Tag Archives: NCAA

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


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.


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.”




With hopes of attracting colleges, players participate in city all-star game

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

It’s already April but the PSAL’s most prolific scorer of the 2014 basketball season, Nohah Vickers, still doesn’t know which college he will play for next year.

With just a few months remaining in the NCAA college commitment period, several schools have expressed interest in Vickers, but they are still looking at him closely before giving him official offers.

Vickers, a point guard for the Campus Magnet Bulldogs, led the league with 466 points, averaging 33 points and 6.5 assists per game. But the Bulldogs had an undersized team and finished second-to-last in the Queens AA league with a 4-12 record.

Vickers, however, was invited to play in the 2014 Mayor’s Cup All-Star boys basketball game on Saturday, March 29, which featured the top high school seniors from the season.

Some players who participated in the game had already committed to college teams, but the game also had athletes, who, like Vickers, aren’t sure where they’ll end up next year and were playing to display their talents and impress college coaches.

“It definitely helps you with showcasing your talent,” said Vickers, who has been contacted by Delaware State University, among other schools. “Even though it’s an all-star game, you got to hustle, you got to make sure to defend, you know, just the little things to impress [recruiters].”

The PSAL lost 108-86 against the CHSAA in the all-star game, which featured high flying dunks, alley-oops and slick ball handling skills that excited the crowd of fans.

Officials hope the all-star mixing, which is in its fourth year, will not only become a traditional city bragging rights tournament, but eventually become a recognized name for college coaches and recruiters to see city players.

“They more people they are able to get in front of, the more opportunities they are going to have,” said Jeffrey Mohl, vice president of sports marketing for NYC and Company, which organizes the annual all-star event. “And that’s the whole goal, to say seven, eight, nine kids got scholarships or looked at, or opportunities that they wouldn’t have had before this.”

Francisco Williams, a senior forward from the 2014 PSAL champion Benjamin Cardozo High School basketball team, is just another example of a top player who has yet to commit to a school. Williams, whose mother has health problems, is still looking at colleges but is heavily considering staying close to home. He said Long Island University of Brooklyn has expressed interest in him, but he is keeping his options open and hoped the Mayor’s Cup would help showcase his abilities to more coaches.

“This is just a continuation of schools looking at him,” Cardozo head coach Ron Naclerio said of the all-star game. “It’s like dating a girl or marrying. He wants to know schools are looking at him, but we have to find the right one.”



St. John’s women’s basketball falls short in Big East tourney final

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John’s Athletic Communications

Follow me @liamlaguerre


Despite a tremendous effort by St. John’s sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford, the Red Storm women’s basketball team lost to the DePaul Blue Demons, 65-57, in its first Big East Conference tournament championship game since 1988.

Handford, who is an All-Big East First Team selection, led the Johnnies with 13 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists. Senior captain Briana Brown added 12 points and four rebounds.

“Obviously we’re disappointed to not be able to come away with a win,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said. “To do something that our university hasn’t done in a long time, since 1988, says something. They know they want to get this opportunity again in the future.”

The Johnnies (22-10, 13-5 Big East) hung with the regular conference champions in the Blue Demons (27-6, 15-3 Big East) through most of the match, but couldn’t find the offensive down the stretch to win the game.

St. John’s will now wait for Selection Monday (March 17) to learn if they will make a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.



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.”



St. John’s basketball loses forward Amir Garrett

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



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.



Diamond Club: St. John’s releases 2012 baseball schedule

| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of St. John’s University

Baseball fans found some cleats and bats in their stockings this month as St. John’s announced the Red Storm’s schedule for the coming 2012 season.

The 56-game season stretch includes 24 home games and features the fourth annual Big Ten-Big East Challenge, as well as a total of 11 games against teams that participated in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Ed Blankmeyer said the high caliber of opponents is significant this season and his team will work hard to match intensity, game by game.

“This is a tough schedule comprised of great RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] teams and tough road trips, but that’s the type of schedule we want to play and we’re excited for the challenge,” said Blankmeyer, who enters into his 17th season as head coach this year. “Our hope is that the rigors of playing a tough schedule prepare us to reach our goals, which are always to win the conference regular season and tournament crowns, and to compete in the NCAA Tournament.”

The season opens with three games in Florida as part of the Big Ten-Big East Challenge. The Red Storm will face 2011 Big Ten regular season co-champions Michigan State (February 17) to open the season before facing Minnesota (February 18) for the third-consecutive season. St. John’s will conclude its opening weekend against Illinois (February 19), the defending Big Ten Tournament champions and co-regular season champions.

St. John’s then heads to Lubbock, Texas, for three games as part of the Texas Tech-hosted Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic. After playing host Texas Tech (February 24), St. John’s takes on Northern Illinois (February 25) before wrapping up the weekend with another game against the Red Raiders (February 26).

After a pair of midweek contests against North Carolina (February 28), a 2011 College World Series squad, and UNC Wilmington (February 29), the Red Storm travels to Conway, S.C. for the Coastal Carolina Invitational. St. John’s opens the Invitational with a non-conference matchup against Big East foe Pittsburgh (March 2) before taking on Coastal Carolina (March 3). The third game of the Invitational against Illinois (March 4) will be played in Myrtle Beach at BB&T Coastal Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Texas Rangers).

St. John’s returns to the Tri-State area for a midweek game at Fairfield (March 7) before heading south and concluding its season-opening 15-game road trip with a three-game set at Liberty (March 9-11).

Following a midweek home-opener against FDU (March 14), the Red Storm hosts the inaugural Red Storm Baseball Tournament (March 16-18). St. John’s will play Albany (March 16) before another matchup against the Great Danes (March 17) opens a double-header that includes a matchup between Albany and Holy Cross. The Red Storm opens another double-header with a game against Holy Cross (March 18) that precedes a contest between the Crusaders and Great Danes.

After concluding a five-game home stand with a midweek game against LIU (March 21), the Red Storm opens Big East play on the road with a three-game set at Villanova (March 23-25).

St. John’s returns to Queens for the next four games, hosting Maryland (March 28) in midweek action before welcoming West Virginia (March 30-April 1) for a three-game Big East set.

The Red Storm is on the road for the next four games. After traveling to Staten Island for a midweek contest against Wagner (April 3) at Richmond County Bank Stadium, home of the Staten Island Yankees (Class-A affiliate of the New York Yankees), St. John’s heads to New Jersey for a BIG EAST series with Rutgers (April 5-7).

A season-long six-game home stand is next on the schedule for St. John’s. Following a pair of midweek games against Columbia (April 10) and Hofstra (April 11), the Red Storm hosts a three-game series with 2011 NCAA Super Regional participants Connecticut (April 13-15). St. John’s hosts Princeton (April 18), another NCAA Tournament squad, to conclude the home stand.

St. John’s next embarks on a seven-game road trip that begins with a three-game set at Cincinnati (April 20-22). The Red Storm then takes on Boston College (April 24) in a neutral site game in Norwich, Connecticut, that will be played at Dodd Stadium, the home of the Connecticut Tigers (Class-A Short Season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). St. John’s concludes the road trip with a three-game set at Notre Dame (April 27-29).

The Red Storm returns home to host Iona (April 30) before welcoming USF (May 4-6) for a three-game series. After hosting NYIT (May 9), St. John’s takes to the road for a three-game set at Louisville (May 11-13).

St. John’s concludes the regular season with a four-game homestand. After facing Marist (May 15) for the first time since 1992, the Red Storm hosts Seton Hall (May 17-19) in a rematch of the 2011 Big East Tournament championship game.

The Big East Tournament runs from May 23-27 and will once again be held in Clearwater, Florida, at Bright House Field.

 – with St. John’s University