Saturday, November 29, 2008

Setonia Relies on Bench; Hall Wins Again

After today's heart-palpitating win against Delaware, many of the Seton Hall message board bloggers are voicing concern regarding Coach Gonzo's apparent reluctance to utilize his bench. (For the entire second half of today's game, Gonzo only used six players.) Given the grueling schedule Seton Hall faces once Big East play begins, the bloggers would argue, it really is essential that we conserve our energy as much as possible. 

Dave and I could not agree more. For that very reason, we have decided to turn to the reserves for today's post. So, take off those "breakaway" pants, Cajuste!! Because today's post is coming to you live from the nosebleed section. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the "father" of Setonia... my actual father. Take it away, Pops!


Turkey Squelches Fire

So, did the Hall beat Delaware? Yes. Did the Hall crush Delaware? No.

Today's match-up against Delaware promised to be a rout.  (At least, that's what Ben told me on the phone yesterday.) But in the first half, Delaware led all the way. It was fortunate that the Pirates were able to close the gap early in the second half and were able to maintain a slim lead through most of the second half. But this game was not in the bag by any stretch. Which leads one to ask: Did too much turkey for Thanksgiving translate to lethargy on the court? Did the players ingest an excess of tryptophan?

Well, whatever the cause, the Pirates need to rekindle that fire in their belly, because this was not a very pretty game. Without much of a bench, it seems like will and determination will be what leads this team to victory. We will consider this a minor aberration and look forward to more bonfires ahead.

- Ben's Dad

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lesson is Learned; Must Protect the Colonies


On the evening of December 25th, 1776, George Washington led a ragtag Continental Army across the Delaware River and along the shores of New Jersey in a surprise attack on the British just outside of Trenton. Facing treacherous waters, terrible weather conditions and diminishing rations, Washington’s problems were many. His demoralized and exhausted army had been forced to retreat into Pennsylvania of all places, which according to Vice-President Elect Joe Biden is: “an awful, awful, sad place, filled with sad desperate people with no ambition. Nobody, and I mean nobody, but me has ever come out of that place. It's a genetic cesspool.” And if that’s not bad enough, none of them had shoes! Can you imagine – walking through a genetic cesspool without shoes!

Yet, I digress. Washington’s army eventually won another victory, defeating the British in Princeton, NJ. News of this victory spread rapidly, reinvigorating the falling spirit of the Revolution. These victories helped gather colonial support, shocked the British and convinced future allies that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with!

Now many of you are probably saying to yourself: “Of course I know the history of Washington crossing the Delaware. I’m American. I’ve seen the painting a thousand times. I was born genetically programmed to know all historic American events.” Of course you were; I do not question your knowledge of American history. Instead, I would like to open your eyes to the significance of this event and how it relates to Seton Hall’s game tomorrow against the Delaware Blue Hens.

Let us start from the beginning. George Washington’s army had been forced to retreat, first from Long Island and then from Manhattan, all the way to Pennsylvania. Sound familiar? Wasn’t Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez in a way “forced to retreat” from Manhattan and cross a river into a neighboring state?

Washington’s army has often been described by historians as a “ragtag” group of soldiers. Does a team of eight scholarship players with limited resources relying on little more than heart, will and determination qualify as a “ragtag” group of players? You bet.

With the British securely holding New Jersey and Rhode Island, they thought the Continental Army could be swatted into oblivion and the Revolution would therefore once and for all be quelled. Isn't that a bit like the arrogance of PAC 10 and ACC powerhouses USC and Virginia Tech as they prepared to play undersized and outnumbered Seton Hall? Maybe.

The news of Washington’s victory over the British in Trenton and Princeton galvanized colonial support and convinced the world that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with. Similarly, Seton Hall’s early victories over top notch competition have helped garner support for a program that was all but written off this year. Let us only hope that this support continues for the rest of the season.

In the face of this mini history lesson, we can only hope that we have learned from Kurt Vonnegut’s famous quote, “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.” History is set to repeat itself and it is the foolish who do not grow wiser from history. Let us hope that after leaving Manhattan, crossing a treacherous river, and guiding an inspired, yet weary, ragtag group of players, Bobby G. has learned his lesson…

Protect your state from those crossing the Delaware!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Tooting" My Own Horn


There are times during life when a man will do anything to appear cool. Most men experience this feeling while trying to impress an attractive "senorita." For me, the circumstances were very different indeed.

