When Isaiah Whitehead was on the floor for the Seton Hall Pirates this season he would have the basketball on 30.2 percent of the offensive possessions and took a shot on 29.9 percent of those same offensive trips, according to KenPom.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that players, coaches and fans alike were worried about The Hall when Whitehead went down with a stress fracture in his foot. The fact that the news came on Christmas Eve likely took fans' minds off of the holidays, and back onto their team that had just taken a major hit.
Stress Fracture Out For A Few Weeks But I Know & Believe My Team Will Do Great Without Me Can't Wait To Get Back On The Court #SHBB— Isaiah Whitehead (@Isaiah_W15) December 24, 2014
However, with Whitehead out of the lineup, the Pirates are 4-2 and have just as many losses without the freshman as they did with the Brooklyn, New York native. Sterling Gibbs and Khadeen Carrington have stepped up on the offensive end, which has helped ease into life without Whitehead. It has certainly helped that the Pirates have defeated the likes of St. John's and Villanova when they were ranked No. 15 and No. 6 in the country respectively.
During this run that has seen the Pirates ascend into the Top 25, there have been a couple of opportunities for Willard to bring Whitehead back into the fold, but instead caution has been implemented. Reports said last week that Whitehead could return to play against Butler on January 13, but Willard did not rush him for a home game that Seton Hall ended up losing in overtime.
After the loss, Willard told reporters that Whitehead was an "80 percent no" to play against DePaul after the nine-day layoff. The latest on Whitehead is that Willard hopes to bring him back against Marquette. After Willard revealed that information during his teleconference today, many realized that Whitehead would miss an all-important rematch with Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Willard says @Isaiah_W15 had a "great MRI" and they will "take another picture" after DePaul. Whitehead could play at Marquette— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 15, 2015
You guessed it. More patience from the Pirates.
If this pattern continues, it is safe to say that Whitehead is no guarantee to play against the Golden Eagles either. Can you blame Willard? This is not only the most talented player that has come through South Orange in over a decade, but Whitehead also wants to have a career in basketball. A paying career. Willard does not want to jeopardize that by bringing him back too early.
It is only a coincidence that the Pirates have played well in his absence and even though The Hall is 1-2 in their last three games, Seton Hall will still not rush to bring back Whitehead. Coach Willard understands that this is much more than just winning a basketball game, and reaching the National Basketball Association. Health is the number one concern for his players, and Willard will make sure that his team is as fit as they can be no matter how it affects the team.
Seton Hall certainly could have used Whitehead during this six game stretch, but when the Pirates get him back they want him fully healthy. That alone is no guarantee, which is why Whitehead must be completely ready to go before returning.
Countless players have played through injuries and it has affected their careers later on into their playing days or life after basketball is over. Bill Walton at UCLA, and more recently Greg Oden at Ohio State and Robbie Hummel at Purdue could have all had better careers, but they played through injuries and did not or will not reach their full potential.
The Pirates will welcome Isaiah Whitehead back with open arms when he returns, but they do not want to see him leave as quickly. Coach Willard, the team, and Whitehead should be commended for not only their patience, but placing health as the top priority.