Basketball awaits word on future of players

When Kevin Willard accepted the job as head men’s basketball coach, many thought that his biggest obstacle was going to be recruiting. Little did anyone know that, to this date, his biggest challenge is retention.With just two days remaining before the deadline to retain NCAA eligibility, the Pirates are about to take another step towards next year as they await word from their three potential NBA players, juniors Jeff Robinson and Jeremy Hazell and sophomore Herb Pope.In his introductory press conference, Willard joked how this was the first non-championship team with three players entering the draft.While we still do not know exactly who will leave and who will stay, the recent incident involving Pope might possibly keep him in South Orange, though according to SNY’s Adam Zagoria, Pope was feeling obligated to return following the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association awards banquet on April 21. “Now that I know Coach Willard a little more, now I kind of feel obligated to give him the best chance of me coming back and really look at it,” Pope told Zagoria at the banquet.Pope went on to explain how they (he and Willard) are excited about each other and that, “I love his style already and I like him as a person.”As for Hazell, he was not as willing to give Pirate fans the answer they have been waiting for. He instead told Zagoria that he is leaning towards the NBA.”Right now I’m undecided,” he said on “I’m leaning towards going but my second mind is going back to school, getting my degree and finishing up.”Robinson has been quiet since he announced his declaration.One thing that could possibly lure all three players back to the Hall is the coaching staff. Though no official announcement has been made about the staff, said on April 20 that Shaheen Holloway, a former Pirate, Dan McHale and Steve Sauers, a former Pirate assistant under Gonzalez, are on Willard’s staff.Halloway and McHale will be assistant coaches, while Sauers will have the role of Director of Basketball Operations.However, on Monday, Brenden Prunty of The Star-Ledger stated that Sauers is being considered by new Rutgers head coach Mike Rice to be an assistant for the Scarlet Knights.Chris Pompey and Grant Billmeier is also said to be on the staff as well. Pompey is the former top assistant at New Mexico State who recruited Pope to play there.Billmeier told reporters at Willard’s press conference in April that he has been looking to get into coaching. He said he would be in an administrative role though he had yet to finalize his role with the team.On Tuesday, women’s basketball head coach Anne Donovan announced two additions to her staff.In a press release on Tuesday, the Pirates announced that Jenny Palmateer and David Kim will be joining Ty Grace as assistants next year.Palmateer a former player and coach at North Carolina State, played and coached under longtime Wolfpack coach Kay Yow. As a coach, her primary roles were recruiting, scouting and the development of perimeter players. She was also the academic liaison for the players, according to the press release.”She (Palmateer) is a great leader and recruiter, and her ties to New Jersey will help us as we are committed to scouring the state for the best talent.”Kim will join the staff as the director of basketball operations. Before coming to the Pirates, he held the same position at Fordham University. He was also an assistant at High Point University in N.C.”We will utilize David’s prior experience this summer on the recruiting trail, and his diverse skill set makes him a valuable fit for our staff,” Donovan said.Tim LeCras can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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