The Seton Hall Pirates, who were a late addition to Louisville's bubble of games that is being dubbed the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic, open their season Friday afternoon facing a Cardinals team that beat Evansville in the event Wednesday.
Seton Hall was added Oct. 29, which allowed coach Kevin Willard to return to part of his roots. Willard coached with the Cardinals under Rick Pitino from 2001 to 2007. Also, his dad, Ralph Willard, a head coach at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross, served as the associate head coach under Pitino at Louisville in the 2009-10 season.
"I have great respect for Kevin Willard and the job he's done," said Louisville coach Chris Mack, who spent nine years competing against Seton Hall in the Big East at Xavier. "His teams have always played with a toughness and a resilience."
Before COVID-19 canceled the NCAA tournament last season, Seton Hall believed it could have made a run to the Final Four behind All-American guard Myles Powell. The Pirates were 21-9 and ranked 15th in the country after finishing tied for first in the Big East with a 13-5 record.
In limited opportunities last year playing behind Powell, who is now with the New York Knicks, former walk-on Shavar Reynolds averaged 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 43 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range.
Willard will count on Reynolds to set up backcourt mates Bryce Aiken and Takal Molson, first-team All-Big East selection Sandro Mamukelashvili, wings Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale, and 7-foot-2 center Ike Obiagu.
"With Shavar maybe not chasing Myles around all practice, he's a senior who understands that he has a great opportunity and he really put a lot of great work in when maybe some other guys weren't during the quarantine or house arrest, whatever you want to call it," Kevin Willard said, alluding to Seton Hall pausing activities Nov. 11 because of a positive COVID-19 test among its players.
In Louisville's opening 79-44 rout of Evansville, Radford graduate transfer guard Carlik Jones had a productive debut, producing team highs of 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Sophomore guard Samuell Williamson had career-best totals of 17 points and five assists, while matching his career high with six rebounds.
--Field Level Media