Offseason preview: Seton Hall lands Dylan Addae-Wusu, but a big hole lingers
We try to figure out who's playing for this team next season. Plus: An essay on where I'm at after two seasons of Guarden State.
Seven weeks passed between the end of Seton Hall’s season and Thursday morning, but the program finally made its first transfer portal splash of the 2023 offseason.
By the end of the day, it could only be described as one step forward and two steps back.
Former St. John’s shooting guard Dylan Addae-Wusu is changing allegiances in an age-old Big East rivalry and transferring to Seton Hall. A versatile, 6-foot-4, 230-pounder who defends multiple positions, Addae-Wusu averaged 9.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season and should fit right in with Shaheen Holloway’s ideal backcourt.
The Pirates had swung and missed on several transfer targets leading up to this, so fans have been understandably restless. Plenty of online commenters believe Seton Hall is losing out because of a real or perceived lack of NIL money to offer, a larger topic I’d like to dive into and report on over the summer and into next season.
Either way, the good vibes did not last. Rising sophomore Tae Davis, brother of Dre, entered the transfer portal about two hours after the Addae-Wusu signing, and 2023 three-star commit Isaiah Watts followed by reopening his recruitment.
As far as immediate roster-building, we can begin to sketch out what Seton Hall’s 2023-24 crew will look like. The projected roster has just seven scholarship players and six spots available:
Guards: Kadary Richmond, Al-Amir Dawes, Dylan Addae-Wusu, Jaquan Sanders, JaQuan Harris
Forwards/wings: Dre Davis, David Tubek
My choice of the word “big” in today’s headline was no accident. While Addae-Wusu is a strong get, Seton Hall can’t let transfer season slip away without landing a starting five – probably a starting four, too! – and some frontcourt depth.
How they got here
At the same time he entered his name into the NBA draft, Seton Hall’s starting five Tyrese Samuel also entered the transfer portal; on April 16 he committed to Florida.
Alexis Yetna has also entered the portal without playing a minute of competitive basketball for Holloway. You’ll remember that Seton Hall announced he had a knee injury just before the regular season began, before Holloway eventually told reporters on Jan. 21, “I’m tired of answering questions about this f****** kid. He ain’t f****** playing, he ain’t helping us.”
(Side note: Abdou Ndiaye, an Illinois State transfer supposed to provide frontcourt depth, missed all of last year with a knee injury, too. And he’s not listed on the Pirates’ 2023-24 roster online.)
KC Ndefo, not a true center but a tough-as-nails forward who spent plenty of time filling in at center last season, is out of eligibility. Tray Jackson, who also played out of position to fill in as a backup five, has transferred to Michigan.
Then there’s Tae Davis. This is the program’s most puzzling loss yet: His brother appears to be staying put, he got more minutes than any other freshman last season and he projected to play a ton more in 2023-24, possibly as a spot starter in the frontcourt.
Without the 6-foot-9 Davis, the tallest scholarship player on the roster is incoming freshman forward Tubek at 6-foot-8 (unless you ask 247Sports, where he’s listed at 6-foot-6).
Holloway would play five guards if he could. He didn’t have very tall teams at Saint Peter’s because he didn’t need to in the MAAC. But no Big East team can operate with this lack of size against the Donovan Clingans and Oso Ighodaros and Zach Freemantles of the world. Another undersized miracle-worker like Ndefo who plays tremendous defense down low (or anywhere else on the court) is not going to fall from the sky.
Most of the early transfer targets Seton Hall struck out on were centers and power forwards. North Texas big Abou Ousmane spurned Hall for Xavier, Syracuse big Jesse Edwards went with West Virginia and Merrimack 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Minor had Hall on his short list before choosing Virginia.
Pirate eyes have turned to Jaden Bediako, a Santa Clara center who visited Seton Hall last week. There’s also Elijah Hutchins-Everett, a 6-foot-11 native of Orange, N.J. coming off two good years at Austin Peay.
While it’s hard for fans to hear, patience is key. Last spring, transfers Al-Amir Dawes and Femi Odukale didn’t commit to Seton Hall until May 4 and 8, respectively. And the portal will not dry up; it’s a living organism, with new names often entering late in the process as situations around the country change.
Dylan Addae-Wusu scouting report
As for Addae-Wusu, former teammate Julian Champagnie called him a “wrecking ball.” The tape shows he prefers to drive to the basket, though he’s more than glad to knock down some threes. Scroll ahead to 1:08 (and especially 1:26) below to see some great bounce-pass action.
Addae-Wusu started the final 19 of St. John’s 32 games last season, beginning on New Year’s Eve in the blowout loss to Seton Hall. When he was playing starter’s minutes, his numbers ticked up to 11.4 points, 4.6 boards and 1.8 steals per game; he’s averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.1 steals per 40 minutes for his career.
Holloway now has four starting-caliber perimeter players in Richmond, Addae-Wusu, Dawes and Dre Davis. You wonder if there will be times all four are on the court at once, out of necessity or otherwise. Davis isn’t an ideal stretch four, but a guard-heavy, four-out, one-in lineup could make a spot for him there. More likely, once this roster fills out, one of them will come off the bench as a secondary scorer as Davis did last year, given Holloway’s fondness for rolling a deep rotation.
