Tag Archives: chris obekpa

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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Johnnies take season opener


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Celebrating head coach Steve Lavin’s return to the sideline, St. John’s opened the season with a block party.

In his collegiate debut, freshman Chris Obekpa broke the school record with eight blocks, leading the Johnnies to a 77-74 win in their season opener against Detroit on Tuesday, November 13.

“I just kept playing like the heat was on. I thought I played OK. It could have been better,” said Obeka of his performance. “I want to have 10 blocks next game.”

The Red Storm swatted 12 Detroit shots, falling one short of the team record set in 1982.

Expectations remain low for the Johnnies who did not give a minute to an upperclassmen in the opener and gave three freshmen significant playing time. The team finished 13-19 last year.

“There’s going to be stretches where you play brilliantly because you recruited well, but there’s also going to be stretches because of our youth where we do some things that drive a coach crazy, leave you pulling out your hair,” said Lavin, who returned to the bench after coaching just four games last season because of prostate cancer surgery, calling his team’s play “uneven.”

Big East coaches chose the youthful Johnnies to finish 10th in a preseason conference poll.

“We have guys who haven’t played in a game like this and to have them step up and make plays was amazing,” said sophomore D’Angelo Harrison.

Harrison paced St. John’s in points with 22 off the bench. The sophomore, who was named to the preseason All-Big East second team, was benched in the second preseason game after receiving limited minutes in the first for what Lavin called a lack of leadership qualities.

The 2 p.m. game was part of ESPN’s 24-hour college basketball opening day marathon.

The Johnnies now head to South Carolina for the DirecTV Charleston Classic beginning on November 15. The team returns home for a November 21 match up with Holy Cross.