Every successful team has a strong core of leaders that are able to rise to the occasion and get the job done whenever their number is called. The Seton Hall women’s basketball team is no different.
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When people speak about the team and leadership, they all point to graduate guard, Ka-Deidre Simmons, and rightly so. The fifth year captain is set to go down as one of the best players in program history and she has been the floor general in the Hall’s resurgence to the national spotlight this year, but she has not had to lead by herself. Graduates Janee Johnson, Daisha Simmons and senior Chizoba Ekedigwe have aided to provide that crucial veteran leadership for head Coach Tony Bozzella’s squad.
“I am so lucky to have the players I have,” Bozzella said. “I could not have asked for better young women to lead this team and help us get through tough times.”
A great example of one of those tough times was this past Sunday on Senior Day, where in a tight game, the veterans got the job done.
Daisha Simmons drove in from the right wing and knocked down the game-winning lay-in with 4.8 seconds to play as the Pirates pulled out a 64-62 victory over the Villanova Wildcats on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson added 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the victory and that performance landed her on the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Weekly Honor Roll for the first time in her career.
“How about the evolution of her as a player,” Bozzella asked in regards to Johnson after the Villanova game. “A much better defender, doesn’t turn the ball over like she used to, just plays hard… She found a way to help us win.”
The other player that has gone through an evolution under Bozzella has been Ekedigwe. She is enjoying her best year as a pirate as she has been a mainstay in the Pirate’s starting five in the new year and has provided a presence down low for the Hall.
The Pirates have had contributions from a variety of players this season, but when times get hard it is those veterans that are able to produce. All that production and all that these leaders have gone through will be especially worth it if the Hall gets their named call on Selection Monday.
"That moment will definitely … I don't even know," Ka-Deidre Simmons said. "It's something you dream of, you look forward to, you prep yourself for. The type of season we're having, you almost think, 'Oh my God, is this really going to happen?'"
Simmons and SHU will have that answer soon as the team readies for the final weekend in the regular season against Xavier and Butler, then for the BIG EAST tournament in Chicago. But the Hall not only just wants to make the big dance, they want to make some noise in it as well, and their coach strongly believes they can.
"We have not played anybody who's been better than us," Bozzella said. "We can beat anyone. I don't think there's any team in the country, minus the top five or six, that are going to want to see us in the NCAA Tournament."
The Pirates have not made the tournament since 1995 and questions remain about who they could face or what seed they could end up with, but one thing has been answered repeatedly all year. When times get hard and things seem to be too hard to overcome, the Hall’s veteran leaders will come up clutch and do all they can to help their team prevail.
Christian Pierre-Louis can be reached at Christian.email@example.com or on Twitter @CPLouis_.