Isaiah Whitehead virtually had his choice of any school in the country, but in the end he narrowed that list down to five schools that fit him best, but out of those five — Indiana, Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, and Minnesota — he was really only considering two — St. John’s and Seton Hall — because he wanted to stay close to his mother.
“I love my mom, everybody knows that,” Whitehead said. “Staying close to her where she can come to my games. That was big.”
Whitehead liked what the other schools had to offer and felt that he would have been a good fit at any of them, but in the end he couldn’t bear the thought of being without her. At one point, he was strongly considering Indiana, but quickly re-thought that when he saw how it made his mother feel.
“When Indiana called I was like, ‘oh my goodness.’” Whitehead’s mother Ericka Lambert said. “When he came home I think he felt my uncomfortableness and he thought, ‘I need to stay a little closer to home.’”
So really the decision came down to two schools and there were a couple of reasons he went with Seton Hall over St. John’s. The biggest is because Whitehead has a strong desire to make a name for himself. Going to Lincoln High School he was constantly compared to former Coney Island standouts Lance Stephenson, Sebastian Telfair and even Stephon Marbury and all throughout he declared in defiance, “I’m Isaiah Whitehead.”
What better way to make his own name than to avoid Indiana, where Stephenson plays for the Pacers, and to join and revive a dormant Seton Hall program.
“I think all of the other schools have a player that they honor and look up to and tell you about that went there before,” Whitehead explained. “I just picked Seton Hall because I want to be their guy and I want to take that program and turn it around. That’s the way I’m going to make a name for myself.”
Whitehead also explained how he didn’t feel needed by St. John’s, a program that recruited him heavily as a freshman, but backed off until only recently. He still seriously considered them, even until the final night before his decision, but in the end he couldn’t shake that feeling that they didn’t really want him as strongly as other schools did.
In contrast, Seton Hall promised to make him the face of the program and tailor their style to his game. “Seton Hall showed a lot of interest in me where St. John’s kind of backed off for a while,” Whitehead said.
“St. John’s was more comfortable with their future than Seton Hall was,” Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton explained. “I think St. John’s had some guys they thought could hold them over for a couple of years. So Isaiah wasn’t as big a priority to St. John’s as he was to Seton Hall.”
Seton Hall’s program hasn’t been dominant in recent years, which is something that Whitehead is obviously aware of, but not concerned with. His mother cited the fact that it dealt with injuries last season, and Whitehead explained that not only do they have a strong incoming class, that also includes his friend and fellow Brooklynite Khadeen Carrington, but felt that his presence there will draw other talented players down the road.
Now that he’s finally committed to a school, Whitehead says he’s already much more relaxed. He explained to reporters that he now wants to focus on school and his senior year of playing basketball. Even though it had been less than 24 hours since he made his decision and a mere minutes since he announced it, his mother said that she could see a noticeable difference in his attitude.
“When he actually went to school this morning,” Rambert said of when she could tell his mind was more at ease. ” He woke up early, got ready, got dressed, and I thought he would want to stay home because everyone was gonna bug him. But he wanted to go school because finally this weight was off his shoulders. He’s got more peace of mind.
“Sometimes he would play a game and afterward everyone asked him about recruiting. Now after a game they can just ask him about the game and I think he’s really looking forward to that. It’s great. I’m happy for him.”