaged 8.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season will likely be the go-to player for the Bears.
Rematch of double overtime thriller
This meeting is a rematch from last November’s double overtime game in in Georgia that saw Mercer win 77-74 led by the previously mentioned performance by Hall. Former Pirate Fuquan Edwin had a career high 35 points in a losing effort.
When the two teams meet again, the Pirates are huge favorites and the difference is that instead of the game being close to a toss-up last year, the Hall will be expected to win convincingly on Sunday in Newark.
Mercer has lost so much from last season while what the Pirates have lost players, but have made up for it in recruiting and that should be the difference in this game.