Athletes as seniors normally have their roles figured out. For many, it’s a fourth season in the same environment and with each passing year he or she becomes more familiar with the surroundings, and more accustom to his or her role. Although, Seton Hall men’s basketball has one notable exception to that rule in the form of Khadeen Carrington.
Carrington is not adjusting to a new environment, as the guard from Bishop Loughlin High School has already etched his name into the Seton Hall history books with a Big East Tournament championship in his sophomore year.
However, the 6-foot-3 Carrington will be taking on a new job title this season and it is one that both he and Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard project will be the difference in whether or not Carrington can play at the highest level. That job is point guard.
“I think this has to be [Carrington’s] biggest step,” Willard said. “Because it’s not just for us this year, it’s also for him professionally. My biggest worry, believe it or not, is not this year. My biggest worry is for the seniors, ‘what happens in that next year?’ That’s what keeps me up at night, is making sure that we have a plan in place that continues their success.”
In Carrington’s eyes, continuing his time on the court beyond his senior year will depend on his ability to make the position switch. His size is something that cannot translate to the two-guard position in the NBA, so Carrington sees the new role as a necessary step, and a challenge he is excited to embrace.
“I’m going to have to play that position if I want to get to the next level,” Carrington said. “I’m 6-foot-3, well, 6-foot-3 with shoes on, so you can’t really play the two on that level. So, I think this role shift is definitely a big part of my career. It’s different, it’s definitely a challenge, but what is life without a challenge?”
Taking on the new role requires understanding the job description, and luckily, Carrington has a resource in Willard, who not only lived the role throughout his playing days but also witnessed experts in the trade during his time as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.
“I always remember, Kenny Anderson said this one time, one of the first games we had him with the Celtics, and he had like a 1-for-9 night, but he had 11 assists, and Antoine [Walker] had one of his better games,” Willard said. “And I remember Kenny talking to the media saying ‘that was one of my better games, I really got him to play well.’ And I remember sitting there, and I was 23, and I never thought about it that way; I never thought about the responsibility.”
Carrington goes to Willard to discuss the responsibility that comes with being the signal-caller of the offense. It requires sacrifice to give up the pick and roll when the defense is not allowing it and demands leadership in more ways than production on the floor.
“The basketball stuff; reading pick and rolls, what to look for, what to do, this and that, I think that every coach works with every player,” Willard said. “I try to get them to really understand the mental aspect of it, because I think, as a point guard, that’s more important than anything else.”
“I’m not a guy that talks a lot,” Carrington said. “I try to go out and lead by example, but a point guard, you need to be vocal too. And that’s something that, I’m not going to say I never took serious, but [something] I never really paid attention to that much. But, I’m starting to see that it’s more important now.”
It’s a climb for Carrington to develop into a point guard that can help the Pirates and their senior quartet achieve the lofty goals they have this season, and an even further climb to become one that can survive at the next level.
Although Carrington is not starting this climb from the bottom, the senior has played the role on and off throughout the last three seasons, and only finished with seven fewer assists than natural point guard Madison Jones last year.
Also working in Carrington’s favor is the fact that former Seton Hall teammate Isaiah Whitehead made a similar transition to point guard as a sophomore, proving that the switch can work and can be made in a year’s time.
For both Carrington and Willard, this position switch is as much about this season as it is about Carrington’s future after college. As much as it is about the short-term objectives, it is even moreso about the ultimate dream of getting Carrington to the NBA.
“There’s a great quote [from Theodore Roosevelt]; goes something like ‘it’s great to look at the stars but it’s important to keep your feet on the ground,’” Willard said. “That’s what I’m trying to talk to this group about. I understand it’s great to look at the next level, and that’s where I want you: thinking of the future. But you’ve got to stay grounded and you’ve got to understand what got you to this point, where you’re able to look at that. And I think that for this group and for Khadeen, that’s what my biggest thing with them moving forward is.”
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.