Tag Archives: Johnnies

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.”

 

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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.”

 

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St. John’s men’s basketball team all grown up


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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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St. John’s third annual Dribble For The Cure raises $55K for cancer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

About two years ago St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin announced he had prostate cancer and would need surgery.

Lavin missed most of the following season and had a successful surgery and recovery, but for members of the university and especially the men’s basketball team, talking about cancer still hits home.

“Coach always talks about the struggle of it and the importance of giving back to the community and you can tell its coming from a good place,” said sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson.

With the most anticipated season in the Lavin era before them the men’s basketball team joined the women’s team to co-host the  third annual St. John’s Dribble For The Cure on Saturday, in which more than 500 people participated and more than $55,000 was raised for pediatric cancer.

“It’s definitely special to beat an opponent like Villanova or a Notre Dame, but it’s even more rewarding to see our players participate in an event like Dribble For The Cure,” Lavin said. “We want to compete in every game, but helping find a cure for cancer is even a more worthy cause than winning a basketball game.”

At the event participants  dribbled basketballs in teams around St. John’s campus. Teams and individuals also raised money prior to the event and donated it to the cause. The participants that raised the most money received autographed shirts and basketballs from St. John’s players and coaches.

Before the dribble tour there was a festival of free food, giveaways, games and performances from the St. John’s cheerleaders and the pep band. Then in the opening ceremony New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson made a guest appearance.

“It’s an honor to be here,” stated Woodson. “I had a sister who died of cancer many years ago, so I’m a big supporter of fighting cancer and finding a cure.”

Participants came from Queens and much farther to support the annual event.

Larry Kovacs, a St. John’s alum, and his family traveled from Pennsylvania for the second straight time to dribble around the campus. Last year his daughter Jenna, 5, was so young she couldn’t dribble the basketball and he had to carry her across the finish line. But this year Jenna dribbled the entire way by herself.

“We’re blessed with three healthy children and its just a way for us to give back and help others that are less fortunate,” Kovacs said. “It’s a very positive experience for us, it teaches good qualities and characteristics for our children.”

 

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


| 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.”

 

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St. John’s University announces streaming deal with ESPN


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

You can now watch the Johnnies on the go.

St. John’s University recently announced a streaming deal with ESPN3 that will bring 60 athletic events to more than 80 million households across the country on computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox live.

St. John’s is the sixth school to reach such a deal. Other schools include North Carolina State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson.

Besides the popular men’s basketball team, senior associate director of athletic communications Mark Fratto said the 60 games will encompass woman’s hoops, fencing, lacrosse, and more.

“We wanted a wider variety of programming,” Fratto said. “It actually started with the final baseball games last year.”

Fratto hopes to broadcast more than 100 games in the near future under a similar deal.

The games will be filmed and produced by STJ-TV, the campus’ athletic TV station. Students from STJ-TV will work alongside freelancing professionals in the broadcasting industry, according to director of multimedia services Sean McCluskey.

McCluskey explained that the games will be shot and produced at the site of the game. A signal will then be transmitted to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., where it will then be sent out nationwide.

Amy Rio, a senior studying TV and film and a member of the STJ-TV crew, believes that working to produce a game will transcend the education she’s received inside the classroom.

“What I’ve seen from working with the students is that the field time is when they really learn,” she said. “But that’s not because the class is poorly taught, it’s just the nature of learning production. Real life practice in a real live situation will teach you more than you’ll ever learn in a class.

Rio also believes the deal will also benefit the school in terms of attracting potential students.

“St. John’s isn’t known for its television production program and this deal with ESPN puts us on the map,” she said.  “[It] makes the university more appealing to students who are looking to go into the field of television, which is a great thing.”

Students participating in a TV and film practicum class will also be working to film and produce the games.

The practicum class is run by Professor Susan Weber. The class allows participating students to earn three credits in addition to working a minimum of 125 hours of field experience in working to broadcast the games.

The minimum hours might seem like a lot but, according to Weber, most students surpass this number with ease.

“It is real work, exciting and interesting,” she said. “Kind of addictive.”

Weber explained that students will meet inside the classroom once a week for lessons and training.

“In addition to some lecture, theory, discussion and review, during class time there are break-out sessions,” said Weber. “The class is divided into small groups; each group is paired with the professor, and with STJ-TV staff for training on various professional production procedures, techniques, and equipment.”

McCluskey said he works with the students enrolled in the course as a “tech manager,” teaching them how to work with equipment such as the cameras and switchboards used during the games.

Weber said the practicum course has been running since the spring 2012 semester, and plans are being made to incorporate students from different majors.

Fratto said St. John’s current TV contract is set to expire soon and they are considering their options.

“We want to see what rights are available to us to engage in a similar deal like this one,” he said.

 

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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.”

Two Johnnies fence for Olympic gold


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

red storm fencers

The Red Storm has had a lot to talk about lately.

Its women’s basketball team made its first appearance in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen; the baseball team broke into the NCAA Super Regionals and had five players drafted by the major leagues; and Maurice Harkless is the first Johnny to be drafted by the NBA in about decade.

And if that was not enough, the Red Storm is set to roll into London for the Summer Olympic Games when sabers Daryl Homer and Dagmara Wozniak will go for the gold in fencing.

Although the dream to become an Olympian was the same for Homer and Wozniak, the paths taken to the Games were slightly different.

