Prior to this season, only 10 Pirates had ever been named the best basketball player in the metro area.
On Tuesday, April 12, Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead became the 11th, as the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association awarded him the Lieutenant Frank J. Haggerty Award, given to the best Division I collegiate player in the greater New York City region.
“It’s an honor to receive this award,” Whitehead said at the MBWA awards dinner on Tuesday. “I have to thank my family, my coaches, my teammates, the whole Seton Hall family. It’s an amazing accomplishment. Coach (Kevin Willard) had told me this whole year that I was the best player in the area, and at the end of the year to actually get this award is a phenomenal feeling.”
With the accolade, Whitehead joins Walter Dukes (1953), Nick Werkman (1964), Nick Galis (1979), Dan Callandrillo (1982), Mark Bryant (1988), John Morton (1989), Terry Dehere (1993), Arturas Karnisovas (1994), Adri- an Griffin (1996) and Andre Barrett (2004) on the list of Seton Hall Haggerty winners.
Willard said he was pleased to see his guy properly recognized. “He’s the reason we had the year that we had,” the coach said. “It’s well-deserved that the Met Writers got to see what we saw every day in practice to give him this award.”
In addition to the award, Whitehead was also named to the All-Met First Team. With the honors, the Brooklyn native adds to what was already a crowded trophy case. Whitehead, a sophomore, was also a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection, an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention, a USBWA All-District II selection, a NABC All-District Five First Team selection and the winner of the Dave Gavitt Trophy for the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Playing as a true point guard for the first time since coming to Seton Hall, Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He also tallied 1.4 blocks a contest – the most of any guard in the country – as he led the Hall to its first NCAA Tournament in 10 years.
With a decorated second campaign in the books, Whitehead is now weighing his options. He has decided to take part in the NBA Draft process without hiring representation, meaning he would be eligible to return to SHU for his junior year. Multiple reports have claimed that Whitehead will only go pro if he thinks he will be a first-round pick. He has until 10 days after the NBA Combine (May 11-15) to decide if he wants to risk his chances on draft night (June 25). He will train in Las Vegas before heading to Chicago for the combine.
“He is a special talent,” Willard said. “There isn’t a harder work- ing young man – a more passionate young man –who has put his heart and soul into achieving his dreams. He came to Seton Hall to put it back on the map and every day he worked harder than any player I’ve ever had.”
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.