UNION, N.J. — For the second day in a row, Seton Hall-bound Ismael Sanogo found it incredibly difficult to watch his Newark East Side teammates from the bench.
Sitting out with a separated right shoulder, the 6-foot-7 Sanogo wore khahi pants, a blue hoodie and a winter coat as East Side pulled out a 52-48 OT victory over Hudson Catholic at the Metro Classic at Kean University.
“It’s really annoying not being able to help my team, especially as one of the captains,” Sanogo, who has been out a week since injuring the shoulder while reaching in to make a play, told SNY.tv. “I almost had a heart attack two days in a row. It’s not a great feeling.”
On Saturday, Sanogo missed his second game when East Side beat Newark Tech in the Essex County Tournament semifinals. He also won’t be on the court when East Side (18-1), No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Power Rankings, faces Seton Hall Prep in Saturday’s championship game at Essex County College.
Still, Sanogo hopes to return for the start of the Group 3 state playoffs in early March.
“Two weeks from today I’ll be back,” Sanogo said. “I’m pretty sure when I come back, we’ll be back.”
East Side coach Anthony Tavares said they planned to be “cautious” with Sanogo.
“He’s gonna do rehab this week, we’ll see how he feels,” Tavares said. “We’re gonna see how he feels and we’ll go from there. I think the best estimate is right before the state tournament.”
Longtime New Jersey basketball writer Mike Kinney of MSG Varsity believes Sanogo will be a major factor for East Side, one of about half a dozen teams capable of winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions.
“He’ll be a force,” Kinney told SNY.tv. “He brings them so much stability in the lanes on both sides of the floor and makes [South Alabama pledge] Abdul Lewis that much more of a presence. Those two guys on opposite sides are too difficult to defend.”
Added Tavares: “Today we missed him out there. He’s just a hard-working, blue-collar player that does whatever it takes to win. He’s working on his jump shot. He had 20 points in his last game. He can shoot the ball very well if he works on it, and then defensively he can guard one through four. He’s just a beast defensively.”
Sanogo is part of a five-man recruiting class — that could become six before all is said and done — headed to Seton Hall that includes McDonald’s All-American guard Isaiah Whitehead of Brooklyn Lincoln, wing Desi Rodriguez of Lincoln, guard Khadeen Carrington of Bishop Loughlin and power forward Angel Delgado of The Patrick School, whose team won its game Saturday night over Long Island Lutheran at Kean.
Asked what he’ll bring to Seton Hall, Sanogo said, “Versatility from the wing spot. I’ll be able to rebound, score, assist, everything.”
Sanogo said he talks to Whitehead and the others, and says, “They’re as excited as me.”
The excitement for Seton Hall going forward is palpable among the recruits and the fans, but Sanogo is focused on the rest of this year first.
“Thinking about next year is great,” he said, “but I want to finish off this year with a TOC championship.”