What was the men’s basketball team missing in senior guard Jeremy Hazell’s 53-day absence?
A 2010-11 Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 candidate and preseason All-Big East first teamer, the team’s leading scorer, who averaged 24 points per game before getting injured, but most importantly – the heart and soul of a Seton Hall team.
Hazell, who tallied 23 points in 30 minutes of play in his Jan. 12 return against DePaul, was out with a broken left wrist since the Hall’s 83-78 win over Alabama on Nov. 19.
“He’s [Hazell] an anchor for them. That was clear,” DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said. “And he’s an outstanding player.”
Hazell was also grazed by a bullet during a failed robbery attempt on Christmas Eve outside his house in Harlem, but was released the morning after. He opted not to redshirt and return next year for another season.
“So better late than never. He [Hazell] is a little late coming in, but better late than never,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. “And they’re going to be a team that can beat anybody on a given night now that he’s back.”
In the Pirates’ recent losses to Pittsburgh on Saturday and Georgetown on Tuesday, Hazell scored nine and 15 points respectively.
“I feel like I’m about 85 percent,” Hazell said after the Gerogetown game. “I’m feeling good, just a little awkward dribbling the ball.”
Fellow senior Jeff Robinson led Seton Hall in scoring with 12.6 points per game during Hazell’s absence. Robinson’s high without Hazell was 17 points which he recorded twice.
The Pirates also only averaged 64.9 points per game without Hazell in the lineup, compared to 73 points per game with him playing.
Hazell is currently shooting 40.5 percent from three point range, his highest total of his career.
In ESPN writer Eammon Brennan’s Jan. 13 article entitled “Jeremy Hazell can’t be stopped,” he satirically relates Hazell’s recent injuries to his own problem, shin splints, that cause him to stop playing recreationally.
Brennan praises Hazell’s warrior-like mentality by stating, “This might just be the story of the 2010-11 college hoops season. Incredible.”
So only time will tell whether or not Seton Hall will make the tournament, but one thing is for certain – the Pirates are better with number 21 on the court.
Matthew Bryant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.