By Vin Parise
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I had the chance to visit with the Seton Hall Pirates down in Jersey this week. Here’s my chat with 2nd year head coach Kevin Willard…

VP: What is different about this preseason compared to last year?

Willard: “This year we are able to sustain such a higher energy level in practice in terms of focus and length of practice. The work ethic and consistent energy was been great and that always wasn’t the case last year at the beginning of the season. Our new kids are catching on quick and our returners have been tremendous.”

VP: Who has surprised you thus far?

Willard: “Believe it or not, the transfers have. Eugene Teague and Brian Oliver have looked terrific on the court. You can watch every game film a kid has ever played at another school but you never truly know until they walk between those lines in front of you. To say I’ve been impressed with them is an understatement. They will have successful careers here.”

VP: What concerns you right now?

Willard: “Probably our depth and our youth which is normal. We have some positions that we’re short handed at. Some days we haven’t had 10 guys for practice. And 8 of my 10 or so guys are either freshmen or sophomores so it’s just going to take some time.”

VP: Now that you have some Big East wars under your belt, how do you feel about conference play in this league?

Willard: “To win a road game in the Big East is probably one of the hardest things to accomplish in college basketball and the “Elite Player” factor weighs heavily on conference outcomes. Some nights coaches have the greatest game plans going in – and then someone has a ‘Kemba Walker’ type performance. At that point the scouting report goes out the window and you have to find a way to win the game.”

VP: Who do you rely on the most day in and day out?

Willard: “Without question Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore. For the first time I feel that Herb is truly healthy and ready to be dominant in this league on both ends of the floor. You can’t judge him by last season. This is his ‘Do Over’ year and I’m looking forward to seeing it. And Jordan’s work ethic has been off the charts. He’s learned a lot on ‘when’ and ‘where’ to attack the defense in games a lot better. And his perimeter stroke has really improved this off season because of his work habits.”

Some more scoop…

– Aaron Cosby has a really bright future at Seton Hall. He has a great body, a big time perimeter touch and he defends with the best of them. Look for Cosby and Theodore to force a lot of turnovers in Willard’s man defense, zone defense and full court press.

– Ex-Iona guard & former Bloomfield Tech HS-New Jersey star Rashon Dwight will be a graduate assistant this season for Willard.

– I really like Willard’s approach at The Hall. No self promoting, no guarantees of Big East championships – just quietly grinding it out and working hard every day to build the program. It reminds me a lot of Mick Cronin’s style when he first took over Cincinnati.

– Vin Parise

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