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2023-24 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Seton Hall Pirates

After finishing multiple games behind the NCAA tourney teams in the league and losing a lot of their rotation, what does the coming season hold for the Pirates?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 24 Womens Seton Hall at Butler
Sha’Lynn Hagans is Seton Hall’s top returning scorer from last season.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Team: Seton Hall Pirates

2022-23 Record: 19-15 overall, 10-10 Big East

2022-23 Big East Finish: Sixth, three games behind a tie for fourth, and two games ahead of DePaul.

Final 2022-23 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #80

Postseason? After getting clipped in overtime of the Big East quarterfinals by #3 seed Creighton, the Pirates earned a bid to the WNIT. They defeated Saint Joseph’s in their first game, but lost at home to Syracuse, 72-54, to end their season.

Key Departures: There’s a whole bunch of big time SHU names that you won’t see in blue and white next season. That list starts with Lauren Park-Lane, who has elected to take a grad transfer to Mississippi State after averaging 20.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game for the Pirates last season. No matter what you thought about Seton Hall this past season, that opinion takes a dramatic turn without LPL in the lineup for next year.

Park-Lane had the most starting appearances on the roster last season, starting and playing in 33 of their 34 games. Sidney Cooks and Mya Bembry are the only two women who played in all 34 games, and they’re both gone as well. Cooks was good for 15.4 points per game — the only other double digit scorer on the team — to go with a team high 5.9 rebounds along with 1.4 assists, too. Bembry played 29 minutes per game, second highest average on the team behind Park-Lane, but she only averaged 4.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. This past season was Cooks’ fifth year of hoops after time at Mississippi State and Michigan State, while Bembry has grad transferred to Georgetown.

We’ll include Jala Jordan and Alexia Allesch here as well. Both had a bit more of a bench role on the team, even if they did start two games each. Jordan averaged just 12.0 minutes per game in 29 appearances, while Allesch was seeing 8.4 minutes a night in 28 games played. It’s hard to tell whether or not someone was a Key Contributor when they’re playing less than 10 minutes a night, but playing in 28 of 34 games is an awful lot of playing time anyway. Jordan is making a second grad transfer after coming to SHU from Auburn that way in 2021, while Allesch played her fifth year of action this past season.

Key Returners: Yes, Seton Hall lost their top two scorers, their top two rebounders, and their assists leader. It’s a lot, but things are not completely barren here. Sha’Lynn Hagans is the top returning scorer at 8.4 points per game, but she started 27 times in 32 appearances and averaged just short of 27 minutes a game last year. Azana Baines is the top returning rebounder at 4.6 per game, and she was good for 13 starts in 32 games as well as just over 20 minutes a game on average. Amari Wright was second on the team in assists to Park-Lane with 2.4 per game and that makes her the only other woman above two assists a night, too. She mostly played a bench role with four starts in 31 games, but she averaged 20 minutes a night.

We continue with Kae Satterfield and Shailyn Pinkney, who averaged 12.3 and 14.1 minutes per game respectively. Neither of them have a notable contribution elsewhere in the stat sheet — maybe Satterfield at 3.0 rebounds in her PT? — but Satterfield played in 28 games and Pinkney appeared in 31 and started 19 times, too. They’ve got a handle on what the coaching staff is asking, and that means something given what they’re losing. That wraps up the conversation about key returning players, but it also wraps up the conversation about all of the returning players. There’s good news (five key contributors coming back!) and bad news (only five women total coming back!) in there, so it’s up to you how you want to see it.

Key Additions: Well, it’s safe to say that there better be at least three key additions in this list. Seton Hall brings in three freshman, but only Savannah Catalon (5’8”, Guard, Burleson, Texas) merits mention from Blue Star Basketball. They rank the Texan at #123 in the country, so for now, she’s got the inside track on contributing right away relative to her classmates.

