Khadeen Carrington scampered down the court with the time ticking down in overtime on Feb. 24 at Madison Square Garden. When the senior guard grabbed hold of the rim and slammed the ball down through the hoop on a fast break, Seton Hall fans throughout the World’s Most Famous Arena erupted, as the team had won what had been a war of attrition with St. John’s.
Carrington’s dazzling 22-point performance was the follow-up to another heroic effort that took place on the morning of Feb. 22, in small Alumni Hall, on the campus of Providence College. It was there that Carrington finished off a 25-point performance and helped a Seton Hall team – playing without Desi Rodriguez – begin a new winning streak following a stretch of four straight losses.
The performances earned Carrington Big East Player of the Week and Met Writers Player of the Week honors. After the Providence game, Carrington spoke about his role as a point guard to Fox Sports 1 analyst Tarik Turner.
“That was my big thing all season, try to get my teammates involved,” Carrington said. “Previous years, my focus was scoring; the team needed me to score. But now, the ball is in my hands.”
Truth be told, Carrington is a different player this year. He may never fully assimilate into a point guard, but his mentality and style of play has undeniably changed. Still, no matter the alteration, the numbers back up the fact that Carrington needs to be successful as a scorer for Seton Hall, if the Pirates are to reach their goals this March. When Carrington has scored at least 18 points or more in conference play, the team is an impressive 6-0.
Looking back at the Providence game – which has the potential to be the turning point of Seton Hall’s season if the Pirates end up creating magic in the Big East and NCAA Tournament – Carrington did not have a prototypical point guard’s game by any stretch of the imagination, as he went for 25 points and a mere two assists. Two days later against St. John’s, the numbers were not much different, with 22 points and four assists.
This is not meant to discredit the changes that Carrington has made, but is intended to illustrate how necessary it is that Carrington feeds his scoring sweet tooth when the moment calls for it. By that same token, when the time comes to operate as a point guard, Carrington needs to step up, and so far, he has.
This season, Carrington has averaged 4.5 assists compared to 2.9 last season, which is not surprising considering how much more the Bishop Laughlin product is handling the ball. What is commendable is that his turnovers are down, from 75 in 33 games last year, to 65 in 29 games, despite an increased usage rate.
Perhaps this decision-making with the ball is part of the reason why Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has so often praised Carrington for his play at the position like he did after the Providence game.
“Everyone has been on him all season long about what he’s not doing, and I’ve been telling him how great he has been doing,” Willard said. “He has led us, he has sacrificed his offense at times…I’m so proud of the way he’s been a leader, and the way he has played all season long.”
Some fans have only seen the negative side to Carrington in his senior season. His field goal percentage has gone down, from 42.4 to 40 percent, as well as his three-point percentage, from 38.2 to 33.3 percent. Those same fans have not seen the positive side where Carrington has upped his free-throw percentage 10 percentage points, from 73.1 to 83.1 percent, helping to solve Seton Hall’s problems at the line.
Interestingly enough, Carrington’s last two games are reminiscent of his start to conference play, with back-to-back 20-point games. However, in the middle of conference play, in which the Pirates experienced peaks and troughs, Carrington’s scoring fluctuated dramatically. When Carrington scored 10 points or fewer, the Pirates were 1-4 in conference play.
While it can be argued that Carrington’s inconsistent scoring during the middle of conference play was a result of him trying to operate in his new role, it is impossible to dismiss how Carrington still needs to be a scorer for the Pirates to be successful. His old teammate Isaiah Whitehead was able to strike that balance in March 2016, as he led the Pirates to a Big East Tournament title. And with all of the work that Carrington has put in to make the transition to point guard, there’s no reason why he can’t find a way to do the same.
Carrington may have the decision of where to go with the ball in a critical moment in March, and while some may call for the converted point guard to look for a pass, it will not be wrong if he embraces his inner scorer, and keeps it himself.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.