In October 2017, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado gathered at Madison Square Garden for their last Big East Media Day session. With the three upperclassmen in the building, the expectation was that the conversation would be about the three 1,000-point scorers.
Instead, Carrington, Rodriguez and Delgado spent most of the afternoon praising freshmen Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Jordan Walker. Even Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard got in on the action, speaking highly of his prized recruits.
“The freshmen are really pushing these guys,” Willard said. “Practice is probably as competitive as I’ve ever had it in my seven years here.”
“Every guy brings it every day,” Delgado said of the freshmen trio. “People don’t know, but they’re really good. You guys are going to find out this year.”
The expectation was that Cale, Mamukelashvili and Walker would become top Pirates by the end of the season. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, as all three freshmen have struggled to not only see consistent minutes, but also make an impact in the ones they get.
A top-100 recruit coming out of high school, Cale is averaging just 3.7 points while playing 14.6 minutes per game.
Mamukelashvili, meanwhile, came to South Orange with the reputation as a stretch four who could knock down threes, but has struggled mightily, shooting just 22 percent from beyond the arc. after strong showings in the preseason.
While Cale and Mamukelashvili have struggled on the court, Walker has dealt with his fair share of struggles both on and off it. After missing a month with a torn ligament in his thumb, Walker decided to walk away from the program for a brief period, only to return less than 24 hours later after reconsidering the decision. On the court, Walker has seen sporadic playing time while serving as the team’s third-string point guard behind Carrington and sophomore Eron Gordon.
Despite the struggles and turmoil, Willard has stated his faith in his freshmen and is not disappointed in where they are at this point of the season.
“The freshmen are doing exactly what all freshmen are doing this time of year,” Willard said on Jan. 30. “I think they’re trying to survive and help us in any way possible. It’s just about trying to do what they can do to help us win some games as the season goes on, but it’s extremely tough being a freshman in this conference this time of year.”
Willard is spot on when it comes to his point about being a freshman in a tough conference like the Big East. There are no easy nights and as a result, the younger players in the league tend to struggle.
Seton Hall’s freshmen are not the only ones who have struggled to adjust in their first year of college ball, as plenty of top recruits around the Big East have not brought much to the table for their respective teams. Only three freshmen in the Big East average over 20 minutes per game, and just one, Villanova redshirt freshman Omari Spellman, averages over 10 points per game.
It was never going to be easy for Cale, Mamukelashvili, and Walker to join a veteran team and make an impact from Day 1. On a Seton Hall team that features four senior starters, the touches and minutes are simply not there for the trio to live up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them in the preseason.
Let this season serve as a friendly reminder to all – freshmen are going to struggle; that is the nature of college basketball. Whether it is the No. 1 recruit in the country or a three-star recruit like Walker, every freshman is going to hit a wall at some point. It is important to temper expectations for freshmen as sometimes those expectations becoming unattainable.
Tyler Calvauso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.