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2022-23 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Seton Hall Pirates

Can the Pirates build on their WNIT championship game appearance last season?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 28 Women’s NIT - Seton Hall at Columbia
Can Lauren Park-Lane continue to push the Pirates towards success on the court?
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Team: Seton Hall Pirates

2021-22 Record: 24-13, 12-8 Big East

2021-22 Big East Finish: Sixth, one game behind Marquette but well ahead of St. John’s.

Final 2021-22 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #85 out of 356 teams.

Postseason: The Pirates had quite the successful postseason run. They reached the Big East tournament semifinals after upsetting Creighton in the quarterfinals before getting knocked out by Villanova. Their profile was shiny enough to get them into the WNIT, and they won three home games and a pair of road games to reach the WNIT title game. They ran out of steam there though, as South Dakota State snagged the 82-50 victory in Brookings.

Key Departures: When the list starts with your #3 scorer, things aren’t too bad for you. In this case, that’s Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who chipped in 15.0 points per game for the Pirates last season. The 5’11” guard/forward also added 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as well, and she was a quality three-point shooter at 36% while leading the team in long range attempts.

Things do start to bend off into the bad territory with #4 scorer Mya Jackson electing to head out the door after her junior year. She’s at Cincinnati now, which is a little bit closer to home for her, and she takes 9.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Jackson is the last person on the stat sheet who averaged over five points a game for the Pirates last year.

We also have to acknowledge the departures of Katie Armstrong and Curtessia Dean. Armstrong played in all but one game for the Pirates last year and started 10 times before ultimately averaging just over 15 minutes a night. Her numbers of 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds aren’t much to mention, but that’s still a rotation spot that has to be accounted for. Same with Dean, who averaged 11.9 minutes per game off the bench in 30 appearances. She only added 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds to the proceedings, but again: Regular rotation contributions. Armstrong was already a grad student for SHU, while Dean has transferred to Wichita State.

Key Returners: With four notable contributors gone, that leaves Seton Hall with four rotation pieces coming back from last year. As you’ve probably already figured out, they return both of their top two scorers. The top scorer, Lauren Park-Lane, was also the Big East’s assists leader last season at just over seven per game. Combine that with her 18.3/game scoring rate and LPL was responsible for at least 32 of Seton Hall’s 69.3 points per game last season. Given that she stands just 5’3”, her 2.9 rebounds per night is a hell of a contribution.

#2 on the stat sheet was Sidney Cooks. The Wisconsin native is returning for one more go-round this season after spending two active seasons at Michigan State and one at Mississippi State before arriving in South Orange. She was responsible for 15.9 points and a team high 7.9 rebounds per game last season, and she added just over an assist and a block per game as well. No matter how you slice it, returning your top two scorers who double as your assists and rebounds leaders is a good way to start your next season.

Mya Bembry started more often than not last year, 29 times in 36 appearances, and put up 4.3 points and a very good 6.2 rebounds per game. The only other rotation player returning is Amari Wright, who played in 28 games but only averaged 11.4 minutes per night. 2.0 points and 1.4 rebounds per game isn’t much, but the coaching staff was clearly devoted to getting her on the floor every time out.

Key Additions: Buckle up, because we’re going to be here for a minute. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you, because you can’t really play basketball with just four women all season long. We will very quickly point out that Shailyn Pinkney, a 5’10” guard forward from Connecticut, is the only freshman on the roster after snagging that Gatorade Player of the Year trophy for the whole state back in 2021. Having just one freshman this year is probably a bad thing for Future Seton Hall, but we’ll get to that eventually.

With that out of the way, we move on to talking about the SIX transfers on the Seton Hall roster. Only one of them a COVID bonus year grad student, and that’s Alexia Allesch, who also happens to be the most interesting transfer on the roster. This is her second stint with the Pirates after starting at UMass and then transferring to App State for last season. She was great for the Mountaineers, putting up 13.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. That’s all much better than any of her three previous seasons of college hoops, although Allesch did start in every one of her 18 appearances for SHU in 2020-21.

The second most interesting transfer on the roster is Kae Satterfield. If that’s a familiar name to you, that’s for good reason, as the 6’0” guard/forward spent the last two seasons at Xavier. She was one of two players dismissed from the team before the season ended by head coach Melanie Moore (Marquette’s Nia Clark is the other), and she was very good before that happened. Satterfield went for 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game last year for the Musketeers. It’s still a new-ish thing for players to be able to transfer within the Big East, so the fact that Satterfield could put up numbers like that against Big East competition is very much worth noting here.

