Throughout Ismael Sanogo’s first three seasons at Seton Hall, there were not many moments where he was spotting up to take a jump shot.
A career 3.4-point per game scorer, almost all of Sanogo’s baskets came from close range. For Sanogo, a 10 to 15 foot jumper was out of the question. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Sanogo has gone from an offensive liability to Seton Hall’s secret weapon.
The first step in Sanogo’s progression as a shooter was finding the confidence to hoist up shots. Going into his junior year, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard praised Sanogo’s progression as a shooter, but he almost never took any jumpshots in live action.
In Sanogo’s first three years at the Hall, Sanogo shot six three pointers and only made one of them. Through 20 games this season, Sanogo has already taken 13 threes, making four.
Once hesitant to face up and attempt a shot, Sanogo now has confidence in his ability to hit a shot from mid-range and beyond. It has not hurt having the support of his teammates either, as some of Seton Hall’s more prominent offensive weapons have no problem with Sanogo taking an increased number of shots.
“He’s making a lot of jump shots right now and he’s been working on it,” Angel Delgado said of Sanogo’s increased offensive output following a win over Georgetown on Jan. 13. “We have confidence in him and he didn’t take them before, but he’s always taking them in practice. He can hit those shots and we have a lot of confidence in him. For me, I can give it to him and he can shoot all day.”
“Ish is the best defender in the country and when he’s stopping people on the other end and helping us on offense, there’s nothing you can say about that,” Sophomore Myles Powell said. “He does everything. I have nothing but great things to say about Ish.”
While opposing head coaches might have nightmares about dealing with Sanogo on the defensive end, they have never had to game plan for him on offense. That would leave opposing coaches with the chance to zone in on Delgado, Powell, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. Now, coaches have to make their team well aware of Sanogo’s ability to step out and drain a basket.
Sanogo’s newfound mid-range game also helps Seton Hall’s offense when it comes to floor spacing. Instead of banging around pointlessly down low, Sanogo is now a threat from around the free throw line. With Sanogo cleared out of the paint, Delgado now has more freedom to move around on the block and get himself into a position where he can make a play out of the low post. It’s now tougher for teams to double Delgado, as he can dish it out to Sanogo for a shot, an option that was not available for Seton Hall prior to this season.
“Teams don’t play Ish [on offense],” Willard said. “We have to make adjustments on that.”
Fortunately for Seton Hall, Sanogo’s buckets have not been meaningless ones scored in garbage time. In a 20-point loss to Marquette on Jan. 9, Sanogo was the team’s leading scorer with 14 points while shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-2 from deep.
A year or two ago, seeing that kind of stat line from Sanogo was unimaginable. Now, it has become somewhat of a regularity, as the senior forward has a combined 39 points in Seton Hall’s last five games. In Sanogo’s nine games before the Marquette matchup, he scored a combined 36 points.
“When you’re around a bunch of guys who could score the ball really well, it rubs off on you,” Sanogo said.
Sanogo’s transformation has been a pleasant surprise for a Seton Hall team that was searching for an additional scoring threat to complement its four leading scorers. Seton Hall fans have become accustomed to watching Powell, Carrington, and Rodriguez pulling up from three and now, they will have to be on the lookout for Sanogo as well.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.