Ben and I were at the San Juan airport, replaying the incredible events of the past few days in our respective minds, when the unthinkable happened. We ran into the players in our terminal!! That's right -- the entire Seton Hall basketball team, including Coach Gonzo and AD Quinlan, were going to be joining us on our flight back to Newark!! Umm... jackpot!

We were understandably overcome with emotion. I mean, these guys are our heroes. What were we going to do?? Ben decided to approach SHU shooting guard extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell in the vain hopes of possibly snatching a picture with his O'Reilly Auto Parts First-Team trophy. (A point of inquiry for the San Juan Continental staff: did you also happen to nail Jeremy with the additional carry-on charge??!?!) Meanwhile, I decided to walk over and talk to Mike Davis.

Mike had been up and down in Puerto Rico. He had stepped up huge against USC, grabbing a number of key rebounds, though he seemed to struggle against Memphis and Va Tech.  But say what you want about Mike... the kid is huge. He's an imposing giant with a heart of gold.

While talking to Mike, I realized that I was trying especially hard to act cool. This was to be expected... I mean who wouldn't stumble in the face of greatness?!?! Of course, you can imagine my feeling of crushing disappointment when the following line somehow fell from my lips:

"I don't mean to toot my own horn, Mike, but the fans really helped you guys out during the games."

At first glance, you might say there's nothing wrong with what I said. Upon reflection, however, you will agree that "toot" is probably the single dumbest, most emasculating word in the English language. Stupid Dave!! Stupid!!

In attempting to sound cool, I had actually "tooted" myself in the foot. Kids, let this be a lesson: Always be yourself, and definitely always pack light on domestic flights to avoid usurious additional charges. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mitchell Hurls Up 10 Shots; Yellow Powerade

Well, the Puerto Rico Tournament is now in the books, and what an experience it has been. Dave and I have bonded even more with our fellow Booster Club members, establishing camaraderie that will last forever. We've played pool volleyball together; we've bet on chickens together. Yes, it certainly has been an experience to remember. 

Also, the actual team has done shockingly well!!! Nice job, SHU! After upsetting USC, and then losing a tough game to Memphis, the Hall came out tonight and beat a very deep 
Virginia Tech squad to earn third place overall in the tournament. The trophy you ask? A bronze plantain. 

But tonight was significant for a number of different reasons. Tonight marked the end of Stix Mitchell's two-game suspension -- a penalty that even ESPN broadcaster Hubert Davis basically referred to as "capricious and arbitrary." Good call, Hubert! Or should I say,
 SHUbert!! From way downtown Old San Juan... BANG!

Mitchell was understandably very upset to have missed the last two nationally-televised games, and he certainly stole the show tonight. Not only did Stix knock down a very respectable 15 points on 10 shots... He also puked on camera! Theories abound: Was it the result of a flu? An elbow to the Adam's apple? Pure exhaustion? Who knows. All I know is this: I was sitting about 10 feet away from a serious Powerade swish. 

The refs were clearly concerned; the players obviously confused. But I knew Stix would be just fine. Because this is what Stix is all about. And tonight he earned his nickname in victory.

This is RIVER STIX.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pirate Flag Not Enough as Hall Falls Short, 84-70

After a sensational victory Thursday night against nationally ranked flowerpower USC, Seton Hall returned to the Coliseo to take on the 12th ranked Memphis Tigers.  Riding the emotional roller coaster that was Thursday night, the Hall entered Friday's game high on adrenaline and plantain juice, yet physically battered.  How would Puerto Rico's first son - co-captain John Garcia - hold up against the likes of Sean Taggart and Robert Dozier? Would Paul Gause's surgically repaired left knee survive a tough matchup against Tyrekee Evans?  Even more worrisome - would my left eye survive another grueling session of basketball? (I have a scratched cornea...don't worry, I'll be OK).

