Tag Archives: college basketball

St. John’s hoping for national spotlight as college hoops kicks off


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's University

BY LARRY FLEISHER

Four years ago, Steve Lavin returned to coaching and with a team comprised of mostly recruits from the Norm Roberts’ regime, St. John’s returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

Then, he recruited a class that fans hoped signaled a resurrection of the program so that would be permanently in the national spotlight.

It has not quite worked out that way. With the Red Storm winning 13, 17 and 20 games in the last three years, they’ve proven to be enigmatic at best.

Perhaps last season was the biggest example of St. John’s confounding ways as it opened conference play with five straight closes losses, but then finished with 11 wins in the last 14 games and then were blown at home by Robert Morris in the NIT.

This year Lavin gets one more go-around with his first recruiting class — and D’Angelo Harrison symbolizes the inconsistencies of recent seasons.

Two years ago, he was suspended for poor conduct, but last year he became one of the league’s top scorers by averaging 17.5 points and was named the Haggerty award winner.

Notice the phrase “top scorer” was used, but not top player — even though the honor is supposed to be for the metropolitan areas top college player.

While Harrison’s scoring average was good enough to be the fourth-best in the league, he only shot 38 percent of his hoops.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

St. John’s women’s basketball team playing in Europe


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Lady Johnnies are going international.

Following in the footsteps of the St. John’s men’s basketball team last summer, the women’s basketball team will travel through Italy and Spain for pre-season games in the program’s first experience traveling abroad.

The Red Storm will play four games during the journey from Aug. 16 through Aug. 27, against the Dutch National Team, Adriatic Sea Sirens, Distrito Olimpico Madrid and CB Barcelona Saint Feliuenc. Mixed into the game schedule are sightseeing and service trips to famous spots such as the Coliseum and the Pantheon.

“This opportunity is more about the bigger picture for our players,” head coach Joe Tartamella said. “We’ll have a chance to visit our campus in Rome and be able to do some community service projects.”

The European contests will be the first time the Johnnies play against other teams since having lost their senior leaders, guards Eugeneia McPherson and Briana Brown.

“We’ve had about 10 practices and they’ve probably practiced a lot more together, so it will be a good test for us,” Tartarmella said.

Last season, the Johnnies finished with an overall record of 23-11 and defeated the University of Southern California in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. But the team lost to the University of Tennessee, 67-51, in the second round of the national tournament.

This year the team has added four freshmen, who are expected to see minutes from the pre-season journey. Team members admit that they are still in need of fine-tuning before the season starts and they hope the trip will do just that.

“We’re still trying to put the pieces together, but I think it gives us a better scale overall of where we are going to be in October,” junior guard Danaejah Grant said. “It gives us a jump-start on the other teams that don’t have this same opportunity. I think ultimately it puts us ahead of everyone else.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Robert Morris upsets St. John’s in first round of NIT


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

An unsatisfying season for the St. John’s men’s basketball team ended with a sour taste.

Despite being a No. 1 seed, the Red Storm were upset by the Robert Morris University Colonials in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), 89-78, in front of a small crowd of 1,027 fans at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday, crushing the Johnnieshopes of making a deep postseason run. 

The Colonials, which also defeated top-seeded University of Kentucky in last year’s NIT initial round, opened the game with a 19-2 run in the first five minutes, led by Northeast Conference player of the year Karvel Anderson, who finished with a game-high 38-points, and teammate Lucky Jones, who had 25 points.

St. John’s never led or tied the game once Robert Morris started scoring, and seemed as though the team was still down about not being selected to play in the Big Dance.

“I mean we were pretty upset about the fact that we didn’t make the [NCAA] tournament, but they just started hot and everything that went up, seem like it went in,” junior guard Jamal Branch said.

Branch wasn’t joking. The Colonials shot 48.2 percent from the field for the game and 50 percent (16 of 32) for three.

But in the second half, trailing by 26 points with nine minutes remaining, St. John’s executed a 24-6 run for the following six minutes that chopped the Colonials’ lead down to just eight points. The overly silent crowd turned on like a switch during the comeback and possibility of a win.

St. John’s rifle squad, three point specialists Max Hooper and Marco Bourgault, paced the Red Storm’s surge. Hooper finished with a career-high 18 points, shooting 6 of 12 from behind the arc.

