In the past four years, Kevin Willard has had four players test the NBA Draft waters. Sandro Mamukelashvili was the fourth and most recent of the group. The 6-11 forward from the nation of Georgia had the opportunity to remain in the Draft or head back home to Europe and play professionally. Just like Myles Powell and Angel Delgado before him, Mamu chose to return to South Orange for his senior campaign.
Although I had a lot of options on the table, there’s is a lot more I can do as a student-athlete and as a Pirate. It’s time to unveil true MAMU to the world ! Let’s run it back. ? pic.twitter.com/YBSXphlWLF
— Mamu (@Mamukelashvili5) August 2, 2020
That puts Kevin Willard at 3-for-4 in his “re-recruiting” of players when they are contemplating the professional route, Isaiah Whitehead left after just two years at Seton Hall. He has a damn good resume too when looking at returning players, Angel Delgado was one of the nation’s top rebounders, won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award for best Center in the country and helped the Pirates to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2004. Myles Powell returned for his senior year as well, and despite injuries, was a consensus 1st team All-American, the Big East Player of the Year, won the Jerry West award for best Shooting Guard in the country, and captained Seton Hall to their first Big East regular season title since 1993.
Mamu returns with less hype than the pair before him, but much more to prove. He missed a good chunk of the season last year with a broken wrist, but showed flashes of just how good he can be. At Villanova, he chipped in 17 points and 8 rebounds and gave Pirate fans a glimpse of what the future can hold.
It is his team now. Myles Powell is gone, Quincy McKnight is gone, and so is Romaro Gill. Three key pieces from last season’s team. Mamu is a tough matchup for most at the 4 but can also play the 5 in a small ball lineup. HIs return puts The Hall on the cusp of a preseason Top 25 ranking and should firmly place them in the top four of the Big East next season. There are plenty of question marks about this upcoming team, but I think it is the best defensive unit Kevin Willard has had in a few years and they have offensive weapons in Mamu, Bryce Aiken, and Jared Rhoden. The questions lie with transfer Takal Molson, what version of Myles Cale will show up, and what kind of progress Tyrese Samuel made in the off-season.
In my eyes, this is a team that pushes 20-wins and another NCAA Tournament appearance. As I tweeted last night, Myles Cale is the key. He is a high caliber defender and can play/guard multiple positions, but his offensive production was putrid last year dropping from 10 ppg his Sophomore year to just 6 last year. He cannot produce anything less than 10, otherwise Kevin Willard needs to tap in what should be a fairly deep bench. I expect to see hard-nosed defense and a much more free-flowing, team-oriented offense in 2020-21.