Arizona was involved. So was Miami, Texas Tech, Florida and Missouri. Big schools from major conferences wanted KC Ndefo to finish his college career at their programs.
But they were missing one thing: Shaheen Holloway, Seton Hall’s new coach.
“Why not [join] the coach who brought me in and gave me the opportunity and chance from the beginning?” Ndefo told The Post.
Really, it was a no-brainer for the former Saint Peter’s star and Elmont, N.Y., native who played such a big role in the Cinderella Peacocks run to the Elite Eight last March. He was comfortable with Holloway. He knew Holloway wouldn’t lie to him because of their extensive history. He was certain playing for Holloway one final year was the only way to end his college career.
“He’s not going to jerk me,” the versatile 6-foot-7 Ndefo told his adviser, Will Carter, when he came to a decision.
The three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a year ago will have a significant role for Seton Hall, although playing in the Big East will take an adjustment. Ndefo will be facing better, taller and longer athletes, more skilled players than he’s used to in the MAAC. Then again, against Kentucky, Murray State, Purdue and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, proving he can match up with just about anyone.
“What he’s going to bring is the little intangibles, teaching our guys how to play hard, teaching our guys how to compete every possession, doing all the little things to win,” Holloway said.
A Big East assistant coach familiar with Ndefo from his time at Saint Peter’s expects him to make an impact for Seton Hall. In a recent workout observed by The Post, Ndefo was arguably the Pirates’ best player, defending at a high level, creating shots for his teammates and even hitting a few long jumpers.
“He’s an elite defender at any level,” the coach said. “I think he’d help any team in our league.”
Holloway believed in Ndefo when nobody else did, offering him his lone full scholarship out of high school. They grew together, Holloway as a coach and Ndefo his best player, and butted heads as well. Ndefo entered the transfer portal after his junior season and nearly didn’t return to Saint Peter’s. But, ultimately, he came back and became a March star like Holloway. Now, the kid who wasn’t considered Division I material by everyone except Holloway will be playing his final season in the Big East.
“I feel like this year is a statement year, understanding what’s meant for me and understanding what I have to do,” Ndefo said. “It means the world, just being able to come in with the coach who gave me my first opportunity to play Division I basketball, starting a new journey with him after having such a great journey at Saint Peter’s.
“I’m very excited. I’m counting my days down to the first game, being able to play here and at the Prudential Center against big-time schools. Just the season is going to be so fun for me.”