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Isaiah Whitehead Stays In NBA Draft But Is He Ready To Make The Jump From Seton Hall?

Isiah Whitehead (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

Isaiah Whitehead (Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


The 2015-2016 season was a major step for Seton Hall basketball. After a disappointing 16-15 record the year previous after accumulating one of the best recruiting classes in the country, coach Kevin Willard had to deal with the departure of starting point guard Jaren Sina and leading scorer Sterling Gibbs. With a team mostly made up of sophomores, the Pirates overachieved winning 25 games while winning the Big East conference tournament and making their first NCAA Tournament since 2006.  Leading the team was highly touted guard Isaiah Whitehead.

Whitehead showed flashes during his freshmen season scoring 12 points per game while shooting 36 percent from the field. His first collegiate year was marred by rumors that he was at the center of a team divide that led to Gibbs and Sina leaving and other upperclassmen feeling that the underclassmen had an air of entitlement to them. Going into the 2015-2016, those freshmen became sophomores and Whitehead became the de facto leader of the Pirates.

The 6’4” guard delivered this past season increasing his scoring by six points to 18.2 per game while dishing out five assists per game. Whitehead capped off his All-Big East 1st Team season by scoring 70 points in three games at the Big East Tournament leading Seton Hall to the tournament title. After his performance in the Big East Tourney, many believed that Whitehead would declare for the draft and they were right as in March, Whitehead left school for the draft.

Many see the guard as a late first to second round draft pick in the June’s NBA Draft with Whitehead expected to work out for his hometown New York Knicks on June 4th according to Basketball Insiders. The problem with Whitehead is that while he has shown the flashes of being a legitimate scorer, there are some issues concerning his game. Let’s begin with his showing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga.

During the season it became apparent that how Isiah Whitehead went, so did Seton Hall. In the nine losses the Pirates had, Whitehead had some of his worst shooting games of the season. With the exception of the 81-75 loss to Butler on February 10th where Whitehead scored 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting, he shot the ball horribly in the other eight losses games. In the NCAA’s, Whitehead shot a miserable 4-for-24 from the field and 0-for-10 from three point range scoring just 10 points in Seton Hall’s 68-52 loss to Gonzaga.

For Whitehead the question isn’t whether he can play but more of can he take good shots and make those shots. Shooting 37 percent from the field for a season will not cut it when you are a borderline first-round pick and teams are beginning to see that. The problem is the inconsistency that Whitehead shows and if his NBA Draft Combine showing is any indicator, it’s reveals the inconsistency of his game from NBADRAFT.NET:

Game 1: 21 minutes, 13 points (6-8 FG, 1-2 3PT, 0-0 FT), five assists, three rebounds
Game 2: 20 minutes, three points (1-6 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT), four assists, three rebounds

“One of the most fascinating early-entry decisions will come from the Seton Hall sophomore guard, as Whitehead had a monster sophomore season. The combine was interesting for Whitehead, as he showed he was just a so-so athlete but he was better defensively than he has been in college.

Offensively, Whitehead is solid with step-backs and other ways to create his own shot, but he’s also very inconsistent with his shot-making and his ability to make others around him better. It’s likely that Whitehead would get picked in the second round of this draft based on his potential. There was a rumor coming out of Chicago that he had a late first round promise, but that would be a big surprise if true considering the way he performed.”

One person who has watched Whitehead since his playing days at Lincoln High School on Coney Island has been MSG Varsity’s Peter Mulroy. Mulroy has continued to watch Whitehead during his two years at Seton Hall and here are his thoughts about the two-guard:

A double-double machine in high school and a surefire scorer at the collegiate level, Whitehead has all the tools to succeed at the next level, but may be departing for the big time a year too soon. His ability to score is unquestioned, but the consistency is a concern. Whitehead was second in the Big East in scoring this past season (20.0ppg), but shot just 37% from the field overall. While he handled much of the point duties for the Hall this past season, Whitehead is viewed by many – including me – as more of a two or combo guard at the next level, though the former New York City star would like to run the show in the NBA.

Personality concerns have come into play in recent time as well, with reports suggesting that he was somewhat a divisive player in the locker room. His ability to lead and his decision making can certainly improve since he’s still a young and raw player, but these issues have popped up throughout his career at Seton Hall and will surely be on the minds of scouts and franchises moving forward.

With that said it would seem that Whitehead would be destined to the NBA’s Developmental League as opposed to with an NBA team. However with his age being an asset, Isaiah Whitehead still has the opportunity to become a player that could help a team while he improves year to year. Should he have stayed at Seton Hall another year? Most definitely but with his decision to enter the draft comes the next task of proving he belongs in the NBA. We shall see on June 23rd if he will make it to the pinnacle of basketball and then the real work begins.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow writer Jason Cordner.
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