by Josh Adams
Newark, NJ- The talent that Sandro Mamukelashvili has on the basketball court cannot be denied. It’s there, like a seven foot unicorn on the court, that stands out even among the best talent in the country. At any point he can take over a contest with his rebounding and his ability to handle the ball. The guy is almost seven foot tall and can handle the ball like a point guard. “He compares himself to (76ers Guard) Ben Simmons”, said Pirates point guard Quincy McKnight, “So when he pushes the ball up the court we just think to ourselves, there goes our little Ben Simmons.”
The Simmons comparison is apt. Both Simmons and Sandro are unique players with a lefty skill set that is almost impossible to guard. Simmons may be the better passer right now but Sandro’s ability to mix it up in the middle and grab rebounds and start a fast break are just as valuable to his Pirates team. What’s scary is that his confidence in his own ability is growing. “He’s getting more comfortable each game.”, said Pirates Coach Kevin Willard about Sandro’s game after a win against New Hampshire on Tuesday night. “I think the fact that he’s gotten beat up a little bit and had to work to either score or defend, I think you’ll see him and other guys get a lot more comfortable quicker.”
Sandro sure seemed comfortable against New Hampshire on Tuesday as he notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “Last year I didn’t have that much confidence because I didn’t have a chance to get minutes.”, Said Sandro after the win on Tuesday night. ” Now I want to go out there and prove to my coach and my teammates that I deserve my minutes.”
You can see the trajectory of Sandro’s development during this season and it’s been remarkably consistent. The Pirates can count on him to get 7-10 rebounds a game and his scoring the last three games has improved from 9 against Miami, to 10 points against Louisville last Saturday and 14 tonight against New Hampshire. If his game were a stock, you would want to buy it now. As a national TV audience awaits against Kentucky on Saturday, Sandro doesn’t seemed phased by it. He knows that he’s earned his teammates and his coaches trust. His teammates feed his motivation. “They always tell me, c’mon no one can guard you. You can do it.”, said Sandro about his teammates, “I love my teammates and the confidence they give me is unbelievable.”
Sandro’s game is still a work in progress and that’s what makes the future exciting for Seton Hall. “I’m working on my shot so that my three point game gets better. I feel like once I get in my grove and get my confidence, I’ll have my best all-around game.”
That game could be against Kentucky on Saturday before a nationally televised audience at Madison Square Garden. Wildcats fans and players, you’ve been warned. This kid is due for an absolute dominant game against a top flight opponent. It’s going to happen and when it does, there won’t be a player as unique or talented in college basketball as Sandro.
Lucky us, we get to watch him get that good.