And with under a minute remaining, Branch hit four three pointers to draw the Red Storm within seven points, but the Johnnies had run out of time.

St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin hinted maybe things could have been different if the freshman star point guard Rysheed Jordan, who was out suffering from tonsillitis, was available, but said he told the team to focus on next season.

“Tonight was disappointing because we didn’t bring forth the effort or purposefully play that would have allowed us to be competitive,” Lavin said. “Next season we’ll be the veteran group, probably returning as many lettermen as any team in the league. Next year obviously the goals, aspirations will be ratcheted up, because of what we return.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Walk-on is only St. John’s men’s basketball player from Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

At the annual St. John’s men’s and women’s basketball media day event on Thursday, October 10, junior forward Khadim Ndiaye sat peacefully, watching.

He observed his teammates as they were being interviewed one on one or sometimes by a horde of reporters. Then he swiftly pulled out a glasses case and put on a pair of glossy plastic spectacles, similar to what basketball superstars Kevin Durant and LeBron James have worn during media interviews.

“I just wanted to look professional,” Ndiaye said.

Eventually a reporter from a local weekly came over to talk to Ndiaye. That was it. No ESPN, no New York Daily News, not even the student newspaper, the Torch, or student TV station, WRED, which was busy drooling over a limited chat with head coach Steve Lavin or sensational junior guard D’Angelo Harrison.

It’s expected for a walk-on player, such as Ndiaye. But on this global team, congested with mega recruits and future NBA players that hail from as far as Texas (Harrison), France (Marc-Antoine Bourgault), Nigeria (Chris Obekpa) and the Dominican Republic (Orlando Sanchez), that walk-on is the only player capable of calling Queens, New York City or even the tri-state area, home.

The days of local products such as Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, Erick Barkley and most recently Maurice Harkless, are gone for a break. It’s not like Lavin isn’t trying to draw local players. The fourth-year head coach made a push to acquire the services of Brooklyn’s Isaiah Whitehead, who was ranked 20th in the country by ESPNU. But the Lincoln High School star instead chose to play for conference rival Seton Hall University.

So now there’s just Ndiaye, a Queens native from Far Rockaway, who played on Christ the King High School, which is just a few miles to the west of St. John’s. He is following in the steps of past Johnnies, Barkley, Omar Cook and Malik Boothe, all of which played for the Royals.

After high school Ndiaye played Division II basketball at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, where he scored 8.5 points per game and grabbed 4.9 boards in 27 games, but he became homesick and transferred to St. John’s.

“I didn’t like the feel over there, in terms of being away from home,” Ndiaye said.

Nydia is soft spoken, but assertive. He won’t tell you that he’s beaten 2012-2013 Big East Rookie of the Year sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson in one-on-one games — although Sampson has the upper hand in total matches—but he’ll acknowledge they’ve played.

“Khadim is one of the best one-on-one players I’ve ever faced to be honest with you,” Sampson said. “The way he dribble the ball is awkward so it kind of throws you off.”

This season, like any other, Ndiaye’s goal is to help his team win. This ranges from cheerleading on the sidelines to practicing hard to increase his minutes on the floor, a daunting task that seems near impossible with the influx of top level recruits Lavin has made in the past few seasons.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

St. John’s women’s basketball team looks to continue dynasty


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The St. John’s University women’s basketball team has big shoes to fill.

With last year’s departure of seniors Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith to the WNBA — the first female Red Storm players ever drafted to the league — the team has some gaping holes.

Smith and McKenith were the key players of the greatest dynasty of St. John’s women’s basketball, which included four-straight NCAA tournament appearances for the Red Storm and the team’s first-ever Sweet Sixteen berth. But with the stellar pair and other key players gone that means new players have to step up.

“No matter that our face has changed our goals stay the same, our expectations stay the same,” said head coach Joe Tartamella.

Sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford, the reigning All-Met Rookie of the Year and a 2012-2013 Big East Conference All-Freshman team selection, will be a major factor to determine how the Red Storm fare in the new-look Big East. Handford scored 9.4 points per game last year and averaged 4.5 rebounds per game, and those numbers are expected to balloon this year.

“To be honest I think it’ll be great to be the top player on the team,” Handford said. “I think we can go further than we did last year.”

