Nine games into this season of high expectations, Seton Hall has to make major changes. The Pirates have to change how they defense and how they attack on offense.
That’s how important junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili, expected to miss six-to-10 weeks with a fractured right wrist he suffered in last Sunday’s loss at Iowa State, is to the No. 22 Pirates (6-3).
“We’re going to have to play different,” coach Kevin Willard said in a phone interview. “I’m going to have to be very patient with these guys.”
And there won’t be soft landing spots for them. First up is a trip to the RAC to face in-state rival Rutgers (7-3) on Saturday (4 p.m., BTN). That’s followed by fourth-ranked Maryland coming to Prudential Center on Thursday. And the grueling Big East season is only a few weeks away.
Mamukelashvili’s replacements, sophomore Jared Rhoden and freshman Tyrese Samuel, will need to produce immediately to replace the team’s second-leading scorer. Willard said they will get the bulk of the time at power forward. Rhoden will start against Rutgers, but who starts each game will depend on matchups. The 6-foot-6 Rhoden has more experience, but the 6-foot-10 Samuel, a four-star, top-75 recruit, has the higher ceiling.
“I have confidence in Jared and Tyrese that they’ll be able to step up and take that role and be able to do it well,” Willard said.
There were high hopes for Rhoden coming into this year, but he has yet to emerge, averaging 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds on just 34 percent shooting from the field. A high ankle sprain suffered this past summer set him back and he has yet to regain his offensive rhythm. Now would be a good time for him to find it, with Seton Hall looking for a second scoring option behind star guard Myles Powell in the wake of Mamukelashvili’s injury.
“I know he’s going to find it,” Willard said. “He’s working hard, he’s playing great in practice. He just has to have something good happen for him in a game.”