NEW YORK — Seton Hall’s recruiting momentum has been building steam for several weeks, and the freight train is now humming at full speed.
On Thursday afternoon at Lincoln High School, likely McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead announced he would play for Seton Hall, joining a recruiting class that already includes Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo.
“I’ll be taking my talents to Seton Hall University,” he said as he held up a blue Pirates T-shirt.
Seton Hall pitched that Whitehead could be the face of the program going forward.
“It appealed to me greatly, that’s the reason I’m going there to tell you the truth. I picked Seton Hall to try to bring the program back to where it should be,” he added.
Whitehead joins his friend Carrington, along with Delgado and Sanogo in a really strong class.
“It would certainly be a breakthrough recruiting class for Seton Hall, with the guys they have,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told SNY.tv.
The 6-foot-4 Whitehead also considered St. John’s, the hometown school, Indiana, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Because he hasn’t taken the SAT, Whitehead never took any official visits. He took unofficials to Indiana last month, Seton Hall this past Saturday and then St. John’s on Wednesday.
Whitehead said he decided “last night before I went to sleep.”
Ranked No. 12 nationally by Scout.com, Whitehead could become Seton Hall first McDonald’s All-American since the late Eddie Griffin and Andre Barrett in 2000.
“First of all, Isaiah Whitehead is one of the five best guards in the senior class nationally,” Konchalski said. “I think he was under-recruited. With his summer performance, especially at the Elite 24, he probably solidifed his making the McDonald’s All-American Game because so many people from the selection committee were there or watched it on TV. And he played terrific so I think he will be our first McDonald’s All-American, our first in a while.”
For a long time earlier in his career it appeared Whitehead might land at Syracuse, possibly teaming up with his friend Chris McCullough, but as SNY.tv reported earlier this summer, the Orange stopped recruiting him after landing point guard Kaleb Joseph this summer.
Thoughout the summer, Whitehead mentioned Syracuse, Minnesota, Louisville, UCLA and Arizona as potential landing spots, never really referencing Seton Hall or St. John’s.
Rumors flew late Wednesday and early Thursday that Seton Hall was strong in the mix and that Lincoln coach Tiny Morton could end up on the Seton Hall staff. Those rumors were fueled Thursday morning when Seton Hall removed assistant coach Oliver Antigua’s bio from its Website. (Sources said that was simply an error.)
“If it’s the right fit I’ll probably make a move if I can,” Morton said of a coaching shift.
Morton added that he spoke to St. John’s coach Steve Lavin earlier Thursday and asked him “why he didn’t have a spot for me there.”
He added: “I expect to coach Lincoln until somebody offers me a job that’s appealing enough for me to leave. Seton Hall, St. John’s, UConn, tri-state area’s my strength so…”
Asked if would like to see Morton hired at Seton Hall, Whitehead said: “Definitely, that would make me even more comfortable.”
Said Whitehead’s mother, Ericka Rambert: “I’m just the mom, I don’t care who’s on staff. I just want my son to be in the best possible situation.”
In the end, Whitehead is joining a special class at Seton Hall that has momentum.
“They will have a great class with Angel Delgado, who led the Nike EYBL in rebounding,” Konchalski said. “He’s arguably as good of a high school rebounder as there is in the country. They have Ismael Sanogo and Khadeen Carrington, who’s a good player.
“They could try to play them together, if they played Whitehead at the point, I think that’s potentially his best position. Maybe not at the college level but at the level beyond that because he passes so well.”
After taking heat for much of his first three years for his failure to land local players and relying on foreign imports, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has now scored the biggest pledge of his tenure.
“He’s a terrific basketball player,” Konchalski said of Whitehead. “There are some guys who are physically ahead of him and closer to being one-and-done. But he’s worked purposefully on his skills. He’s become a very good 3-point shooter and he can really pass. He has very good basketball instincts.”
Photo: Kelly Kline/ UA