In the front court junior forward Amber Thompson, who averaged 6.5 rebounds per game last year, is returning to pound the boards and solidify the Johnnies’ interior defense.

The Red Storm also has a cast of returning guards that can push the ball, such as seniors Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown, and sophomore Ashley Perez.

Redshirt senior Eugeneia McPherson, who was inactive last year due to a season-ending knee injury, expects to be able to take the court when conference play begins.

But as one of the only seniors on the team and the only current player who has been through all four-straight NCAA tournaments, McPherson will be counted on for her experience to direct the team.

With this mix of experience, top players and team chemistry, the Red Storm is confident that they can continue the dynasty to a fifth year.

“We have a great group of young ladies that have been working hard,” Tartamella said. “We will put a product out there that will make our fans, alumni and university proud.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

St. John’s basketball loses forward Amir Garrett


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

BY JON PEREZ

St. John’s sophomore Amir Garrett announced his intent to transfer from the men’s basketball program over Twitter on April 2.

“After a long thought process of speaking with my family, I will be leaving the St. John’s Basketball Program,” Garrett said. “It was a well thought-out decision that didn’t just pop out of nowhere. St. John’s will always have a special place in my heart.”

The 6’6” forward said in a release that he intended to transfer to another program, but that he will “always be a Johnny at heart.”

“We appreciate Amir’s contributions to the St. John’s basketball program and wish him well in all of his future endeavors,” head coach Steve Lavin said in a statement. “He played a valuable role in our rebuilding efforts and represented our program well as a student-athlete.”

Garrett averaged 6.4 points per game in 55 games during his two seasons with the Red Storm. He joined the team in December 2011 after being one of three players to be declared academically ineligible at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year.

This season, Garrett saw his playing time decrease from 26.9 minutes per game to 20.4 as he averaged 5.5 points.
Garrett said over Twitter that he intended to continue to focus on his baseball career. He is currently a top 20 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, with whom he signed a deal with a $1 million signing bonus. He can’t collect that bonus until he decides to stop playing NCAA basketball to preserve eligibility.

He began his minor league career last summer, where he made seven appearances and five starts, according to the St. John’s release. He held the opposition to a .255 average before being promoted from the AZL Reds of the rookie-level Arizona league to the Billings Mustangs of the Billings Mustangs. He made two starts there.

The forward’s transfer opens one scholarship spot on a roster that was at its limit of players before the departure. St. John’s is currently pursuing point guard Rysheed Jordan, who is ranked No. 22 on ESPN’s top 100 recruits list. His choices are down to St. John’s, Temple and UCLA and he will make a verbal offer on April 11.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

‘The new’ Big East


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY CRAIG GIAMMONA

If the 2013 Big East tournament was a funeral for what had been one of the nation’s best college basketball conferences, then a Wednesday, March 20 press conference announcing a 12-year television deal between Fox Sports and the new Big East could be called a rebirth.

St. John’s and the other so-called “Catholic 7” universities will be joined by Creighton, Xavier and Butler in the new Big East starting next season and the conference will keep its postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden, officials said.

The Big East will get back to its roots next season after slowly being pulled apart by a flirtation with big-time football. And St. John’s fans are welcoming the change.

Rather than bemoaning the loss of Connecticut and Syracuse, two of the conference’s founding members, longtime St. John’s supporters are anticipating the formation of a hoops-oriented league that harks back to the program’s heyday in the 1980s.

“If you look at the teams that were in the Big East at that time, it was a basketball-centric conference and when people look back at that era, those were the best times,” said Chris Holbrook, 33, a Long Island attorney who grew up rooting for St. John’s and graduated from law school there in 2005.

The Big East started as a basketball conference, but slowly expanded over the years in a drive to be a relevant football league as well. Big East officials acknowledged Wednesday that the push toward football, which they said was undertaken to “accommodate” Syracuse and Boston College, had ultimately led to the demise of the conference.

But St. John’s fans aren’t necessarily disappointed with the results, and they believe the new Big East’s focus on basketball will bring stability to the league.

“It won’t be the same, but I’m looking forward to getting back to basketball,” said Gus Stanzione, a 1981 alumni from Staten Island who was headed into the Garden about an hour before the Red Storm were set to take on Villanova in the Big East tournament. “That’s when the problems started – when they started going after football.”

