The transition from high school senior to college freshman can be tough for a student.
Life away from home, classes and an abundance of new people can be a lot to handle for an 18- or 19-year-old. The challenge is even greater for incoming Division I athletes, who must balance practice, games, the media and, in some cases, fame, on top of everything else.
That is why the Big East is introducing a brand new Freshmen Fundamentals Program – a yearly two-day symposium for the conference’s rookie men’s basketball players that will take place in New York City on Sept. 12-13. The inaugural event is expected to host approximately 40 players, according to a conference press release, as the 10 Big East schools can send both students on scholarship and walk-ons at their discretion.
The program, which was spearheaded by Senior Associate Commissioner of Men’s Basketball Stu Jackson, intends to help freshmen student-athletes better acclimate to college life.
“There was a real need to have some sort of introductory program about the transition from high school athlete to an athlete in a major basketball conference,” Jackson said in an interview with The Setonian.
“I think it’s a terrific program,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said in an interview. “Anything you can do to help freshmen get adjusted to college life, being away from home, adjusting to – really – a new life, is great.”
The program will feature several trips and presentations for those in attendance. There will be a panel of former Big East players headlined by moderator Tarik Turner (St. John’s) as well as Greg Monroe (Georgetown) and Randy Foye (Villanova). The latter two are currently with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets, respectively.
The freshmen will also hear from Jim O’Brien, the former NBA coach of the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers.
In addition, there will be a broadcast presentation by conference partner Fox Sports and media and branding training from various experts. There will also be a visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and a sneak-peak tour of Madison Square Garden, the home of the Big East Tournament.
“Having Fox there is huge,” said Jackson, who previously called MSG home as head coach of the New York Knicks. “Just their presence and presenting to the players – so that they understand what being a broadcast partner is all about and some of the involvement that some of these student-athletes will have throughout the seasons, throughout their careers with Fox and their broadcasts – we think is important.”
Jackson said he thinks the biggest challenge for freshmen is understanding what lies ahead in terms of both time commitment and development as a player. Willard co-signed on that statement as well.
“I struggled with my time management,” Willard said of his college days. “…I think that is something that all freshmen struggle with.”
Among the coach’s newbies who will have to develop such understating are Seton Hall’s Myles Carter, Dalton Soffer and Veer Singh, all of whom will be in attendance.
The Freshmen Fundamentals Program begins just a year after a tumultuous 2014-15 season for the Pirates. This year, Willard is hoping his incoming freshmen take advantage of an opportunity that has not been there in the past – one that he wishes was around when he was a freshman at Pittsburgh.
“Anytime you see a program like this you wish you could have been around, but I’m glad our leadership at the league has realized it’s really important to give these freshmen all the advantages they can get.”
While men’s basketball players from Seton Hall and the rest of the Big East will get to partake in a flurry of freshmen festivities on Saturday and Sunday, such a program has not been created for women ballers – or any other sport, for that matter.
“This [the men’s program] is what I would call a pilot program,” Jackson said. “We’re not opposed to doing this for other student-athletes in other sports going forward.”
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GPhillips2727.