St. John’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin once said it would take about “three or four” years to build back the Johnnies’ program.
Now in his fourth year as head coach, Lavin was optimistic at the annual St. John’s basketball media day on Thursday, October 10, because the Red Storm has a full set of returning players, plus new talents like never before.
“The last three-plus years was to put our program in position,” Lavin said. “We now feel we can be competitive, because we have the artillery and the firepower to be on more equal footing to the competition.”
After a spring of practicing and a summer playing basketball in Europe, the Johnnies, which were once the youngest team in school history, are all grown up. The Red Storm’s leading scorer junior guard D’Angelo Harrison’s behavior behind the scenes last season eventually got him kicked off the squad at an essential time. This time around, he said he’s changed his ways.
“Knowing how I used to act and the way I am today, now I can see,” Harrison said. “I can honestly say I thank Lavin for what he did.”
A whole cast of Johnnies who were prominent in last year’s National Invitational Tournament appearance will be returning, including the country’s leading shot blocker, sophomore center Chris Obekpa, reigning Big East Conference Rookie of the Year Jakarr Sampson, junior Sir’Dominic Pointer and combo guard Phil Greene IV.
A fresh set of players will also join them for this season, including senior Orlando Sanchez, a 6’9” forward from the Dominican Republic, who hopes to provide stability to the front court.
Sophomore transfer Max Hooper, a three-point specialist, will help the Red Storm from behind the arch, which they desperately needed last season. Also, after redshirting last season, forward God’sgift Achiuwa will return to the Red Storm, and said taking a year off actually improved his game.
“I was able to watch the game from the sideline,” Achiuwa said. “So now I have good perspective of a basketball game. I have an overview of what basketball is all about from every angle.”
The team’s only true freshman, point guard Rysheed Jordan who was missing in action at the media event, is one of the nation’s top recruits, rated 17 in the country by ESPNU. Jordan hopes to help the back court with scoring.
With this armament of talent for the Johnnies, it seems like the only problem might be how to distribute minutes on the court.
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