The 12-year television deal will give the conference a home on Fox Sports, and maintaining a foothold in New York City should help the league build its profile, just as it did when the Big East tournament moved to the Garden in 1983.

“Keeping the Garden is huge,” said Tom Shanahan, a 1987 St. John’s graduate who grew up here but now lives in Indianapolis. “It’s probably more important for those other schools, but it’s big to stay in the city.”

Shanahan and other St. John’s fans said keeping the postseason tournament at the Garden will help schools in the conference continue attracting talented local players, who are often more willing to leave home for college with the promise of returning to the city each year for at least a few games.

The Garden has long been a recruiting tool for St. John’s and fans of the team said the departure of Syracuse, arguably the most popular team in the city, could help the Red Storm once again rise to prominence here in New York.

“I think it could make St. John’s the New York team,” Stanzione said.

Shanahan, who attended St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows, hadn’t been inside the Garden in 15 years and made trip to watch St. John’s.

“Honestly, to get to see St. John’s and the rest of the teams I grew up watching, that’s pretty big for me,” Shanahan said. “That’s going to be a good basketball conference.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

St. John’s women’s basketball team falls short in NCAA tournament


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

BY LIAM LAGUERRE

With the odds were against the St. John’s women’s basketball team this season, they were normally able to overcome.

The season began under a rookie head coach, had a slow start and lost a starter from an early injury, but the Red Storm battled its way into the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

Looking once again to overcome a tough challenge, the 10th seed Red Storm eliminated a 13-point deficit to force overtime against seventh seed University of Dayton with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

But the Red Storm’s season came to an end as the Flyers, lead by sophomore Andrea Hoover’s 24 points and seven rebounds, won in double overtime, 96-90, on March 24, in front of 2,717 fans.

This was the team’s fourth consecutive NCAA elimination, but the first-ever women’s basketball tournament hosted at Carnesecca Arena.

“We could have gave up,” said head coach Joe Tartamella. “I thought our players made great plays, I thought they made important plays to get us back in the game and you know we came up short. That’s what it comes down to.”

In the second overtime the Red Storm ran out of offensive. Dayton’s (28-2) Kelley Austria set the pace for the Flyers by scoring seven points in the final overtime.

St. John’s senior Shenneika Smith, who had 18 points and five rebounds in 50 minutes, didn’t score in the final five. And senior Nadirah McKenith, who narrowly missed a triple-double with 22 points, ten assists and nine rebounds, played 44 minutes, but fouled out in the first overtime.

“We play in a lot, a lot of minutes, and that’s just who we are, there’s no excuse,” Tartamella said. “At that point in the game though and at this point in the season, and for what’s on the line, you can’t be tired.”

The Red Storm (18-13) struggled to keep pace with the Flyers until the final minutes by tightening on defense and chipping away at the Flyer’s double-digit lead.

Down two points with 5.7 seconds left in regulation, McKenith took charge. She dribbled the length of the court and scored a layup around two Dayton defenders at the buzzer to tie the game, 75-75, and force overtime.

The senior guard thought she could see the outcome of the game after that play.

“We knew once we were going in overtime we thought we could beat them, we had to make a push,” McKenith said. “We just went out there and fought. We thought we had the momentum, but we didn’t.”

The game marks the end of McKenith and Smith’s college careers and although the pair has been defeated in four consecutive NCAA appearances, this loss left an even bitter taste.

“We’ll always remember this one,” Smith said. “This one probably hurt more than freshman year, because it’s our last one. At least when we lost when we were freshman we had a couple more years to try and get back.”

But there was a bright spot in freshman guard Ashley Perez, who checked in from the second half, and hit some big shots to help the Johnnies almost complete the upset.

Down by six with 1:05 remaining, McKenith found an open Perez, who hit a three pointer to close the gap to just one possession.  Perez finished with 17 points in 21 minutes, paving the way for the future of the Red Storm.

“It was exciting,” Perez said. “Coach called it yesterday in practice. He said ‘I might hit some big shots today.’ So it was just nice knowing that everyone believed in me.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

St. John’s basketball player suspended for rest of season, including playoffs


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Torch

As they faced a home stretch with three games left in the season, the Big East Tournament and prospects of making the NCAA tournament, shutting down the lead scorer and team captain might not have been expected.

