Tag Archives: d’angelo harrison

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.

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St. John’s men’s basketball shaky in first exhibition game of the season


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin promised that this year the Red Storm would do something special.

But it certainly didn’t look that way in the Johnnies’ 2013-2014 pre-season debut, an exhibition game against the Division II San Francisco University State Gators on Saturday.

The Red Storm struggled throughout the game, shooting just 41.3 percent from the floor, while allowing the Gators to shoot 51.6 percent. The Johnnies, however, managed to escape with an 82-80 win.

“Clearly there are a number of aspects both defensively and offensively that we need to clean up,” Lavin said. “We went down the list of areas that we need to improve upon and then also gave them credit for having the resourcefulness to find a way to win on a night where things weren’t going well for us, and that’s an important trait.”

The Red Storm squeaked out the win due to junior guard D’Angelo Harrison’s big shots with seconds remaining. Harrison, who led the Red Storm by scoring 29 points, hit a mid-range jump shot over two defenders with 16.7 seconds left in the game to give St. John’s an 81-80 lead.

After a defensive stop on the ensuing play, Harrison was fouled and knocked down one of two free throws to expand the lead. With just 4.8 seconds remaining, the Gators took a final three-point attempt, but missed what would have been the game-winning shot.

“I don’t care what division it is, it’s hard to come back, especially the way they were playing and executing,” Harrison said. “It was good that we pulled it out.”

With 8:02 left to play, the Red Storm was trailing 73-65 and were forced to play catch-up. The Johnnies put together an 8-2 run to make the score 75-73 with just 5:54 remaining.

God’sgift Achiuwa, who returned after sitting out a year, lead the comeback with four points, two rebounds and one block. In his first game since the 2011-2012 season, Achiuwa totaled nine rebounds and eight points in 20 minutes.

Besides Achiuwa, newcomers senior Orlando Sanchez and freshman Rysheed Jordan played well throughout the game as well. Sanchez had nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Jordan scored 16 points and had a big play in his college debut.

Down 80-77, Jordan ran the length of the floor and hit a crucial layup to pull the Johnnies within one point with 1:53 remaining.

“He was hype but at the same time he was calm,” junior guard Sir’Dominic Pointer said of Jordan. “He came out ready to play and he had a great game tonight. He came out and showed us what he could do. I expect a lot from him this season.”

With just six days remaining until the Red Storm face No. 20 Wisconsin on the road for their season opener, the Johnnies have just one more exhibition game against Humboldt State on Monday.

While the Red Storm believe they will be ready for the season opener, Lavin feels that it will take a while before they fully gel together.

“We are still two to three months away from playing our best basketball,” Lavin said. “But I think we could surprise some people along the way and get some wins, and maybe do better than some would think in that next two months.”

 

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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 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

 

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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.

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.”

Queens native and St. John’s freshman Moe Harkless declares for NBA Draft


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Harkless2

After an award-winning freshman season, Moe Harkless has decided to test the waters of the NBA draft.

The Queens native announced his decision on Monday, March 19 at Madison Square Garden alongside his mother Rosa and Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin.

“It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA, and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” said Harkless. “I am grateful to my teammates and coaches at St. John’s. I would like to thank Coach Lavin, our staff and my teammates for being there for me throughout the whole season.”

Draft projections have the 6-foot-8-inch small forward being picked in the middle of the first round.

Harkless capped his celebrated first season at St. John’s — he was sixth nationally among freshmen in scoring and third in rebounding — by being named the Big East Rookie of the Year.

A stat-sheet filler, Harkless finished with per game averages of 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks.

While many fans were excited about the direction the team was headed behind this year’s “Fresh 5,” Lavin has said that players leaving early for the NBA helps the program gain traction on the recruiting trail.

“We are proud of what Moe and our young group accomplished this season — Moe is an example that St. John’s is once again a destination for top-caliber talent and we look forward to following his progress,” Lavin said.

Speaking about his teammates, Harkless said, “We have been through a lot together and I know everyone is excited for me. I know if we all keep working hard, a lot of us will be playing together in the league someday. I believe this is only the beginning for Coach Lavin and his successful legacy at St. John’s.”

Next year’s team should return five of the six players in the Johnnies’ rotation and add Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch. JaKarr Sampson has recommitted to the Red Storm after being declared academically ineligible before the season and the team also received a verbal commitment from Felix Balamou.

“I really enjoyed playing with Moe,” said D’Angelo Harrison who set the St. John’s record for points by a freshman. “He is a great player and I wish him luck and success in the NBA. I hope to join him in the league in a few years.”

The last Red Storm player to be drafted was Omar Cook in 2001. Cook, who was also a freshman when he entered the draft, is often touted as an example of college players leaving too early. He was taken in the second round and played in only 22 NBA games in his career.

Harkless can still return to St. John’s if he does not sign with an agent, though he is in the process of finding one. Players have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft which will be held on June 28.

 

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.

 

St. John’s falls to #11 Georgetown at MSG


| brennison@queenscourier.com

After jumping out to an early 13-5 lead, St. John’s struggled to find an offensive groove and fell to the 11th ranked Georgetown Hoyas 69-49.

The Johnnies (8-9, 2-4 Big East) scored just six points over the last 12 minutes of the first half after their quick start allowing the Hoyas a chance to get take a lead they never relinquished.

Both teams struggled from the field in the first half – each squad shot under 35 percent. The Johnnies shooting troubles continued in the second half – the team shot 8-27 after hitting only 9-27 shots in the first half.

Shooting has been an issue all year for St. John’s – they came into the game second to last in the conference in field goal percentage and dead last in 3-point field goal percentage.

The length of the Hoyas did not make the Johnnies shooting struggles any easier. Georgetown played six guys over 6-foot-8-inches tall; many times having four on the court at the same time.

“They were really long,” said Moe Harkless. “I think we didn’t do a great job of attacking their zone.”

Georgetown (14-3, 4-2) discovered their shooting stroke at half time, led by Hollis Thompson who made all seven of his shots in the second half, including five three pointers, after missing all six of his shots over the game’s first 20 minutes.

Twice in the second half the Johnnies were able to climb to within three, but each time saw the Hoyas immediately answer with a sustained run. After St. John’s made it 28-25, Georgetown scored nine straight points to stretch their lead to a dozen. The Red Storm were again within one possession of tying the game with 6:36 remaining in the game before Georgetown closed the game on a 21-4 run.

A majority of the Red Storm offense came from the Queens native Harkless. The freshman had nine of the team’s 17 field goals while scoring 21 points.

The team managed just one field goal over the last 5:15 following Harkless picking up his fifth and final foul.

Reigning Big East Rookie of the Week D’Angelo Harrison suffered through the worst game of his college career scoring only five points on 1-12 shooting and committing several key turnovers on fast breaks.

“I have to do a better job of slowing down and finding the open guy,” Harrison said after the game. “Like coach says find the path that’s open, not the one you want.”

The 19 points the Johnnies scored in the first half was their lowest scoring half of the season. The game also marked the first time St. John’s was held under 50 points. The Red Storm have lost all seven games played this year against ranked opponents after beating six last year.

St. John’s now travels to South Florida (10-8, 3-2) to face the Bulls on Wednesday, January 18.