Homer is a native of the Virgin Islands who grew up in the Bronx. He got the itch for fencing after watching a sword wielding figure in a commercial for the 2000 Olympics, when he was 11. So he did what all kids interested in something new would do.

“I just kind of bugged my mom like ‘hey can I try that it looks really cool,’” Homer said. “What little kid doesn’t want to stab people with swords?”

His mother signed him up in the Peter Westbrook Foundation in Manhattan, which is a non-profit organization that trains inner-city kids in fencing.

There he met current St. John’s University head coach Yury Gelman.

Homer followed Gelman, his first and only coach, all the way to St. John’s.

Gelman didn’t realize Homer could become an Olympian at first, but noted improvement through the years.

“I saw his talent, but I wasn’t sure if he would be able to work hard enough,” Gelman said. “But he did. He changed his behavior at age 16, dramatically.”

That hard work led Homer to dominate at the college level. He won three world medals and back-to-back NCAA men’s saber championships.

Homer redshirted his senior year to get more time to prepare for the Olympics. He trained twice a day, for about 20 hours a week, working on footwork and sparring in the morning. He then traveled to the Manhattan Fencing Center in the afternoon to practice drills.

“I think he’s definitely getting to be a much stronger fencer,” Gelman said. He added that one problem Homer may encounter is being nervous on the top stage, because it will be his first Olympic appearance.

However, he has the advantage of his personal coach at his side, since Gelman will also be the Olympic coach for Team USA.

“Our sport is an extremely psychological sport,” Gelman said. “It would probably mean an advantage for him. He knows me very well and I know him very well. And we know how to work together.”

Ranked number one in the nation and 12th in the world, Homer is confident and poised in advance of his matches on July 29 and August 3. But he is also looking forward to just being at the event.

“Walking in the opening ceremonies is going to be amazing so I just want to enjoy the Olympic experience while I am there,” Homer said.

Wozniak, on the other hand, has already been to the Olympics. Four years ago in Beijing, she was a substitute player, but did not get a chance to participate —or even walk in the opening ceremony.

“I was pretty heated about that,” Wozniak said about not getting to even join the other players at the ceremony.

This time around, because women’s saber is not a team event, each country could only field two sabers and one spot was given to veteran Mariel Zagunis, the top female fencer in the nation and a two-time gold medalist.

Wozniak, a Polish native raised in America, also took a year off to prepare and outranked two other competitors for the second slot, finally earning a chance to compete at the Olympic level.

“I think it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Wozniak said. “It feels like I worked hard all year, and now I get to show that it was well deserved well earned.”

Wozniak, who defeated Zagunis earlier this year, said although she is an underdog for her event on August 1, she won’t give up without a fight.

“People don’t expect me to win. No one is really putting their money on me,” Wozniak said. “I think that I have a small percentage, but I definitely have a chance and I’m going to fight like hell and hopefully come out on top.”

To follow the Olympians, check twitter: @STJ_Fencing, Dagmara (@WozniakUSA) and Daryl (@DarylHomerUSA)

Four Johnnies go in first 6 rounds of MLB Draft


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletics

The Red Storm is on a roll.

As the St. John’s University baseball team swept through the NCAA Division 1 regional tournament with three straight victories, the Johnnies stormed the second day of the 2012 MLB Draft, as four players were selected within the first six rounds.

Junior outfielder Jeremy Baltz, who batted .345 this season and led the Red Storm with homeruns (eight), triples (four), RBI (51) and runs scored (63) during the regular season, was taken by the San Diego Padres in the second round; 68th overall. Baltz was followed by Matt Wessinger, who was selected in the fifth round, 168th overall, by the Colorado Rockies.

“I am very happy and excited for this group and it is a true testament to the success of the program to have four players selected in the top six rounds,” said Red Storm head coach Ed Blankmeyer.

Relief pitcher Matt Carasiti was the next Johnny selected — also by the Rockies— in the sixth round, 198th overall, and just three picks later starter Kyle Hansen (5-5), who had a 3.46 ERA and team-high 108 strikeouts over 93.2 innings, was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the sixth round; 201st overall.

“[The players] have worked hard and performed consistently at a high level and have earned this opportunity,” Blankmeyer said.

Baltz, the highest selected Johnny in this year’s draft, is the all-time leader in program history in both home runs (36) and RBI (196).

The outfielder also has a closet-full of accolades including the NCBWA National Hitter of the Year award, which he received in his first season with the Red Storm after leading the nation’s freshmen in both home runs (24) and RBI (85).

Wessinger, a senior shortstop, was drafted last year by the Kansas City Royals in the 37th round, but chose to return to school. This year he led the Red Storm in batting average (.353), on-base percentage (.442) and stolen bases (34).

“I am especially excited for Matt [Wessinger], who was drafted in the 37th round a year ago and had the courage to return to school and prove that he was a top-five rounder,” Blankmeyer said about the infielder.

Pitcher Sean Hagan was also selected in the 29th round, 880th overall by the Minnesota Twins.

The highest positioning for four draft picks prior to this year occurred in the 2005 MLB Draft when St. John’s had four selections in the top 15 rounds, according to St. John’s Athletics.

Last year the Red Storm saw three players drafted. Shortstop Joe Panik was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the first round, 29th overall, first baseman Paul Karmas was taken by the San Diego Padres 773rd overall, and Wessinger.

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.

 

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.