From the Student Section: Seton Hall Pirates

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2009

Contributing writer Kevin Chupka will periodically interview a rabid student fan about all things basketball on the court and in the stands… a view from the student section.

Pirate Fans Eric SoHayda and His Friend Marie

The Seton Hall Pirates turned a few heads this week in their Big East opener. While the final score had many Pirates hanging their heads in defeat at the hands of a frighteningly good West Virginia team, the team fought back valiantly in the last minute from ten points down to send the conference kick-off into overtime. It was there that West Virginia remembered they were the #6 team in the country and sent the Pirates packing.  But in the fight Seton Hall did not fail to impress. While the praise from the media generally stopped at “improved” at the start of the season, the student section at the Prudential Center knew better and could see then what many see now.

Among those basketball seers was Pirate faithful fan and Seton Hall senior Eric SoHayda. “Most students expect to go dancing this year and as it always does, depending on who we face, we can turn some heads and win some games. Just getting to the dance is good, but we want to be great and that starts with getting to the second weekend,” says Eric.

It’s been on the minds of students in South Orange, NJ since coach Bobby Gonzalez arrived in 2006. He was tasked with turning the team into a contender in a talent-heavy Big East; recruiting on the same turf as UConn, Syracuse, Villanova St. John’s and in-state rival Rutgers is no small task.  While Gonzalez and the Pirates have had their fair share of bumps in the road, a talented bevy of transfers, all ready to play from here on out may be something of a new beginning.

As Eric says, “With the additions of transfers Herb Pope (New Mexico State), Keon Lawrence (Missouri), and Jeff Robinson (Memphis), we can be a team that competes every game and win some that may surprise some people.” And because this years Big East doesn’t seem quite as strong as last years juggernaut he thinks there may be some wiggle room for his team. “The gap between the top 5 teams and 6-10 is no longer as wide,” he says.  “The conference has a deeper group of teams that have more likelihood to knock off a top team. The Seton Hall Pirates are one of those teams. We will no doubt have trouble with some teams and West Virginia, UConn, and Syracuse seem to stand out. If there is a top team that we match up well with it would seem to be Villanova. Our guard play is our strength and likewise for Nova.”

And it’s not just Nova that may have trouble with this talented team and it’s not only the guards that will get the work done night in an night out. So just who is responsible for continuing the early season success in the Garden State?

“Our strongest player, without question, is Herb Pope,” Eric says. “Pope can go for a double-double nearly every night (and has thus far; out of our nine games, he has seven) and is in the top five in the nation in rebounds per game. Pope is the one player we cannot afford to lose, as he is a true power forward and leads the team on and off the court.”

And Eric also thinks you should know about Robert “Stix” Mitchell, “one of the best players in the Big East you have never heard of. He averages 12 points and seven rebounds and he has the capability to do much more. He is our Mr. Dependable. We can count on him to give us everything he has in the tank, every game, and give it his all. Playing as an undersized PF last year, we saw what kind of player and person Stix is. He is one who holds our team together and gives us just enough to keep us glued together.”

Rounding out the highlights for the Pirates is Jordan Theodore. Eric says he “can be thought of as our most underrated player. The one ready to break out with 20 points and 10 rebounds or, as a point guard, 10 assists. JT, as he is fondly known, brings the intangibles to the court that the Pirates need as a team. He is a sparkplug off the bench both on the defensive side of the ball and on offense. As a lockdown defender and a pass first point, JT will take over the reins next year [for senior Eugene Harvey], but don’t be surprised to hear about him sometime soon.”

But while Seton Hall had a quietly strong start to the season on the court, things didn’t go quite so smoothly off the court; particularly on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway where the aforementioned Keon Lawrence decided to go driving against the flow of traffic early one morning (or rather late one night) just before the start of the season. Eric says it’s all behind them at The Hall, “Keon was out very late on a Sunday night less than a week before the season started and got into a car accident while traveling the wrong direction on a major highway. Allegations of drunk driving were thrown around like pigskins on Thanksgiving, but we now know Keon wasn’t drunk. He used very poor judgment, but was a six-game suspension too harsh? As everyone has an opinion about how stiff or lenient the punishment should have been, I think we are all satisfied with the punishment as long as one condition is met—Keon learned his lesson and is now a better person.  The Seton Hall administration handled it appropriately and we now look forward to having Keon as a big part of our team.” (Eric, if you’re not a Public Relations major, you should consider it in grad school!!)

And so with that behind them, the Pirates and their fans have sought to simply enjoy their new found notoriety, and the students are ready. “The student section is one of the best places to sit in the arena during Big East play, “ Eric claims. “We have students who create big heads of our favorite players and the Pope costumes will soon be out in full force. With the students being so close to the court, I would imagine that the players can get a little rattled, as we do our homework on them, their past games, and how they play the game.  Many times Bobby G, players on the bench, and those in the game acknowledge us and pump us up. We can get the place awfully loud and we look forward to the next time we can Rush The Court!”

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