None of it may matter if Seton Hall doesn’t sign a center or three soon.
Do you remember the Pivot to Video?
Most of you won’t be caught up on the intricacies of the sports media business, so let me explain:
During the 2010s Facebook inflated their video viewership numbers to advertisers, causing a domino effect wherein many media companies abandoned the written word for a strategy heavy on video content. Fox Sports, as one example, straight up eliminated all writers to focus on making videos that would be shared on platforms like Facebook.
This had terrible consequences for many working in sports media, since Facebook quite blatantly lied, allegedly overstating its traffic by as much as 900 percent, meaning the pivot-to-video media strategy was a dud from the start and people lost their jobs for no good reason.
I was reflecting on the Pivot to Video era recently because of another tech giant meddling in honest people’s business in the sportswriting world. Elon Musk bought himself too much power by taking over twitter dot com late last year.
Because Substack rolled out a new product this spring called Notes, and it’s ever so slightly similar in concept to Twitter, Musk retaliated, toying with heavy restrictions on how Substack articles can be shared on his platform.
Musk once claimed to be a free-speech absolutist, but when someone wanted to express their freedom of speech by clicking “like,” “retweet” or “reply” on a tweet with a Substack link, he suppressed that freedom. For a while, if you tried to follow a link from Twitter to Substack, Twitter even tried to scare you off by falsely warning that it might be “unsafe.”
Those restrictions have been removed, but now he’s moved on to blocking thumbnail previews of Substack articles. By that, I mean that this…
…is a hell of a lot less inviting to be clicked on than this:
It’s not just anti-free speech, it’s anti-business. This massive baby would have a meltdown if some other company restricted one of his in any way. He’d want fair play.
Several sportswriters who’ve migrated to Substack already had built-in audiences, like Joe Posnanski, Pablo Torre (coming soon), even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his wide-ranging newsletter. But this screwing around will stymie the reach of people like Kyle Kensing, who always has thought-provoking college sports opinions in The Press Break, and Will Warren, who writes an incredibly informative, data-driven hoops newsletter called Stats by Will, and Daniel Connolly, one of the most experienced UConn women’s basketball beat writers and founder of UConn WBB Weekly, and myself and many more.
None of us did anything to agitate Elon. We’re just the lucky ones who get to suffer the consequences.
The tides change fast on social media, as also seen in the Sturm und Drang over verified badges. What was once a signifier that you were who you said you were is now an $8 monthly subscription service. Elon donated a “paid” verified badge to resistance icon Stephen King because King explicitly proclaimed he didn’t want one; he did the same for the likes of LeBron James. Elon’s having a hoot pissing off the people who don’t like him, reducing Twitter to a $44 billion plaything and ignoring any real-world repercussions.
I’ll level with you, dear readers. As recently as eight months ago, I wanted that damn blue checkmark. Before Musk took over, I thought as a journalist it might lend a new veneer of legitimacy to my account, even get future prospective employers to give me a second look. It’s not that I loved the thing or longed to be part of the cool kids’ club; I just thought that’s how the game was being played.
First of all, I’m glad I never got the checkmark to begin with, now that it’s reduced to a blue “I love Elon” ribbon.
But now that all of Musk’s new edicts have been implemented, it’s clear that Twitter has become “free to play, pay to win.” Sure, you can use the site for free, but it’s not going to be the same user experience you were used to for so many years. If you want to make sure your tweets are being seen, you have to pay up.
This dilemma is not the end of the world, but for people like me it’s not nothing, either. I gained roughly 70 new followers on Twitter from October to now. I grew my Substack subscriber base by 38 in the same span. Twitter was often a hellhole long before Elon – but Sports Twitter was the most obvious place to reach people who’d be interested in reading my writing. With that no longer the case, I’ll have to get creative once again.
This was my 96th edition of Guarden State. I can’t say whether it will be my last. I was already planning to take a few months off from the project as college basketball drifted into the summer, its slowest period of the calendar. When September and October roll around, who knows where any of this will stand? I may have to seek out a different outlet altogether. If I stay with Substack, I may have to write more to make sure people are finding my work off social media. Do I have the time and drive for that? Maybe by the fall I’ll have an answer.
But I won’t end this incredibly successful season on a sour note. I’ve gotten back on the horse, so to speak, covering college hoops up and down the state and finding more of an audience for it. I wrote about Fairleigh Dickinson’s renaissance two months before anyone gave them a second thought. I published a deep dive into Princeton’s freshman class I remain proud of. Unlike Season 1, I covered at least one game of all eight New Jersey Division I men’s teams, plus three women’s teams, reporting from Newark, Piscataway, Lawrenceville, Princeton, West Long Branch, Hackensack, South Orange, New York City and Philadelphia. We had Ivy Madness right at home in nearby Princeton, where I was able to cover Yale’s games for the New Haven Register in addition to writing Guarden State. And for the second year in a row, Field Level Media sent me to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, this time at Madison Square Garden.
Thank you to everyone who’s helped me along the way, and thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read even one edition of this newsletter. Without readers, I’m shouting into a black hole.
Take a look back through the 2022-23 season through this selection of previous editions of Guarden State: