This “Cheese” doesn’t get stale. It ages well.
A year after being a surprising contributor off the bench as a freshman, Myles Powell moved into the starting lineup and became a vital piece to Seton Hall’s senior-heavy team that finished in third place in the Big East and is expected to make its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance next week. The coaches recognized the 6-foot-2 guard’s improvements, voting for him as the league’s Most Improved Player, it was announced Monday.
“I’m really proud and happy for Myles,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said on a conference call Monday of Powell, who was given the “Cheese” nickname as a child because of how much he loved the dairy product. “He’s become more than just a great shooter. He’s worked on his passing, his driving. For the coaches to recognize him it’s great, because he’s worked really hard.”
Powell is having a strong year, averaging 15.6 points — 4.9 more than he produced as a freshman — 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals. He’s shooting 38 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, a significant jump from a year ago, and 78 percent from the free-throw line. He’s 13th in the league in scoring in conference play, averaging 16.5 points per game.
The only other Pirate to win the award was current associate head coach Shaheen Holloway in 2000 following his senior season. In addition to Powell’s honor, Creighton junior Khyri Thomas repeated as Defensive Player of the Year and Villanova sophomore Donte DiVincenzo won the Sixth Man of the Year award, the league announced.
Seton Hall and ninth-seeded St. John’s have three injuries that could factor into their performances this week. Red Storm star guard Shamorie Ponds, a first team All-Big East selection, has missed the past two games with an abdominal strain, and hasn’t practiced since suffering the injury against the Pirates on Feb. 24.
St. John’s coach Chris Mullin has given no indication yet of Ponds’ status, though internally the expectation within the program is he will be ready to face No. 8 Georgetown on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the out-bracket round of the Big East Tournament.
As for Seton Hall, ankle injuries kept senior starters Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo out in Saturday’s win over Butler. Willard said both players received treatment Sunday, were set to go through a light practice on Monday, and will be re-evaluated based on how they respond to the workout. Both have said they will be ready to play by Thursday against the sixth-seeded Bulldogs in the quarterfinals, but Willard has expressed more optimism Rodriguez, his leading scorer, will be available than Sanogo, one of the league’s best defenders.
Last week, it was the Big Ten. This week, it’s the ACC. Power conferences all want a piece of New York City, which has hosted the Big East Tournament at the Garden since 1983. The Big East has a contract with the Garden to continue playing its tournament there through the 2025-26 season. While many of the Big East coaches said they aren’t concerned about the other leagues infringing on their territory, Villanova’s Jay Wright thinks it is good for the conference.
“I think it just brings more hype to the city and northeastern basketball. That’s what the Big East is,” Wright said. “So I’m all for it now. It’s our home, it’s what we’ve always done, it’s who we are.
“I think it just helps basketball in New York. If you help basketball in New York at this time of year, you’re helping the Big East.”