However, the freshmen are not the only new faces here. Seton Hall has brought in — count ‘em — SIX transfers for 2023-24. We’ll start with the three women who are coming in for their COVID bonus year of eligibility. A’Jah Davis (6’1”, Forward, DeKalb, Illinois) is perhaps the most notable one, or at least the most prolific player out of the group. She averaged 16.2 points per game to go with 12.4 rebounds as a senior last season for Northern Illinois. As you might guess, both numbers led the Huskies as they went 16-17. Brazil Harvey-Carr (6’1”, Forward, Camden, New Jersey) is in South Orange after two years at Manhattan which themselves came after two years at Rhode Island. She was a most of the time starter for the Jaspers, including averaging 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists last year. I’yanna Lops (6’3”, Forward, Stamford, Connecticut) started her collegiate career at Cal State Bakersfield, but was at St. Bonaventure for the past three campaigns. In 2022-23, she started in 30 of her 31 appearances and gave the Bonnies 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

One would figure that all three of those grad transfers would be expecting pretty notable roles this coming season. The same can probably be said for Shannon Mulroy (5’8”, Guard, Mount Laurel, New Jersey), who is a special kind of grad transfer. She comes in after three seasons of play at Cornell, which just means that she, like the rest of the Ivy League, completely sat out the 2020-21 season. I’m pretty sure this means that she has two seasons of eligibility left to go, after starting in all 26 of her games for the Big Red last season. She averaged 8.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in over 33 minutes a night, but her three-point shooting — 19% on 4.8 attempts a game — was an absolute disaster and it wasn’t good before that, either.

That leaves us with two traditional transfers to discuss. Makennah White (6’2”, Forward, Farrell, Pennsylvania) is in her fourth season of eligibility after playing three years at UMass. She was mostly a bench player last season, but averaged just short of 10 points a game and 5.7 rebounds as well while getting 23 minutes of action a night. Micah Gray (5’8”, Guard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) was a freshman at Texas Southern this past season, and she had a great first year of college hoops. Starting in 27 of 29 appearances as a freshman is great, and so is averaging 16.7 points per game. Gray also added 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

Coach: Tony Bozzella, entering his 24th season as a Division 1 head coach and 11th season at Seton Hall. He has a record of 170-126 with the Pirates, 356-340 in Division 1, and 476-444 as a collegiate head coach.

Outlook: Last year, I thought Seton Hall was starting out the year as a team with an eye on the NCAA tournament. They were coming off a season that went all the way to the WNIT title game and they were bringing an awful lot of their roster back. Not a lock for the tournament by any stretch, but definitely a team that could put some things together and figure it out.

Those hopes maybe kind of went out the door pretty early in the year when the Pirates took a nailbiter loss to VCU in the Paradise Jam in late November. The Rams ended up being a sub-200 team in the NET as the season went along, and with Seton Hall never getting their NET into the top 40 along the way, that was that for them in terms of the NCAAs.

One of the other things that I thought about last year’s team was that it was awfully senior heavy, and that was a precarious situation for Tony Bozzella and his staff relative to long term success. As it turns out, things got bad quickly, as the women who could grad transfer out of South Orange for their bonus season of eligibility did so, thereby gutting the team from a production standpoint. Yes, they have five rotation players coming back, but effectively no one that was asked to do any heavy lifting, not with Lauren Park-Lane and Sidney Cooks around.

That means that either A) the returning players are able to step up and generate numbers for the Pirates this year or B) the returning players are comfortable in their roles and the gigantic transfers of incoming transfers can hopefully step in and step up to turn the Pirates into a winning ball club. If neither of those things happen, if Seton Hall never fully gets on the same page with each other as the season goes along...... it’s going to be a long season in South Orange.

Which reminds me.

Is now a good time to mention that Tony Bozzella hasn’t put the Pirates in the NCAA tournament since 2016? They’ve been in the WNIT in four of the past five seasons when the tournament was held, so things aren’t a total mess for SHU, not by a long shot. But if you accept the conceit that UConn and Creighton have clearly established themselves as perennial NCAA teams at this point, with Marquette and Villanova perhaps a step behind them.... well, then things are starting to look a little bit shaky for the Pirates if we’re constructing tiers in the league, right? Can Bozzella keep throwing transfers at his roster and hoping it all works itself out when SHU is perhaps calcifying as a middle of the standings team every year?

And what, if any, message are we to take from the fact that Lauren Park-Lane got out of Dodge instead of playing one more year for the Pirates? What about Mya Bembry deciding to go play for a first year head coach at Georgetown for her extra year of eligibility? Same league, arguably a worse basketball situation, clearly a much better graduate school situation. There’s an obvious and easy reading here: SHU doesn’t offer a graduate program that is of benefit to either woman. Any other reading of the situation.... well, it’s just not great for the program, is it?