SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Whenever a freshman begins to practice with a college basketball team, the first question that comes to mind is: Can he compete at this level?
Sometimes the answer is no, sometimes yes, and other times maybe, with a little bit of work. When you throw in an injury a month prior to the start of practice, the answer to the question is almost always: I don’t know. This injury might set him back.
For Seton Hall freshman Brandon Mobley, the answer was always yes, regardless of the situation.
With one regular-season game remaining on the Pirates’ schedule, Mobley has become a reliable asset of the bench for head coach Kevin Willard’s front court, which started the year as one of the Pirates’ biggest weaknesses behind senior Herb Pope.
“Having some size in the back line helped us,” Willard said. “Brandon’s a big rebounder that can go above the rim.”
Mobley missed the first nine games of the year recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, the result of an injury during summer ball.
Since entering the lineup on Dec. 18 against Mercer, the forward from Savannah, Ga., is averaging five points per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds per contest. Against St. John’s on Feb. 14, Mobley scored a career-high 14 points, but for Willard, it’s the intangibles that make Mobley stand out.
“I thought he made three huge plays,” Willard said after the Pirates’ win over the Red Storm. “He got the block on baseline and then got the rebound, the tie-up to give us a new shot clock and the ball back, the steal at end was huge. (The freshmen) are gaining confidence. This time of year, young guys are gaining game experience, which is more valuable than anything.”
After struggling for two points and three rebounds against Cincinnati and lifelong friend Cashmere Wright, Mobley answered with 10 points and three boards against No. 8 Georgetown.
Mobley said he understands his new role with the Pirates. After starting his season hurt and then in a small adjustment period during the first few weeks after his return, Mobley is now the go-to guy when the team needs higher energy on the floor.
“My whole focus is energy,” Mobley said. “I wasn’t trying to score, I was just trying to throw my body around, get rebounds and take up space and be big. Last time I didn’t bring the energy, so this game I wasn’t focused on scoring. It just happened that I was playing my assignment, I just happened to get open and it just happened that I made some shots.”
According to Pope, Mobley, who splits time on the floor with sophomore Patrik Auda, is beginning to develop into one of the top “big” men in the league.
“That’s what he does, that’s Brandon Mobley,” Pope said. “He’s not shy to shoot the ball. That’s part of being a Big East player. He knows he’s a great player. He came in and he showed them. Everybody talked about their fours and fives and didn’t give us enough credit for our guys and he came in and stepped up and made great plays for us.”
Willard said that when both Mobley and Auda are on top of their games, they give the Pirates a needed boost to go with Pope’s play.
“When both of those guys are playing that way, Brandon scored the ball well and Patrik defended tremendously, they give us an added punch that’s hard to defend because we try to space them out a little bit,” Willard said.
With the regular season coming to an end on Saturday and with the Big East Championships less than one week away, this is normally when playing time for freshmen begins to dwindle, but not for Seton Hall.
The energy that Mobley brings to the floor will be a key to the postseason success for the Pirates.
“I want to keep that high energy,” he said. “I want to go in there and throw my body around. I want to alter shots, I just want to play assignment ball. If I happen to hit a couple of shots, so be it. My focus is to take up space and be energetic.”
Timothy LeCras is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.