The first recruit of Seton Hall’s 2015 recruiting class, Southern California scoring guard Dalton Soffer is a couple months away from relocating 2000 miles east to his future four-year home in South Orange, New Jersey.
After signing with Seton Hall in November following a de-commitment from Loyola (Md.) that Dalton said was a “rushed decision”, the sharpshooting 6-foot-5 guard put up some impressive numbers for San Diego-area Poway High School during his senior season.
Dalton suffered a calf strain early in the season that sidelined him for a few games, but he came on strong during late-January and early February, which carried into the CIFSDS Division 1 Playoffs. The senior guard poured in a career-high 39 points while playing with the flu in January and would go on to score over 20 points five more times in a nine-game stretch in which he averaged 22 ppg just prior to post-season play.
In Poway’s three-game playoff run, Soffer would score 26 points twice (including six three-pointers in one game) and 19 in his final game, a 72-48 loss to Escondido and North Dakota State-bound guard Khy Kabellis in the semifinals.
“I wish we would have won a few more games obviously, and I wish I didn’t miss a few games early on this season, but other than that I played my heart out every night,” said Soffer of his senior season. “It’s not satisfying losing obviously, but I was happy with my season.”
Soffer, who averaged around three made three-balls per game, was recognized mid-season for developing a more well-rounded skillset. A primary concern for many Seton Hall fans, Dalton reiterated to me how he is more than just a spot-up shooter.
“I know it’s not going to be easy to score at the next level, but in high school I was able to do it pretty easily and I’m not going to be afraid to go to the rack in college — I’m not just a shooter.
“Ball handling, being able to handle the ball from the backcourt to the frontcourt, and working on getting to the line more, my pull-up game,” said Dalton of things he’s worked on to develop. “Being more than just a catch-and-shoot kind of guy, which I feel like I can do pretty well already.”
While playing out his senior season, Dalton told me he watched nearly all of Seton Hall’s games last campaign, a product of every game being televised. Although he followed closely, Soffer added that he had a hands-off approach to the ups and downs of the Hall’s rollercoaster ride in regards to his own emotions as well as keeping in touch with the coaches, saying that it wasn’t his place to reach out to the coaching staff or current players.
At the time of Seton Hall’s upset of Villanova in early January, Dalton’s AAU coach Charlie Mercado of Gamepoint told me how ecstatic he was, although it was ultimately followed up with a disappointing end to the Pirates’ season.
“It just shows the potential that we have is through the roof,” said Dalton of the Hall’s upsets of St. John’s and Villanova. “And then obviously with some of the chemistry issues it kind of just fell through, but I think there is potential for the team to go far.”
Seton Hall’s issues off the court culminated in the mid-season transfer of combo guard Jaren Sina after a bad loss to Georgetown and just yesterday the departure of leading scorer Sterling Gibbs. (Note: this interview was conducted prior to Gibbs’ departure.)
“Another way to look at it, with Jaren [Sina] transferring it opens up a little bit of playing time for me, which makes me excited too,” said Soffer. “There’s always positives and negatives to it. As a basketball player, that’s [playing time] what I like.”
Going into next season, Soffer will wear No. 21 - the same number as former fan favorite and long range bomber Jeremy Hazell - and will pitch in off the bench behind guards Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington. With the fresh news that Sterling Gibbs has decided to leave the program, Soffer will see even a bigger role than expected next year.
“My plan is to just come in and be a contributor right away and just be a part of a winning team,” he said. “Do what I can do to the best of my ability and just help the team out.”
Of his fellow recruiting classmates, Dalton told me he knows incoming freshman forward Myles Carter (St. Rita, Ill.) pretty well (they visited together for the Caldwell exhibition last fall) but that he doesn’t have any concerns about bonding with his fellow teammates since he’s easy to get along with.
“I’m definitely really excited to get on campus and start working out with the guys and get ready for the season, I’m definitely really excited.”
His 2000 mile journey will start in early July for Seton Hall’s second summer session that begins on July 6th with classes and summer workouts. While a cross-country move is big for any college freshman, Dalton does have a safety net in an aunt that lives in nearby Metuchen, New Jersey, a home away from home of sorts. He added that his aunt’s home can help facilitate visits for his family to come and see him play.
When they’re not on the East Coast, Dalton said his family can’t wait to watch him play on national TV.
“I have 3 brothers (2 older, 1 younger) and a sister … they’re all excited, my younger brother is a big basketball player too, he’s in 8th grade. He’s excited, he can’t wait to watch me out there.”
Following up on the theme of Dalton’s commitment to Seton Hall being about more than just hoops, he left me the following about where he wants to be in four years.
“I definitely want to earn my degree at the school, hopefully in business, maybe a minor in communications. If basketball doesn’t work out to play professionally somewhere after four years there, I’d like to have a nice job opportunity somewhere whether it’d be on Wall Street in New York or back on the West Coast somewhere. I’m just hungry to be successful with what I do in life on and off the court.”