The game ran its course the way many expected it to. Memphis proved why it is the 12th ranked team in the country and why it was the runner-up in last year's NCAA championship game. It showed freakish athleticism, the discipline not to turn the ball over against our relentless press and the ability to score from anywhere on the court. However, the game was not a wash. John Garcia held his own against the monsters of Memphis, playing the majority of a bruising and taxing game. Sophmore sharpshooter Jeremy Hazell scored a game high 30 points, draining 3s and attacking the basket with reckless abandon.  Seton Hall's best overall performance probably came from Eugene Harvey.  Nunu slashed and dashed his way to the hoop, regaining his freshman year form and truly playing up to the competition.  Also, Nunu showed a defensive intensity that is definitely fueled by his competitive friendship with freshman guard Jordan Theodore which is great to see.  But by far the most exciting moment of the game came with 21.7 seconds left as Matt "O'Say" Cajuste made his mark on this Seton Hall team and saw his first action as a Pirate.  Cajuste capitalized on his minimal playing time, catching the ball as often as he could after Memphis made their foulshots to end the game. 

As I wrap up this post, I want to leave our readers with some questions that I meant to ask Bobby Gonzalez in our post-game interview...Why did John Garcia play so many minutes in a game that was, for the most part, out of reach?  Will Paul Gause recover from an hip injury towards the end of the second half?  When will Brandon Wawa grow a pair of mitts...?

Until those questions are answered, we must now prepare for the final game of this magnificent tip-off tournament against the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Game time set for 6pm PRT (Puerto Rico Time) on ESPNU.  See y'all there. 

 

      

Thursday, November 20, 2008

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

Well, we're here in Puerto Rico after staying awake for 41 consecutive hours, and we've just witnessed the miraculous. With only 7 scholarship players available, Seton Hall somehow just managed to upset PAC-10 media darling USC, the 19th ranked team in the nation!! 

To recap this game would be impossible. It wasn't just the fact that we were losing by 15 at halftime. It wasn't just the fact that USC had a team double our size. It wasn't even about the plantain omelet that Dave and I shared for lunch, which was phenomenal and very indicative of the local flavor. 

It was something much different entirely. It was about will. It was about heart.

With pressure on Gonzo mounting, he needed this win. And his players responded, giving everything they had. 

John Garcia, who is himself of Puerto Rican descent, played an incredible game, ending with 11 points and 18 "plantains." 

Paul Gause, who fell hard to the ground in the last two minutes of the game, picked himself back up and tossed an assist to Hazell that helped put the game out of reach.

Mike Davis played a very strong second half, and Harvey and Theodore both showed unbelievable intensity, on both ends of the court. Watching this game, it's clear that Theodore pushes Harvey to play to his potential.

At the end of the game, the scoreboard read: Seton Hall 63  USC 61. It was a shocking sight. My fellow Booster Club members and I spent a total of 30 minutes before leaving the arena, in part because the exits were difficult to locate. (All signs were in Spanish.)

We had witnessed history. We had seen a team rise up, and meet adversity head on. When everyone said Seton Hall had no hope, that would be defeated... our players answered defiantly: Yes We Can.

See you later, USC!! 

Memphis, here we come!!!  And Calipari, you better be afraid!! We're still mad about Keith Van Horn.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Half-Man, Half-Durant

On the eve of the Puerto Rico trip, Seton Hall finally got some positive recruiting news. NBA star Kevin Durant's half-brother Cliff Dixon has verbally committed to play at SHU. Currently enrolled at a community college in Kansas, Dixon is 6' 9'', and was recruited out of high school to play at Gonzaga.
(Fooch has the full story.)

As a frequent follower of pretty much every Seton Hall recruiting message
 board to which you can subscribe, this is pretty much a total shock to the system. Complete surprise -- no one saw this coming. In many ways, reminiscent of the Palin selection. 

We can only wonder now: What's next for this team of mavericks??


Monday, November 17, 2008

Zagoraphobia!!


According to Webster's Dictionary, "agoraphobia" is defined as: "a nervous disorder often triggered by the fear of no easy means of escape." We can only surmise then that Gonzo suffered from an unexpected bout of Zagoraphobia when he bumped into popular blogger Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.net under the bleachers of the Prudential Center after the Hall's thrashing of Columbia. With his salt-and-pepper pho-hawk and Wesleyan education, Adam must have cut a terrifying figure, prompting Coach Gonzo to allegedly call out in fear, cursing and screaming. 

