There’s no place like home.
Isaiah Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington will hold home court advantage when Seton Hall starts its postseason run with the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 10. All three sophomore sensations are from New York. Whitehead and Carrington hail from Brooklyn, while Rodriguez is a product of the Bronx. Having the opportunity to play in front of their friends and family is icing on the cake for these players, who just helped propel Seton Hall to their most successful season in the past decade. But don’t be surprised when these men come out treating this moment with a “business as usual” attitude. “It feels great, but it’s just another game,” Whitehead said of playing in front of his loved ones. “It’s definitely at The Garden, the Big East Tournament, but we’re just looking at it as Creighton and we’re just gonna try to go in there and get a win. It’s nothing else to it. It’s just about trying to beat Creighton and move on.”
This Big East Tournament is not the first time these guys have been awarded the chance to play at The Garden this year. Just a few weeks ago the Pirates squeezed out a 62-61 win over the bottom feeder of the conference, St John’s. Rodriguez relishes the idea of taking on The Mecca again. After all, he did do some serious damage during that St. John’s contest. “I’m excited,” Rodriguez said. “We just played St. John’s there and it was just exciting. I had my career high there - I mean my former career high.” The small forward refers to the 24 points he scored at MSG, which at that moment was the most he ever scored in a Pirates uniform. That is until he poured in 27 a week later against No. 5 ranked Xavier. Regular season play ended for the Pirates sitting with a 22-8 record, while boasting a 12-6 conference record as well - good enough for third place in the Big East. After a failed season just a year ago, Rodriguez believes the metro area natives are responsible for the team’s resurgence this season.
“Guys from Jersey, guys from New York, guys that I grew up with and played with earlier; we all came together as one,” Rodriguez said. “Our chemistry has been so strong, and our bond has been so strong off the court. That helps us play better on the court.” Whitehead pushes the same level of confidence on his New York teammates.
“I just feel like we all are really on the same page. We really just want to win. That’s something I can’t say about last year.” As playing at home pushes closer for the home court players, and the rest of the team, Rodriguez just wants people to know this is just the beginning. “We’re not finished yet,” he said. “I know we had a lot of success this season, but we’re not finished yet. We want to go as far as we can. Looking forward we want to try and win the Big East Tournament and head into the NCAA with a lot of confidence.”
Dennis Chamber can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on Twitter @DennisChambers_.