But St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin announced Friday, March 1 he was suspending guard D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season and any playoff appearances, citing “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to news sources.

Lavin added the suspension was not from one single issue or incident, but rather a culmination of things over time.

The news came as a surprise to some St. John’s students and fans, but the decision, Lavin said in a statement, would only help Harrison in the long run.

“I had a productive meeting with D’Angelo yesterday,” Lavin said. “He has a bright future in basketball and I’m optimistic his time away from our team will be of value.”

Lavin told reporters that Harrison, who had a breakout premier season last year, had to talk to his parents over the weekend but intended to come back next season and finish his degree at St. John’s.

“He was sincere and had conviction about wanting to finish his career here,” Lavin said. “Even though he’s suspended from the team, you can’t forget the positive contributions he’s made. But again, it’s just a coach’s decision that it’s in his best interest at this juncture to take a time out, get some distance from basketball, and he can earn his way back on to this team by having a good stretch of good behavior, good conduct and all the things that are very basic that we expect at St. John’s.”

The Red Storm will now have to step up in Harrison’s absence as they’ll be without their lead scorer, who averaged 17 points per game. In its game against the Providence Friars the following evening, the game was close but the Johnnies ultimately fell 62-59.

At a pregame press conference, Sir’Dominic Pointer said although the team was saddened by the news, he and his teammates would have to go the extra mile to keep the Johnnies’ momentum in full force.

“I was sad to hear that but we love him to death and we wish him well and we want him to come back soon,” he said. “But we’re in the middle of the season. We’ve got to keep playing. And other people need to step up and take minutes.”

Some students were shocked by the news but are hopeful it doesn’t hurt the team’s chances in the Big East.

“I don’t really know what to say, I was shocked,” said St. John’s sophomore Tyrell Hester. “I don’t understand why they did it. They didn’t really give us a reason, so it doesn’t make much sense to me. It really hurts our chances, especially so close to the tournament.”

Junior Elpido Camilo shared the same sentiment.

“It’s a tough loss and it hurts our chances, but what can you do?” he said. “Hopefully they don’t use it as an excuse.

They need to play with more effort now. They need to step up. It’s a team sport anyway.”

–With additional reporting by Anthony O’Reilly

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

St. John’s basketball focuses on NCAA Tournament


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Lavin

It was mid-October when guard D’Angelo Harrison sat in the corner of the media workroom at Carnessecca Arena.

The Red Storm had just ceremoniously kicked off its forthcoming season and was less than a month away from its first game, a November 13 matchup against Detroit.

It was the only thing Harrison said he and his teammates were focused on. Not the next five games, or who would be the toughest opponent of the season.

But as the season winds down, the Johnnies are still in the struggle to the NCAA Tournament and have kept that laser focus on each game.

With three games left in the regular season — against Providence, Notre Dame and Marquette — the team faces a tough climb toward the tournament.

“The next game is always important because the past games are in the past, but it’s looking forward: all of our focus is on this Pitt game,” said forward Amir Garrett on the eve of the February 24 matchup against Pitt, which the team ended up losing, 63-47.

Garrett said he didn’t even know his team’s record until the pregame meeting before the team faced off against the University of South Florida about two weeks ago. If he, or any of his teammates, focused on anything outside of that game, they’d lose the finesse that’s helped them to a 16-11 record.

“To be honest I didn’t know what our record was,” said Garrett, who averages about 6 points a game. “We’re just looking forward to playing our next game, and we’re not worried about that. We’re just looking to get wins.”

The sentiments were echoed by teammate Chris Obekpa: “We’re taking it game at a time. Let the future take care of itself – win every game as it comes.”

The fan base has been a supporting component in the Red Storm’s continued push to make the Big Dance, said head coach Steve Lavin. The revived support, he said, continued to grow as the program succeeded in recruiting and retaining a winning record.

“If we’re doing those things, I think the fans come and it’s nice when we have that turn out at Carnesecca or at the Garden,” he said. “Because clearly it’s an advantage to have a good home court where the fans are energized and are pulling for our players because that fuels the momentum of the team that’s moving in the right direction.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.”

