Seton Hall’s Ismael Sanogo can easily get lost in the shuffle when discussing a season that saw the team earn their first Big East Tournament title in 23 years. He only averaged 5.0 points a game and had the third-lowest usage rate on the team (10.2%), so he faded into the background when the Pirates were on offense.
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However, there is so much more to Ismael Sanogo than the scoring column. His defense and athleticism made him an integral part of the Pirates’ title run, and will be key for the rising 2016-17 Pirates.
Sanogo finished the campaign averaging 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks. On the more advanced side, he was third in the Big East in defensive rating (92.5) and tied Angel Delgado for sixth-most defensive win shares in the conference (2.2). Judging by these statistics, you can see where Ismael shined for the Pirates.
Sanogo’s high IQ and NBA-ready body (he’s listed at the same size as Trevor Ariza) made him a problem for opposing offenses throughout the season. He was athletic enough to keep up with guards, but big enough to rumble with big men. His wingspan allowed him to deflect passes and create steals. Seton Hall was one of the better defensive teams in the nation - 25th in defensive rating (95.5). Sanogo’s defensive contributions were a major reason why.
Sanogo was a part of a starting lineup that held for most of the season. He appeared in 33 games and started 31 of them, limited during a stretch in December due to a shoulder injury. While roster flux is occurring in the backcourt with the departures of Brooklyn Net Isaiah Whitehead and firefighter Derrick Gordon, the frontcourt is left untouched. This means that the duo of juniors Sanogo and Delgado will continue getting starts. As stated earlier, they tied for sixth in the conference in defensive win shares. The continued presence of Sanogo and Delgado will continue to make scoring inside a chore for opponents in 2016-17.
Sanogo will obviously continue to be a go-to defensive player, and one of the best in the conference. However, Ismael stated in a NorthJersey.com article back in February that he was in the gym working on his three-point shot. He’s only attempted 3 three-pointers his entire career, having yet to make one. We’ll see if the outside shot is added to his repertoire this year, or if it is still reserved for practice. Offense is Sanogo’s last frontier of development. If he is able to improve his jumper, rather from three or mid-range, he could prove to be even more of a problem.
Two years ago, the Newark, N.J. native chose Seton Hall over schools like VCU, George Mason, and Penn. That decision has proven to be wise. Sanogo is now a quiet force for a young team that can call itself defending Big East champions. With two years of eligibility left, it will be interesting to see how one of the conference’s top defenders continues to develop.