(For the details, check out the full story on SNY.) 

In all seriousness though, this could not come at a worse time for the program. After two solid wins, and the prospect of some positive recruiting news, things were starting to look sunny for this San Juan-bound squad. Whether it's Gonzo being Gonzo, or Zags being infantile, who knows... But here's the real question: How in God's name are Dave and I going to wake up in time to meet our fellow Booster Club members at the airport at 5 am on Thursday????!!!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

2-0, Hall Prepares for San Juan Sans Stix


After two decisive victories against unheralded St. Francis and Columbia, the Hall now gets ready for their biggest mental and physical challenge yet: airport security. That's right!! In just a couple days, the team will be flying down to Puerto Rico to get ready to face Pac-10 powerhouse, USC. Better start pouring out the Gatorade, boys!!

Dave and I will of course be right behind them, as our Booster Club flight departs in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Let's just say we're not expecting too much shut-eye on Wednesday night. I can-juste imagine all the questions that will race through my head: Will Big Mel be cleared to suit up in time? Will Gonzo wear a special "tropical" themed suit? How will I look in my swimsuit on the beach without my shirt on? (I've resumed a daily regimen of whey protein shakes.) As you can see, the anticipation is immense.

Also, let's not forget about our walk-ons. Given that Stix is not eligible in the first two Puerto Rico tournament games, it's very important that all our walk-ons be cleared as well. Otherwise, our bench may be looking a little thin. (In addition to lifting, I've also been doing cardio.)

So far, only one of our walk-ons has been deemed eligible to play, and he's already something of a fan favorite. After not even playing high school basketball, Pete Peregrin shocked the world when he was selected to join the team. Thus far, he's been making the most of his opportunity, and has quickly learned the Gonzo offense: Shoot from anywhere, at all times, particularly at the buzzer when your team is leading by 20. Take that, Ivy League!!

Well, that's all for now. We've got to start packing...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today

Tonight, the Seton Hall Men’s Basketball squad opens its regular season at home against the St. Francis Terriers. Tonight’s game is at the Rock and is slated to start at 8pm. Now is the time I would usually go into my little rant about how this is a new season and we can start a-nunu and that this represents a tabula rosa. Fortunately, for you, I will spare you my schpiel and leave you instead with a voicemail left by my colleague and co-blogger Ben while he is on a recruiting trip out in Dallas….

“…Today. Today. What is today? Today is a word. Today is a moment. Today is one instant. Today is the beginning of the rest our lives. Today is the beginning of something new. Hope. Change. Today, is the beginning of…SETON HALL BASKETBALL.”


Get pumped.

O Say Can-Juste; Theodore Having Affair



The other day, Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez made an historic announcement. No, he is not running for president (although he would get my vote any day…imagine that, President-Elect Gonzo?...yet I digress). Rather, Gonzo announced that four walk-ons – assuming they accept the offer and are cleared by the big, bad NCAA Clearinghouse – will be joining this year’s team. Considered an unprecedented move as Gonzo has more than once denounced the concept of walk-ons on his team, these student-athletes will be a great addition to the team and a welcomed sight for sore eyes.

The fine young gentlemen that will hopefully be joining our team are: Matt Cajuste F, Pete Peregin G, Jason Simmons F, and Darnell Gatlin G. While Matt Cajuste has been the most talked about walk-on so far, the other three (who I have already labeled as Earth, Wind and Fire) will prove to spell some of the starters in some of the early non-conference games, join Pope and Neon Keon as tireless cheerleaders on the bench and help increase the intensity and meaning of practice. Also, Cajuste will undoubtedly be relied on heavily during the upcoming Puerto Rico Invitational because “Stix” will be serving his two game suspension. Cajuste and Simmons (who, unfortunately, will have to sit out the first semester) will add some much needed height and Peregin and Gatlin should help Nunu, Gause and Teddy out at the guard slot. All of a sudden we have gone from having a 3 person bench to having a 7 person bench and there can’t be anything wrong with that.

