Update: One of the top guards in the ’14 class chose to stay close to home Thursday, by committing to Seton Hall. The Pirates have been a middle-of-the-road program for years in the Big East, but will now have the talent to make some noise in the new recalibration of its league. Whitehead is a strong, physical guard that can use his body to get off his shot and create around the basket.
Whitehead said staying close to home was a priority for him since he didn’t wan’t to move far away from his mother. That allowed both St. John’s and Seton Hall to jump into the fray and become two finalists for his services, and bounced out schools like Louisville and UCLA who didn’t even make his top 5. The interesting note on this decision is the buzz that the Pirates will hire his coach at Lincoln – Tiny Morton – as their assistant coach. And here comes the college basketball world accusing SHU of some shady practices with that coming to light. 3…. 2…. 1…. yep, it’s already started.
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Star recruit Isaiah Whitehead tweeted out last night that at 2:30 Thursday he will decide between St. John’s, Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Indiana. The Lincoln High standout at one time was seriously considering Syracuse. In the spring Whitehead said SU was his front runner. Many experts felt the Orange may have even been the favorite over the summer when he decided to visit more than once. So where did SU go?
For one, the Orange got a commitment from guard Keleb Joseph last month. So the backcourt has some major talent with him and Tyler Ennis, and maybe Whitehead felt his minutes would be squeezed. On top of that, it appears he wanted to stay close to home, because while SU and Louisville got knocked out, Seton Hall and St. John’s are in his final 5.
Whitehead has shown up in Syracuse news feeds before. Back in November of ’11 his mother said he eliminated SU because of the Bernie Fine allegations. She later recanted after getting Jim Boeheim and Fine confused. Louisville was also considered a favorite but apparently did not make Whitehead’s final five. The consensus top 25 guard has been sought after by many, but the most likely reason SU and UofL did not make the cut was because of two local schools.
St. John’s and Seton Hall jumped into the fray hard. As recently as last month there was buzz Whitehead would choose Syracuse or Minnesota. But over the last two weeks, the Pirates have gotten major love. However, it appears almost everyone feels as though the Red Storm is the favorite to land him today.
James Barrett is Whitehead’s AAU coach and an assistant at Lincoln. He tells Zags Blog:
“Coach [Steve] Lavin, he’s done pretty well at St. John’s since he’s been there, especially like his first year he had Moe Harkless, who was an NBA pro. St. John’s has had a rich history of guards out of New York City.”
Asked if (playing at MSG) appealed to Whitehead, Barrett said, “Oh yes, definitely, especially for his mom to be able to come to all the home games and playing in Madison Square Garden.”
This time last month, the New York Post figured Indiana was a strong candidate to land Whitehead.
“The Isaiah Whitehead sweepstakes has taken a surprising turn – possibly to the Hoosier State. Indiana recently offered the star shooting guard from Lincoln High School a scholarship after incoming shooting guard James Blackmon de-committed. The Hoosiers will play host to Whitehead on an unofficial visit tomorrow.”
Whitehead is the next star in a long line of top flight Lincoln guards like Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson. Whitehead has played his cards close to the vest for awhile, so no one has been able to pin down exactly what he’s looking for. But the common perception is that he’s leaning toward St. John’s after a visit this week and wants to stay close to home, leaving the Pirates and Johnnies. And between the two, St. John’s is a better program, has a popular coach, and plays at the Garden.