Moe Harkless named Big East Rookie of the Week


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of St. John's University

St. John’s freshmen continue to rack up accolades as Moe Harkless was named the Big East’s Rookie of the Week, the conference announced.

This is Harkless’ second Rookie of the Week honor and the third time a Red Storm player has taken home the award this year.

The Queens native averaged 18 points per game and 9.5 rebounds while playing every minute of the Johnnies’ two wins last week, including their first victory over a top 25 team this season.

St. John’s (13-16, 6-10 Big East) had lost their first 10 games against ranked opponents this year before besting 18th-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday 61-58 at Madison Square Garden. Earlier in the week the Johnnies defeated DePaul 79-72 at Carnesecca Arena during Senior Night.

For the Johnnies this year, though, it has been almost all freshmen. The team plays only one junior and starts five freshmen — the “Fresh Five.”

Harkless was not the only “Fresh Five” member to have a big week. D’Angelo Harrison played all but one minute over the team’s two games, averaging 19 points, and is now within six points of the Johnnies freshmen scoring record set by Erick Barkley in 1999.

Harrison will most likely not be the only freshmen to surpass the mark, as Harkless is just 40 points shy of the record with two games and the Big East tournament to go.

Harrison and Harkless are first and second in the conference in freshmen scoring, respectively, and Harkless leads all Big East freshmen in rebounding.

The Red Storm finish up their conference slate at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and at Rutgers on Saturday at 8 p.m.

 

Malik Stith leaves St. John’s basketball program


| brennison@queenscourier.com

St. John’s already thin rotation is down another man, as the team’s only returning player — Malik Stith — decided to leave the program.

Stith’s departure leaves the Johnnies with six first-year players in the rotation — five freshmen and a junior college transfer.

Citing personal reasons, Stith chose to step aside as a member of the team. He will continue at the university.

“Right now, I feel that I need to do what is best for my family. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me at St. John’s and pleased to be able to continue to make progress toward my degree,” Stith said. “Coach [Steve] Lavin and I have met and talked over the past couple days about my future and the interest I have in contributing to the team as a student.”

“We’ll miss Malik’s contributions on the court but we are pleased he will continue as a member of our basketball program in his new capacity with the Johnnies,” Lavin said.

The Head Coach added that Stith will continue to add value to St. John’s basketball family.

Stith had played in all 23 Red Storm games going into last night, starting five. He averaged 14.6 minutes and 2.6 points per game.

The young Red Storm have experienced much tumult since arriving on campus: Steve Lavin underwent surgery to treat his prostate cancer and has been on the sidelines for only two games, three players were declared academically ineligible and Stith is the second player to leave the program — Nurideen Lindsay left the team in December.

After last night’s game, a 76-54 loss at home to Cincinnati, Stith’s former teammates spoke about losing a member of the family.

“He was one of the leaders on the team, so it definitely hurts,” freshmen guard D’Angelo Harrison said. “It means other players have to step up and fill his role.”

On numerous occasions throughout the season Harrison has credited Stith with helping him keep his emotions in check and his head in the game.

“That’s our brother,” said Moe Harkless. “To lose him is tough, but we’ve just got to stick together and play with what we’ve got.”

Ten players saw action in last night’s game, though the playing time came after the game was out of reach.

St. John’s  (10-14, 4-8 BIG EAST) heads to Washington, D.C. to face the #11/#12 Georgetown Hoyas on Sunday, February 18.

 

St. John’s trounced by Syracuse 95-70


| brennison@queenscourier.com

St. John’s-Syracuse games at MadisonSquareGarden often have a buzz as both squads’ lay claim to being New York’s team. This day though belonged to second-ranked Syracuse as the Orange (23-1, 10-1 Big East) trounced the Red Storm (10-13, 4-7) 95-70.  Throughout the game – especially in the second half – the sold-out Garden sounded more like the Carrier Dome –Syracuse’s home court.

Chants of “Let’s go Orange” filled Syracuse’s “second home” as the team increased their lead, continually getting easy baskets.

St. John’s has now played nine ranked teams this year – including the number one and number two teams in the nation – losing each game. The Johnnies beat six ranked opponents last year.

The Johnnies fell behind early and could never claw their way back into the game. Confronted with the same situation they faced against Duke a week prior – trailing by more than 20 points against a top 10 team – St. John’s could not make the stops they needed to go on a sustained run. 