--------------------------------------

In other Pirate News, Jordan Theodore has announced to the world his one, true love. New Jersey. Yes, you heard it right, “The Professor” loves New Jersey, and so do we. From all I know about Teddy, he seems to be the most honest, genuine person in the world. His desire to be a better basketball player, leader and person is addicting. He asks Lebron James questions about his floor leadership, he studies hard in class and treats all his teammates and coaches with respect. I am honored to call him my (Facebook) friend.

In an interview with Steve Popper of the Bergen Record, Theodore supported his decision to join Seton Hall over other elite Division I programs by saying, “… I’m from Jersey. Jersey is my heart. Seton Hall is the heart of Jersey. Seton Hall has always felt like home. I wanted to get back to my city.” If that doesn’t fire you up, I’m not sure what will. So often, as Seton Hall fans, we question and doubt ourselves. That’s the nature of the beast. When recruiting doesn’t go so well, we get down on ourselves and our program. When top ranked high school prospects who grew up playing on our streets leave for Duke, UNC or Memphis, we get down on our state. Theodore goes one step further and remarks, “I love Jersey to death. I don’t think any place in the world is better than New Jersey, than Seton Hall.”

Thank goodness he didn’t go to Rutgers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pocket Full of Celery


As devoted readers of our blog, you are now quite familiar with our obsession for all things Seton Hall Basketball. We love the players, the emotional roller coaster of watching a live game (or listening to it on the radio), the coaching staff and even the cheerleaders. From the ridiculous antics of our mascot down to the formal wear of our temporarily ineligible, yet always stylishly dressed transfers, we find ourselves frequently fixating on the more overlooked nuances of our team.

For example, one of our favorite moments during each home game is Gonzo’s absurdly extravagant entrance to the tune of the Jaws theme song. Another favorite pastime is the singing of the Alma Mater at the end of every game. And what’s better than watching the rest of the players prepare during warm-ups as Jeremy Hazell and Mike Davis compete in half-court shot contests?!?!?

Our intense love for the nuances of the game – especially the warm-ups – led Ben and myself to deliver an urgent Facebook note to senior co-captain, Paul Gause. In order to rile up the fan base, we urged Paul to select “Put On” by Young Jeezy featuring Kanye West as the official warm-up song for the season. Not only is this the hot song that all the kids are listening to these days, but we feel as though the song accurately embodies the spirit of this team.

Conversation with senior co-captain Paul Gause


Perhaps Young Jeezy best captures the flavor of SHU hoops in the following line of his chart-topping single: “Her weave look like some curly fries/Inside fish sticks, outside tartar sauce/Pocket full of celery.” If that doesn’t get Big Mel going, I’m not sure what will.

Well Paul, the fans have spoken and the decision is yours.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Quinlan Approves Sweater Vest


As Dave and I piled into Walsh Gymnasium last night for SHU's exhibition game against (Hoi) Molloy College, we did not know what to expect. Would the new-and-improved Mike Davis throw down a thunderous dunk of a performance against this undersized Division II squad, no doubt imperiling the recently fixed shot clock? Would Gause play like himself again? Would the cheerleaders recognize me?

By the end of the game, there were a lot of positives, but some negatives too. On the good side, Theodore looked excellent at the point, both offensively and defensively. Walters somehow managed to accumulate an astonishing 18 points, as if by divine intervention. And River Styx played arguably the most intense exhibition game in the modern era of college basketball, frequently staring down his curly-haired opponent, Matt Wafula, even as the Hall led by 30 in a game that meant nothing. Don't mess with Sticky!!

On the not-so-good side... Mike Davis fouled out in a mere 14 minutes of play, and did not assert himself much offensively. And while shooters are definitely allowed a bad night here or there, it seems like officials may be starting to catch on to Hazell's penchant for crumbling to the ground after every three point attempt. (By my count, he did it three times... drew the foul call once.) Still, Hazell did look aggressive attacking the rim.

But perhaps the most delightfully unexpected event of the evening was the little post-game one-on-one discussion between Coach Gonzo and the much-maligned athletic director, Joe Quinlan. (See photograph.) Though we weren't close enough to hear what was discussed, is it fair to speculate that this moment of reconciliation might have had a little something to do with the sweater vest??

Though these two might not exactly be Brooks Brothers, this much they can agree on: A black sweater vest over a blue button-down oxford is a classy look when you're giving it to Molloy at home.