NEWARK – As Seton Hall downed St. Peter’s 69-49 Monday night at the Prudential Center, the key to the Pirates’ season sat on the bench in a dark blue sweat suit wearing a cast on his left hand.
Jeremy Hazell, the Pirates’ senior shooting guard and first-team All-Big East selection, will see his third hand specialist on Wednesday for his broken wrist and the results of that meeting could go a long way in determining the outcome of Seton Hall’s season.
“He might have to have surgery,” said first-year Pirates coach Kevin Willard, whose team improved to 3-3. “He might not. The bone’s in perfect shape right now. It’s actually already healing. You could put a pin in there and it might accelerate it and you could put a pin in and it might not do anything.”
Willard said Hazell could return in “six weeks” if he doesn’t have surgery. That would mean a debut around Jan. 10.
Willard did not want to discuss the possibility of a medical redshirt for Hazell, who was averaging 24 points when he was injured Nov. 19 against Alabama in the Virgin Islands and is 633 points shy of Terry Dehere’s all-time scoring record.
“Jeez, almighty, don’t use the word redshirt and Jeremy,” Willard said with a smile. “We’re expecting him back in six weeks. That’s our goal. That’s right now what it is.”
Willard said his players were in “shock” when they first played without Hazell, a 57-52 overtime loss to Xavier Nov. 21 in the Virgin Islands.
“It’s kind of hard losing 24 points a game in an offense when we’re used to seeing him out there with us,” senior guard Keon Lawrence said. “He bailed us out a lot of times. When he wasn’t out there, it’s hard for us. It’s like, ‘Who’s the go-to guy?’ But now I think everybody is knowing that they’ve got to step up.”
Without Hazell and with time to practice after the island trip, the offense has slowed down and involves more passing and ball movement before a shot is taken.
“Now we put in a new offense where everybody touches the ball,” said junior point guard Jordan Theodore, who led 10 Pirates in scoring with 11 points to go with five assists despite coming off the bench. “It’s not just a two-man game, or every time pick-and-roll. It’s everybody touches the ball and everybody’s happy.”
Asked why freshman Patrik Auda started over Theodore, Willard said it was not for disciplinary reasons.
“There was no punishment, nothing like that,” he said. “It was more of getting him a chance to see the flow.”
Jeff Robinson was the only other Pirate in double-figures, and he scored eight of his 10 in the first half.
Herb Pope, still recovering from his April collapse and subsequent heart surgery, remains rusty and managed eight points on 3 of 10 shooting and eight rebounds.
“Give him time, he was dead for a while,” Willard cracked. “He’s a miracle on Earth.”
Asked when he might be able to return to last year’s form, when he led the Big East in rebounding, Pope said, “It’s hard to say. Coach can answer that question better than me.”
Still, Willard said he needs several players, including Pope, to average double-figures while Hazell is out.
“I’m going to need Jeff and Herb and probably Jordan to score double-digits,” he said. “Those are the guys I’m going to lean on now.”
St. Peter’s star Wesley Jenkins scored just three points on 1 of 8 shooting in his second game back since partially tearing his ACL. “I think he was really sore [Sunday] after the game [Saturday against LIU] and he just looked a step slow after playing 29 minutes on Saturday,” Peacocks coach John Dunne said…Ryan Bacon led St. Peter’s with 13 points…Seton Hall doesn’t play again until Dec. 8 when they meet Arkansas in Louisville in the SEC/Big East Invitational. “We’re going to take a day off, then we’re going to practice three days,” Willard said. “Take a day off, practice a couple days. Then get out there. I’ve got to keep these guys fresh because eight days of practice with this team would drive me just as nuts as it would them.”…Seton Hall freshman Aaron Geramipoor is “likely” to redshirt, but returns to the U.S. from his home in England Friday, a source with knowledge said… Kelvin Amayo, a 6-4 combo guard, and Ryan Rhoomes, a 6-8 forward, of NIA Prep both sat behind the Seton Hall bench. Alif Muhammad of NIA said Rutgers, Iowa State and Rice lead for Amayo, whom he said received a qualifying ACT score Monday. Rhoomes’ list includes Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Rice, DePaul, Marquette, Xavier and Mississippi State, Muhammad said…Seton Hall hopes to begin the process of hiring a new AD “within a few weeks” and have one in place by April, a source with knowledge said….Keon Lawrence said he returns to court Dec. 15 for his 2009 wrong-way driving incident on the Garden State Parkway. “It was going to be the 10th, but now it’s the 15th,” he said.