Kevin Willard learned a thing or two about basketball playing under his dad Ralph Willard at Western Kentucky and then Pittsburgh. He furthered his hoops education while on Rick Pitino’s staff for 10 years with the Celtics and then Louisville. In three years as head coach at Iona he tuned the Gaels into a 20 win team. With his basketball knowledge firmly intact, all the 5th year Seton Hall Pirates coach needs now is players, and he’s starting to get them.
Isaiah Whitehead is a potential program-changing 6-foot-4 shooting guard and the crown jewel of Seton Hall’s 2014 recruiting class that holds the 12th spot in the nation on 247sports’ composite rankings.
Recruiting New York City is never a bad idea. The elder Willard and Pitino, both Big Apple natives, likely impressed that point upon Kevin. His time at Iona in New Rochelle certainly furthered his familiarity with the NYC recruiting scene. Those roots have paid off with an impressive haul of six players in the Pirates' 2014 class, all of whom hail from the Tri-State Area. The player with the most promise is the McDonald’s All-American from Brooklyn, Isaiah Whitehead. Playing for Lincoln, perhaps the most famous high school program in the city, Whitehead has been on the radar since his freshman year. He’s the biggest recruit for The Hall in a long time, and as the only McDonald’s All-American to choose a Big East school, he means a lot to the conference as well.
The YouTube videos show a confident athlete, perfectly comfortable in his frame. Whitehead is a capable ball handler and passer and shows a natural ability to get to the rim and the line. His length allows him to see the basket well as he easily elevates over smaller guards. He is also a solid rebounding guard which compliments his scoring and floor game to make him a complete player. Isaiah averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in five games during New York’s Public School Athletic League playoffs this past year. Time in the Seton Hall weight room will serve him and the rest of his Pirates classmates well as they acclimate to major college competition.
Willard’s future at Seton Hall will be inevitably tied to Isaiah Whitehead and this recruiting class. He is certainly the type of player that can make a coach’s job a lot easier. Together, they seek to turn Seton Hall into a consistent challenger for the Big East Conference title and an annual threat to go deep in March. New York players always seem to carry a chip on their shoulder, especially the guards. Pirate’s fans hope Whitehead and their other city recruits will bring that trademark toughness to the Prudential Center in Newark. If there is one player capable of bringing the Hall back to the prominence and carrying the torch for the new Big East Conference, it’s Isaiah Whitehead.
No pressure, kid.