The Seton Hall University Pirates and St. John’s University Red Storm may have been picked to finish sixth and seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll, but the players and coaches remain ready to bring their best every game. At Big East media day, the players expressed an eagerness to see where the season leads.

Last year was kind of rough for Seton Hall. Redshirt sophomore guard Kaity Healy called it a “learning year.” Before conference play, the Pirates have several New Jersey matchups—against Saint Peter’s, Princeton and Rutgers. “It’s great to have in-state rivalry,” said Healy.

Coach Tony Bozzella is excited about graduate student Donnaizha Fountain, who previously played at Georgia Tech and Temple University. An athletic guard, Fountain brings maturity and experience as well as some offensive fire power. She decided to spend her final year of playing eligibility somewhere she can have fun and plan for her future on and off the court.

“I want to be able to look back and say, ‘My fifth and last year, I went out with a bang,’” said Fountain. “Playing in the Big East also brings me closer to my family [in Boston].”

“This group plays with passion, they’re tough, they get along well and they’re extremely coachable,” said Bozzella. “Donnaizha brings a sense of confidence, which will make a big difference.”

St. John’s senior point guard Tamesha Alexander said she’s a vocal leader in addition to leading by example. “It’s great to be part of a program that’s seen nine straight post-seasons,” said Alexander. Senior forward Maya Singleton is ready to see her team put everything they’ve learned in practice together at game time.

Although the Red Storm has lost some valuable players to graduation, coach Joe Tartamella said the current upperclassmen have solid experience. He is looking for his seniors to bring consistency every day.

“I feel really good about our group,” he said. “The way they’re approaching practice, their engagement, their effort. If we’re not successful, it’s not because of a lack of effort. A lot of them have started to come into their own.”

In other New York basketball news, Katie Smith was named head coach of the New York Liberty. There was another honor for the Liberty as the team received the WNBA’s inaugural season long WNBA Community Assist Award.