Tag Archives: Carnesecca Arena

St. John’s men’s basketball makes promise at annual Tip-Off


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

“Let’s get it in.”

The St. John’s University men’s basketball team embraced this phrase as their season motto at the Red Storm Tip-Off Friday. Men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin said it first, declaring that this year they are expecting to do something “special.”

“This year the goal is to get it in,” Lavin said as he addressed the crowd of 5,308 in a packed Carnesecca Arena. “So let’s get it in.”

While the motto, which was inspired by former Johnny Metta World Peace, started a chant by fans and made its way around social media, the news of the night was that sophomore center Chris Obekpa had been suspended.

Lavin said Obekpa violated “university policy” and will miss two exhibition games, but return to the team in time for the season opener against the University of Wisconsin on November 8. The bad news dulled the mood slightly as it brought back memories of junior D’Angelo Harrison’s suspension last season and the need for the players to become mature.

“I think it will be a valuable learning experience for Chris,” Lavin said. “That’s where the focus is on, the lesson and opportunity to understand that there is a responsibility that comes with representing this basketball program and University.”

Obekpa’s trouble aside, the Tip-Off was once again a fun event for students, residents and past Johnnies to celebrate everything about both men’s and women’s basketball teams and to signal the start of the season.

Much like previous years, the season kickoff event included tons of giveaways and prizes for fans, daredevil performances by the cheerleading squad and energetic performances by the dance team.

Grammy-nominated rapper Lupe Fiasco headlined all performances. In his return to St. John’s he rocked the house with hits, such as Kick Push and Superstar.

The event started with an alumni basketball game, which featured past greats such as Felipe Lopez and Tyrone Grant, and recent Johnnies such as Rob Thomas and Sky Lindsay.

As with tradition the current men’s and women’s basketball team members were introduced one-by-one with fog and music. The women’s basketball team performed a dance-off among themselves and then they separated for a three-point shooting contest.

The men’s basketball team played a scrimmage game, which served as the debut of big man Orlando Sanchez, touted freshman Rysheed Jordan and lethal shooter Max Hooper.

To end the athletic showcase, the men’s team held a dunk contest. Sophomore Christian Jones, who pulled off an amazing 360-through-the-legs jam, took the crown, but Jordan also made a big splash by dunking over 6’8” God’sgift Achiuwa.

And when the event came to an end, the Red Storm knew that playtime was over.

“The energy was crazy. Everyone is excited for the season to start so the energy was off the meter,”said sophomore Phil Greene IV. “This is a key year for us and we’re going to deliver.” 

 

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St. John’s opens season with Tip-Off event


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

A St. John’s athletic communications staffer entered the media room of Carnesecca Arena to face a gaggle of reporters following the men’s basketball team’s October 12 Tip-Off.

He asked the pool which of the “veterans” the reporters would like to speak with. Instinctively, they called out “D’Angelo [Harrison]” and “Amir [Garrett]” and then everyone seemed to look at each other. One reporter asked the staffer if the two were veterans yet.

But in fact Harrison and Garrett, along with Phil Greene, Sir’Dominic Pointer and God’sgift Achiuwa, were tenured players on a team comprised mainly of underclassmen.

Just more than an hour earlier they and the women’s basketball team stormed the court at Carnesecca before hundreds of fans to kickoff the season, which starts for the men’s team on November 13 against Detroit.

For the men’s team, fans first got an introduction mainly of the new recruits, the ESPN No. 8 recruiting class this year, who appeared to be ready to go.

But then, the vets came out and their role was solidified by their teammates. The entire team was on the court, just one man down. He finally appeared, silhouetted behind a screen, adorned with an aisle of cheerleaders.

His teammates formed an arch and started moving faster and faster toward the aisle as Harrison made his way around the screen, entrenched by amped teammates jumping around him as if he hit a walk-off home run to win the World Series.

Harrison, Greene, Pointer and Achiuwa have just a full year of Division I basketball under their belt; Garrett has a half season after being deemed academically ineligible until last January.

Now they have fit into a role that requires them to lead after playing on the youngest roster in the program’s history.

Though he seemed to command his squad during the tipoff’s scrimmages, Harrison said there isn’t a single leader on the team. Rather, each of the five returning veterans has played a different role in mentoring the players, most just a single year younger.

“We’ve got to guide the guys, show them the way basically because we’ve been here, we’ve been through it all,” he said. “More of the guards will come to me and Phil, some of the wing guys will go to Amir and Dom and the big guys will go to Gift. It works out perfectly because we have a leader in every spot.”

Of his “veterans,” head coach Steve Lavin said they would merge well with his new players to form a core that would keep fans and the college basketball world interested.

Harrison improved over the summer in all aspects of the game, Lavin said, adding to his breakout season last year.

“He’s made dramatic improvement across the board as a leader, in playmaking and decision making on the floor and just representing very well,” Lavin said.

The five returning players are now playing a leadership role that was hardly available last year, Garrett said. By each returning player becoming a mentor, the newcomers’ transition to the top level of college ball will be easier and more productive.

“The young guys look up to us being role models,” he said. “We really didn’t have anybody like that last year except Gift and Malik Stith. Now that they have a core to look up to … they have five people that they could look up to and follow, instead of us: last year we only had two. We can show them the way.”

John Starks and St. John’s Dribbles for a Cure


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

In front of nearly 400 students, children and family members, St. John’s men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin stood in his trademark black pants and white sneakers. His focus wasn’t basketball, the upcoming season or the string of new Dribbles recruits he has ushered in.

Instead, Lavin reminded the crowd that cancer, in one way or another, affects everyone sooner or later.

“Cancer will touch everyone at some point in your lifetime,” he said. “Whether it’s you personally going through that battle, just the probabilities, the law of averages, a sibling, a mother or father, a grandfather, someone in the neighborhood, someone that is a good friend. It’s going to touch all of us at some point.”

Lavin, who last year underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer, was one of several St. John’s sports officials who took part in the school’s second “Dribble for the Cure,” held on Saturday, September 22 to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Among those who came out to support the cause were former longtime coaches Lou Carnesecca and Jack Kaiser, women’s basketball coach Joe Tartamella and New York Knicks alum John Starks.

At press time, the event raised around $25,000 for research, according to the school.

Taking a break from training for their upcoming seasons, players on the men’s and women’s basketball teams took part in the dribble, which circled around the school’s campus before reconvening at their home court in Carnesecca Arena.

One of those players, guard Phil Greene, said taking the time out to participate in an event like this really benefited the kids who were battling cancer.

“Giving back to the kids, you give them something to look forward to,” he said. “Giving the time out of our day, it’s nothing because they’re going through a lot of turmoil right now. It just makes you feel good, because they look up to us and we just give them something just to look forward to.”

Starks, who has lost several relatives to cancer, said he lost his grandmother, mother and sister to breast cancer and could empathize what it was like to battle the disease.

“I understand what the families go through, and it’s great to see we’re all here and understanding that this fight is never, never, never ending,” he said.

Lavin, who before the event confirmed to reporters that he is now cancer free, told the participants that their attendance was inspiring and should drive others to support the fight against cancer.

“Clearly, this is an example of the human spirit, and that’s what this is really a celebration of,” he said. “Those that support loved ones that are struggling with the dreaded disease are showing compassion, and compassion is part of the human spirit. Your time is well spent today and I want you to pat yourself on the back for showing up, showing a great example for others to follow and creating great synergy.”