Seniors Pope and Theodore take charge of a young Pirate’s basketball team
Seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope are going to be looked to lead this year’s men’s basketball team with seven players gone from last season’s opening night roster and six incoming freshmen.
“I think these guys have embraced it more than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “I think they understand they’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in this program and they want to finish their careers on a high note, so they are putting a lot of work in.”
Coming into their senior season, Theodore and Pope have only played in one postseason game at the Hall, a 87-69 loss at home to Texas Tech in the first round of the 2010 NIT. Over the last two seasons, when both have played for the Pirates, the team has a combined 32-31 record, with neither player being the star.
“Here, I’ve always been behind guys who have had great years and careers here,” Theodore said. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Over the past four years Jeremy Hazell has been the leader of the team and took the shot when needed. Hazell ended his career third on the all-time scorers list at the Hall and took 21.1 percent of the team’s shots during his four years, including almost every last second shot.
In his last game in a Pirate uniform, Hazell hit a three point shot just before the buzzer sounded in regulation to send the Hall into overtime against Rutgers in the Big East Tournament. However this year it will be Theodore who will be looked at in late moments.
“Jordan is now the guy that has to create offense,” Willard said.
This is something that Theodore is ready for.
“I think I thrived in high school and think I will here,” Theodore said. “I’ve never been in the position at Seton Hall to take that big shot or have to do anything in the last moment of the game. This year I think I will be able to do it and respond very well.”
The team also loses Jeff Robinson who was the only player to start every game last season and finished second on the team in points per game and rebounds per game.
Even with two of the top players gone neither player is walking away from the challenge facing them this season.
“I’m happy to step up,” Pope said. “I’m looking forward at the task at hand.”
The biggest task for the two seniors will not only be to replace who has left the program but to also get the incoming freshman ready to play college basketball in the Big East. With no juniors on the roster and only three sophomores, the incoming freshman will have to play major minutes on this year’s team.
“Just to stay positive and to stay confident,” Theodore said about what he tells the freshman. “As a freshman playing college basketball, especially in the Big East, you are going to hit the wall sometimes and not always play as good but you just have to stay confident and keep pushing yourself.”
The words and more importantly the senior’s actions have already started to get through the freshman on the roster. The effect that they have had also extends to off the court where the Pirates have had their share of problems over the last two seasons.
“They have helped us a lot,” freshman Haralds Karlis said of the seniors. “On and off the court they are my role models. I watch them practice and I watch them off the court.”
On the court the seniors make sure that the freshmen know what is expected out of them and it has resulted in many of the freshmen staying after practice and taking extra shots and working on other parts of their game.
“Just giving us ideas of how tough it is playing in the Big East and how hard we have to work every day,” freshman Aaron Cosby said about the advice he has received. “We can’t come in 50 percent some days, have to be at 100 percent every day.”
Willard has already noticed the changes that his new and young team has to bring to the table and believes that they will “surprise” some people this year.
“Everyone should be pretty excited,” Willard said. “This is going to be a fun team to watch.”
The Pirates start their season at home on Nov. 12 against St. Francis (NY) at 7:00 p.m.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org