Syracuse’s size allowed them to play above the rim and get the shots they wanted all game – the team shot 56 percent from the field and had 52 points in the paint.

“We moved the ball really well,” said Jim Boeheim, who tied Dean Smith for third place on the all-time wins list with 879. “We got really good shots every time down the court.”

 “Beginning, middle and end, they dominated us on the boards and they converted off of those second chance points,” said assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who continues to fill in for Steve Lavin as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

The Orange grabbed 16 of their 31 misses converting many second chance scoring opportunities.

Any hopes of a Red Storm comeback were squelched within the second half’s first two and a half minutes as the Orange went on a 9-0 run and Moe Harkless picked up his third and fourth fouls forcing him to the bench.

The Johnnies were never able to get within 20 after the Orange’s early second half run.

St. John’s all-freshmen starting lineup – the “Fresh Five” – was not on the court at the opening tip for the first time in four games as D’Angelo Harrison was late for the bus and sat out the opening 2 minutes.

After being held scoreless over the game’s first three minutes and thirty seconds, Syracuse went on a 12-2 run to take a lead they never relinquished.  A 6-0 run to end the first half pushed the Orange’s lead into double digits and then their 9-0 run to open the second half put the game out of reach.

The 95 points was the most St. John’s has given up all year and the most a Big East team has scored in a conference game this season.

Harrison led the Johnnies with 23 points and added five assists and four rebounds.

Fab Melo – in his first game back from suspension – Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair led 10 Orange in the scoring column with 14 points

St. John’s next faces Cincinnati (15-7, 5-4) on Wednesday, February 8 at MSG.  The Johnnies defeated the Bearcats earlier this year 57-55 atCincinnati.

St.John’s ends skid, beats West Virginia 78-62


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The youth movement – which had been in effect all season for St. John’s– might now need a nickname.

Playing possibly their most complete game of the season, St. John’s (9-11, 3-6 Big East) defeated West Virginia (15-6, 5-3), 78-62.

Halfway through the Big East schedule, the young team –St. John’s starting lineup consisted of all freshman – learned losses could quickly pile up during conference play.  The team had lost four in a row and six of seven.

“You have to play have to play hard for 40 minutes in the Big East,” said Harrison.  “No game is safe.”

The all freshmen lineup is one Head Coach Steve Lavin has been discussing in team meetings, telling Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap to go with it when he felt it.

Dunlap has taken the reins of the team as Lavin recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

While rare for a program to start five freshmen, it is not unprecedented.

“Unfortunately, in 1992 I saw the Fab Five and I didn’t like that much,” West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins said after the game.  “I didn’t like this a whole lot more.”

St. John’s trotted out their own version of famed freshmen dubbed the “Wonder Five” in the late 1920s.

The still-developing team jumped out to an early lead for the third time in the last four games, but this time out was able to sustain that lead.  

Prior to the game Dunlap laid out three goals for the team: play West Virginia even on the boards, run and make adjustments during the game – the team has struggled closing out games recently.

The Red Storm out rebounded West Virginia 25-18 in the first half while jumping out to a 16-point lead; they out scored the Mountaineers 22-5 in fast break points; and after the game Dunlap said he was pleased with the team’s defensive energy in the second half.

The Johnnies held West Virginia to just three of 14 shooting over the games first 12 minutes, allowing them to take an early 21-6 lead.  The Mountaineers, who never got closer than nine in the second half, shot below 36 percent from the field for only the third time this year.

Moe Harkless led four Johnnies in double figures with 23 points.

Harkless outplayed West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, the Big East’s leading scorer and rebounder, on both ends of the floor in the first half while the Johnnies built their lead.  Jones, a favorite for the Big East Player of the Year award, did most of his damage in the second half with the game out of reach, scoring 20 of his 26 points. 

Speaking about Harkless after the game, the senior Jones said the first-year player impressed him and had a chance to develop into a really good player.

Harkless, 13 rebounds, recorded his seventh double double while adding three blocks.  Phil Greene finished with a season-high 8 assists.

“Today we just played great,” Harkless said.  “We’re getting better every game.”

The Johnnies now travel to Duke to take on the #6/8 Blue Devils Saturday at noon. St. John’s defeated Duke at MSG last season 93-78.