Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo are leaving more than their accomplishments at Seton Hall – they are leaving a culture established in their four years in South Orange.
It goes back to summer of 2014, when the four players along with Isaiah Whitehead pledged their allegiance to Seton Hall. The return of those men, even after Whitehead went to the NBA, year over year gave Seton Hall fans a group to unite for, connect with and rely on.
It was a breath of fresh air in a time where Seton Hall fans found their rally cry.
But even more so, the seniors used their time to spark a change in the program. It was not just putting Seton Hall back on the map, but showing the classes under them what it takes to become legendary.
“We owe the seniors so much,” Powell said. “I probably wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for them. So to help to their legacy and to their history, it means so much to me.”
The seniors’ legacy does not die in their exit. Their accomplishments hold true – the Big East trophy, the 1,000-point scorers, the three straight NCAA appearances – but the seniors’ impact truly lives on in the roster they are leaving behind.
This is something the seniors have given some thought to themselves. Minutes after losing to Kansas on Saturday, Rodriguez made his statement on Seton Hall’s future with one short, powerful image.
“Myles Powell is the next Khadeen Carrington, Myles Cale is the next Desi Rodriguez, Sandro [Mamukelashvili] is the next Angel Delgado and Taurean [Thompson] is the next Ish,” Rodriguez said. “So you know, we left them in good hands. Seton Hall is in great shape for next year, I wish them guys luck, they’re going to do a great job. I wish them the best.”
The image of a ‘core four’ is what the seniors created at Seton Hall and what they established in their exit. They showed the power found in a family – a closely knit squad that will sacrifice for the better of the team.
“We left the legacy of us being a family,” Sanogo said. “We won together, we lost together. We did everything together. And like Khadeen said, if you watched us play, we left everything out on the floor at every single game, and that tradition is going to carry on for the rest of Seton Hall legacy.”
That is a winning formula the seniors proved, and what they established as the culture of Seton Hall basketball.
“I think we left – I think who watched us play could say that we were tough-nosed, gritty kids,” Carrington said. “We didn’t take anything from anybody, and we played hard. And that’s what we tried to do from the time we stepped on campus. We tried to play for ourselves, for our coaches and for our families and for the name on the front of our jerseys.”
While the four seniors will not put those jerseys on again, they are leaving behind a group that will. They are also leaving behind a coach all four referred to as their father, and a coach who teared up at the final press conference when asked what the seniors meant to him.
Coach Kevin Willard understands how the players’ legacy does not end.
“I think the biggest thing that everyone talks about these guys’ legacy,” Willard said. “The legacy that I know they’ll leave is the fact that the three guys I have sitting out, the young freshmen we had playing, the three of our guys we have coming in next year all understand what they need to do on an everyday basis to take the next step.”
That effort comes into play both on the court and off it, being as great personalities as they are players, and giving a Seton Hall jersey more meaning with the work they put into making the program great. Willard knows they did that on their own.
“I’ve kind of sat back and let them grow as men and grow as a team because I think it’s been very important to let them take ownership in this program,” Willard said. “And I think that’s something that I’ve really focused on is letting them take ownership in the program and letting them kind of be the ones who are leading.”
New leaders will step up next year, but the Pirates for life – Delgado, Carrington, Rodriguez and Sanogo – will see their legacy on the Pirate court for years to come.
“They wouldn’t know it right now, but when they come back next year to watch us play, they’re going to know by the way Q (Quincy McKnight), Taurean and Ro (Romaro Gill), all these freshmen work on an everyday basis.
“And that’s going to be their greatest legacy is the fact that the consistency that they work with, the consistency that they played on the floor, the consistency that we’ve won for the last, I would even say four years, their freshman year, has given Seton Hall a very, very bright future.
“Not a lot of kids understand that at this time,” Willard said. “They won’t understand it until they come back next year for a home game. And they’ll be really excited about their legacy because they’ll watch it on the court.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.