McKnight, Nelson ready to set the tempo on offense

Khadeen Carrington ran the point for Seton Hall men’s basketball last season, averaging 15.5 points per, 4.4 assists, and nearly 33 minutes per game on a team that made its third straight NCAA tournament appearance and nearly knocked off top-seeded juggernaut Kansas in the second round.

Now, it will be up to heralded transfer Quincy McKnight and four-star freshman Anthony Nelson to step into the role Carrington left behind for Kevin Willard. McKnight, who transferred to Seton Hall following a breakout sophomore season at Sacred Heart, started against Wagner in the team’s home opener on Nov. 6 and looks primed to lead the duo.

“I’m excited to be playing again and playing against better competition,” McKnight said.

McKnight had to sit out the memorable 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he was with the team and witnessed its postseason run.

Renee Nunez/Staff Photographer

Despite the roster turnover, however, and contrary to the opinions of many looking at the program from the outside in, McKnight is bullish on his team’s prospects for the season.

“Everyone’s down on us a lot this year, and with the seniors leaving people think we aren’t going to be that good,” McKnight said. “But we’ve been practicing with each other, playing with each other and we’re going to be good.”

McKnight, similar to Carrington, was a trigger-happy point guard at Sacred Heart, averaging 18.9 points a game at a position traditionally filled by players who look to pass first and seldom shoot unless a great opportunity presents itself. At Seton Hall, though, McKnight is taking on that more traditional role in the Pirates’ new-look offense, along with Nelson, who is described by his coaches and teammates as a “pure point guard.”

“Ant is going to be great,” McKnight said of his highly-touted counterpart. “He’s young, he’s learning, and he’s got this smooth mentality to him that we’re trying to bring out of him.”

Nelson looked comfortable during his time on the floor in Seton Hall’s win over Wagner, contributing four points and five assists in his first collegiate game. Nelson attributed much of his poise to his older teammates, including McKnight, mentoring him and the other newcomers in practice.

“On the court we’ve been going at it, competing,” Nelson said. “They just help me with making decisions, little pointers, stuff like that.”

It is perhaps the worst-kept secret in South Orange that Willard and his coaching staff need to figure out a new style of play with fresh faces abundant. Willard has hinted at the revolution including some unconventional personnel rotations, many of them involving his point guards.

When asked if he would share the court with Nelson during the year, McKnight was quick to respond.
“Definitely. With Ant being a pure point guard, we can easily get two point guards, even three, four ball-handlers on the court at a time,” McKnight said.

Playing with Nelson at the point and moving McKnight off the ball, for example, would allow both players to play in his “natural” role – Nelson looking to free up his teammates with excellent passing, and McKnight adopting the shoot-first mentality he thrived with at Sacred Heart.

It remains to be seen exactly what tricks Willard and his coaching staff have up their sleeves, but it is surely safe to bet on McKnight and Nelson playing a variety of important roles in the latest iteration of Seton Hall basketball.

Kyle Beck can be reached at kyle.beck1@student.shu.edu. or on Twitter @notkylebeck.

Author: Kyle Beck

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