There are still four more transfers to talk about! Three of them have played three years of college basketball already, but none of them are particularly notable in terms of their contributions elsewhere. Sha’lynn Hagans, a 5’6” guard, was a part time starter for Carolyn Kieger at Penn State for the last three campaigns, averaging somewhere between five and seven points while playing more than half the game on balance. Jala Jordan, a 6’2” forward, started her collegiate path at West Virginia before moving on to Auburn for the past two years. I think we could categorize her as a sometimes starter for the Tigers, but she only averaged about 16 minutes a game in both seasons and never more than eight points or four rebounds per game. Finally, Azana Baines, a 6’1” guard/forward, originally hails from New Jersey but has spent the last three years playing in the ACC. Year #1 was at Duke, where she played in 29 games and started four as a freshman. The next two were both at Virginia Tech, where she started most of the time for the Hokies. Baines showed a proclivity for bringing in rebounds, particularly this past season at six per game, but she never did much in the scoring department in Blacksburg.

The final transfer on the roster is Allie Palmieri, and I’m only mentioning her here because of her complete lack of impact at Boston College. The 5’10” guard from Connecticut played in just nine games in two seasons. Part of that is because she joined the team midway through the 2020-21 season after finishing high school early and averaged over 10 minutes a game. Palmieri then played sparingly in BC’s first two games of this past season and elected to transfer at that point. Yeah, I can’t imagine why the 2020 Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut and a top 100 prospect would want to leave after that.

Coach: Tony Bozzella, entering his 23rd season as a head coach in Division 1 and 10th season at Seton Hall. He has a record of 151-112 with the Pirates, 337-326 in Division 1, and 457-430 as a collegiate head coach.

Outlook: Weird but probably good, and long term, maybe weird but probably bad!

Look, I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how Seton Hall is going to be competitive next season. They have Lauren Park-Lane and Sidney Cooks to carry the heavy weights, and heck, throw Mya Bembry onto that list, too. The addition of Kae Satterfield gives them a fourth player with lots of experience against Big East foes, and at the very least, Alexia Allesch can help guide all the new faces understand exactly what Tony Bozzella is doing. If she can be more like App State Alexia, then even better.

There’s a little too much depth gone from the roster for me to be comfortable saying that Seton Hall can build on their WNIT title game appearance and turn into an NCAA tournament team. After all, last year’s squad was further away from an NCAA bid than Marquette was and the Golden Eagles were not close. Between the loss of the depth on the roster and just way too many new faces that are going to be expected to do something, I can’t back the Pirates as a Field of 68 team.

But it’s possible! That’s kind of the upside of the transfers that Bozzella has brought in: None of them were stars elsewhere — okay, maybe Kae Satterfield, but also Xavier was bad, so it’s a wash — so it’s not like the Pirates’ staff is going to have to figure out how to massage this roster together with LPL and Cooks expecting to be the leaders. Everyone else can just fit into place wherever they can carve out a niche, and if it all works out really well, then yeah, the ceiling here is probably an NCAA tournament team.

It would be really neat if someone figured out how to shoot threes, by the way. Mya Jackson and Andra Espinoza-Hunter were the second and third most reliable shooters on the roster last season behind Park-Lane..... and that trio were the only ones who should have been firing away from long range. (ASIDE: Sidney Cooks, please pick up the blue and white courtesy phone, we need to talk about why you’re shooting three triples a game at just 27.5%.) At a glance, none of the newcomers stand out as reliable three-point shooters, as you’ll notice I did not mention that stat in any of their quick blurbs above. Maybe that’s a “role on the team” situation where they weren’t being asked to shoot.... but also here in the year of Our Lord Steph Curry 2022, it’s kind of notable if you’re not a passable shooter, especially as a guard.

Let’s talk about that long term note I teased at the top of the section. I am not kidding when I elaborate Seton Hall’s current roster balance, at least as labeled on their roster page:

Freshmen: 1
Sophomores: 0
Juniors: 2
Seniors: 8
Graduate Students: 2

I may not be a smart man, but I know a problem when I see it. Maybe this isn’t an immediate future problem for the Pirates, because I believe that all eight of those seniors still have a COVID bonus year of eligibility available to them. Maybe this is a 2024-25 problem instead of a “they are totally hosed next year” problem. However, at some point in the next two years, Seton Hall is losing all 10 of those women..... and there is just no depth waiting behind them to take the reins.... and for at least two of those 10, that “some point” is next spring already. Can Bozzella generate long term success from a constant parade of transfers coming in? Is that what the plan is? It seems risky, but having the doors thrown open to anyone from the general vicinity of South Orange to come home and play for the Pirates is also not the worst way to live.