It wasn’t supposed to be easy, going from a sidekick to a superhero, from Robin to Batman.
It just seemed that way early on for Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall’s junior guard. He averaged 19.2 points per game during the non-conference season, seamlessly transitioning from a role player a year ago, when he often deferred to former teammate Isaiah Whitehead, to the focal point of the Pirates’ offense.
But then the Big East season began, the level of play heightened, and all the attention suddenly was on him. Predictable struggles ensued. Over the Pirates’ first nine conference games, Carrington averaged just 13.1 points per game and shot 35 percent from the field.
“Teams throw the whole kitchen sink at me,” the 6-foot-3 guard from Brooklyn said. “I was trying to figure out how to deal with teams being focused on me. Last year, teams were focused on me, but not as much. They were focused on Isaiah.”
A dislocated pinkie finger on his left hand, along with two severely jammed fingers, didn’t help, though Carrington repeatedly refused to use the injury as an excuse. Once tough times hit, he began thinking too much, unsure when to be aggressive, when to get his teammates involved, when to look for his shot, and when to set up others. A scorer his entire life, Carrington had trouble adjusting to being a playmaker, too.
“Last year you were Robin,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard told him in a recent sitdown, “and now you’re trying to figure out how to be Batman.”
Willard saw this early on last season with Whitehead, who got off to a slow start in conference play. As he did with Whitehead, he gave Carrington the same advice: Don’t worry about scoring early on. If the opposition wants to take you away, allow others to get going. Use that knowledge to your advantage. Eventually, the defense will loosen up.
Carrington has responded with two of his better games, keying overtime victories over Georgetown and Providence, which the Pirates (15-8, 5-6 Big East) hope can jump-start a strong finish like last season and a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. Carrington took baby steps against the Hoyas, scoring 16 points and adding three assists. He made significant strides against the Friars, producing one of the best games of his career: 44 minutes, 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just two turnovers.
“I think he’s on an upward tick,” Willard said, as he prepared his team to take on St. John’s on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. “I like where his game’s at. I like where his mind’s at.”
Carrington is averaging a team-high 32.5 minutes per game, along with career highs of 16.8 points and 2.9 assists, and he has played 78 of a possible 85 minutes over the last two wins. This time of year, he doesn’t need much of a breather. After all, he’s being tasked with being Seton Hall’s superhero now.
“There’s no time for being tired right now,” Carrington said. “That’s what I say during the huddle. I’m definitely up for the challenge.”
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