The 2016 NBA draft is three months away but with the college basketball season wrapping up, there will be lots of rumors of underclass men entering the draft. The rumors apparently started today as Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard told SNY.tv that Pirates sensational sophomore Isaiah Whitehead plans to test the NBA draft waters.
Whitehead saw his second collegiate season come to a crashing end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday when the Pirates lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 68-52 in Denver Thursday night. The 6-4 shooting guard struggled mightily during the loss to the "Zags," but that shouldn't diminish the fantastic season he had.
Whitehead was held to 10 points by Gonzaga, on just 4-of-24 shooting including an NCAA Tournament record 0-for-10 from beyond the arc – he did record eight assists and four rebounds. The unanimous All-Big East First Team regular selection led the Pirates in scoring, assists, minutes, and blocks per game. He averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds along with 1.4 blocks as well as 1.2 steals a game. The 21-year-old also made a team-high 2.6 three-pointers a game.
Whitehead got better as the season went along this year, reaching the 20-point mark seven straight times prior to the second-round stinker. He was named the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading the third-seeded Pirates to a 69-67 upset victory over top-seeded Villanova to win the school's first tournament conference crown since 1993.
Whitehead poured in a game-high 26 points – on 11-of-21 shooting -- against the Wildcats, which included the game-deciding three-point play with 18 seconds left. On the play, Whitehead drove hard on the right side, flipped the ball in softly off the glass, and was fouled. His free throw gave the Pirates a 68-67 lead. He finished the tournament, averaging 23.3 points along with 5.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds while 21-for-49 from the floor (42.8 percent).For the season, Whitehead reached double figures in 31 of 34 games. He also posted two double-doubles.
Whitehead averaged 12.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in his freshman campaign.
Despite his intentions of entering the NBA this year, it doesn't mean he definitely will unless he hires an agent. New NCAA rules allow underclassmen to "test the waters" and take part in the NBA combine while still maintaining their college eligibility should they decide to withdraw from the draft.
Whitehead hasn't made anything public yet, but offered this message to Pirates fans following the conclusion of the season.If Whitehead ultimately does enter the draft this season, he would likely be a late first-round selection. ESPN's Chad Ford currently has Whitehead rated as the 30th best NBA prospect and No. 5 shooting guard – behind Oklahoma's Buddy Heidl, Furkan Kormaz of Turkey, Michigan's Caris LeVert, and Michigan's Grayson Allen.
Whitehead is a volume scorer and at times can be inefficient -- he averaged one or less points per field goal attempt 10 times this year -- though the jumper is improving. Whitehead did finish with a PER of 20.5 and finished second in the Big East with 624 points produced.
Whitehead is athletic, very strong and a quality defender – he finished 10th in the Big East with a 97.4 defensive rating. He is an excellent penetrator and finishes well around the rim. He also gets to the foul line regularly where he is a 75.7 percent shooter. In addition, Whitehead is a good rebounder and passer though he does commit an overabundance of turnovers (3.5 per game as season ago).
The loss of Whitehead to the draft would hurt the Pirates next year but it wouldn't likely be devastating. According to New Jersey Advance Media, Seton Hall was the youngest team in the Midwest Regional as the Pirates started four other sophomores with Whitehead.
Six-foot-three sophomore guard Khadeen Carrington was second on the team with 14.3 points a game while 6-foot-6 sophomore Desi Rodriguez (12.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) also averaged double figures. Six-foot-nine sophomore forward Angel Delgado (9.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and 6-foot-7 sophomore Ismael Sanogo (5.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) rounded out the starting five. Six-foot-seven sophomore forward Michael Nzei averaged double-digit minutes per game. Overall, the Pirates had 11 freshman or sophomore on their roster this year – senior guard Derrick Gordon is the only player that won't definitely be back next year.Seton Hall currently has only one player, Myles Powell, in its 2016 recruiting class though the Pirates are reportedly pursuing three other players. Powell, a 6-foot-2 guard from Trenton, NJ, is rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN. The Pirates will also get the service of 6-foot-1 junior point guard Jevon Thomas, who had to sit out this year after transferring from Kansas State. He has played in 52 career games, averaging 3.7 points, and 3.0 assists per game while sporting a 1.67 assist/turnover ratio.
Seton Hall (25-9) finished with its most wins since 1993 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. It was the Pirates' sixth postseason tournament berth since the turn of the century.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)