Tag Archives: Red Storm

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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Victory marks fourth consecutive win for St. John’s men’s soccer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John’s Athletic Communications

In the 19th minute St. John’s men’s soccer forward Sean Sepe clutched his head and looked to the sky as if the world was coming to an end.

Sepe just missed an easy goal directly in front the frame. With no defenders around, it was just him and the West Virginia University goalkeeper, Lee Johnston. All he had to do was kick the ball pass Johnston on the right side and the Johnnies would have taken the lead.

“I thought I had it, I was so close,” Sepe said. “It was very disappointing.”

Johnston defended Sepe well and deflected the ball just enough for it to carry wide. But a few plays later in the 24th minute Sepe found himself in the same position after teammate Jimmy Mulligan connected a pass inside the box. Sepe, who scored the winning goal in the Red Storm’s last game, slipped through three defenders and this time kicked the ball just pass Johnston for the score.

“The goalie didn’t rotate back to his position and I put it in there,” Sepe said. “I was mad at myself that I didn’t score the first one. I was like ‘I’m definitely getting one this game.’”
And one would be all the No. 12 ranked Red Storm needed as Sepe’s goal gave the Johnnies a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers on September 15. The victory is the Johnnies’ fourth consecutive win, moving the season record to 5-1-0.

Although the final score doesn’t show it, it wasn’t a quiet match between these former conference rivals. Both teams had ample chances to net goals.

West Virginia led St. John’s in shots on goal, 12-11, while the Red Storm led in corner kicks, 10-5. But defense was the deciding factor as the Johnnies’ goalkeeper Rafael Diaz came up with five saves to record St. John’s third straight shutout.

“We know that if we get a shutout that we are going to win, so it really motivates us,” Diaz said about the team’s defense.

The victory also ends the Johnnies’ four-game homestand and the team will start a three-game road trip, beginning with new conference rival Creighton University on September 21.
St. John’s is undefeated (5-0) this year at home, but the team’s only loss came on a road game against the University of Virginia. The Red Storm is looking forward to the road trip to prove they can compete everywhere.

“The last time we went to Virginia we didn’t play well at all,” Sepe said. “We got played off the field. So I guess it’s personal for everyone.”

 

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Mulligan’s golden goal puts No. 23 Red Storm pass No. 5 Akron


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

With a penalty kick lined up, the game rested on St. John’s forward Jimmy Mulligan’s foot.

Pressure poured in as the intense match, in which both teams just scored one goal apiece in 90 minutes of regulation and more than 15 minutes in overtime and had seven yellow cards handed out, came down to just one kick.

A little nervous, Mulligan was brimming with confidence, having much experience with this situation in practice. But what threw him off was the crowd’s anxiety. Approximately 1,533 Red Storm fans came to a silence the senior forward set-up for the kick.

“When they went quiet I got even more nervous,” he said.

Mulligan approached slowly, looked up quickly to see which way the goalie was leaning and then blasted the ball in the opposite direction for the golden goal and the 2-1 victory over No. 5 University of Akron on Friday night. Following the score the Johnny faithful started to roar again.

With the victory the No. 23 Red Storm is now 2-1 for the season and earned their first win against a ranked-team. “I was pretty confident, I was thinking I was going to bury it and get this win for the team,” Mulligan said about the kick.

For the first 70 minutes both sides struggled for control. In the first half Akron outshot the Johnnies 5-1, but the Red Storm took the lead in corner kicks, 2-0.

It didn’t look like either would score, until Eric Stevenson powered a goal from about 20 yards out in the 71st minute for the Zips, assisted by Ismail Seremba.

The goal came as a sudden shock, but the Johnnies responded quickly. About three minutes later, Red Storm sophomore Josh Godec beat a defender and scored from about five yards of the goal after a cross pass from teammate Jelani Williams.

“I knew I just had to get across that man, I saw the ball coming in and I was like I’m going to get there,” Godec said. “I’m just lucky it went in.”

It was a significant moment for Godec, who red shirted his first year and didn’t play a game last year, because it was his first college goal.

“It’s amazing to see the hard work finally paying off,” he said.

The Johnnies will host Pennsylvania State University in their next match on Sunday.

 

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St. John’s edges out NJIT in 2013 men’s soccer season opener


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s Athletic Communications

Going into his 23rd season as St. John’s men’s soccer head coach, Dr. Dave Masur has seen it all.

As one of Division 1 most winningest active coaches at 367-123-76 (.716), Masur has raised the St. John’s program into a national contender, but he knows every year the slates are wiped clean.

“What’s that?” Masur said, when asked about his 23 season. “I redo every season like it’s my first.”

For this reason Masur coached the no. 19 ranked St. John’s to aggressively attack New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), a team that until last season hadn’t won more than five games since joining Division 1 in 2004, in the Johnnies’ season and home opener on August 30. The Red Storm dominated possession and stifled the Highlanders, until redshirt senior Jimmy Mulligan blasted the winner in the 77th minute for the Red Storm’s 2-1 victory. Now the Johnnies’ slate reads 1-0-0.

“This was a hard-fought victory against a very organized NJIT squad,” Masur said.

From the start of the first half the Johnnies were on attack mode and pressured the highlanders, beating them to a 20-7 shot on goal difference in the game. Despite being the aggressor, the Red Storm allowed the Highlanders to tie the game 1-1 going into the final 30 minutes.

But after a throw in from Adrian L’Esperance, redshirt junior Daniel Herrera dished a pass through a few defenders to find an open Mulligan, who rocketed a strike from just beyond the box that curled over goalkeeper Alexander Czempik and found the back of the net with exactly 13 minutes remaining.

“Once I saw the ball coming across, Danny did a nice flick through the defenders and I was like that’s the sweet spot for anybody looking at the goal,” Mulligan said.

Before Mulligan’s goal the Highlanders found a way to shake the Red Storm’s pressure.

In the 61st minute, trailing the Johnnies 1-0, NJIT’s Phillipp Hannemann connected a long pass to captain Franco Gamero, who outpaced two trailing defenders and slipped the ball passed Red Storm goalie Rafael Diaz, exactly has his coach said to do.

“In the second half I said ‘we just got to do a better job of trying to connect the passes and switch the ball and it’ll come’ and obviously it did and it opened up the game for us so that helped,” said NJIT head coach Didier Orellana, a resident of Forest Hills.

Sophomore Sean Sepe scored the first goal for the Johnnies’, which was his first career college goal, in the 33rd minute after receiving a pass from Jamie Thomas. Sepe said he thought only about shooting when he received the ball, which is understandable since it’s a new season and the Johnnies are hungry for wins.

“High pressure is the main point in our game and if we put them under pressure and they make a mistake we will capitalize,” Sepe said.

St. John’s will travel to play no. 20 Virginia next on September 2.

 

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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.”

 

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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.”

 

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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.”

From the mound to the hardwood, Amir Garrett gears up for the basketball season


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

While his teammates reconvened in Queens for “summer school,” Amir Garrett was training with another team. Luckily, he didn’t have to change the colors on his uniform.

Garrett, a 22nd round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, spent the summer training with the baseball team as part of an agreement that lets him play basketball at St. John’s. Garrett averaged about eight points a game in basketball last year, but can also throw a fastball in the 90s as a pitcher.

After joining the Johnnies halfway through last season because of ineligibility, Garrett adjusted within a month and found his groove in the game. This time around, he said, the process of switching from hurling the small ball to shooting the big ball was rusty, but quicker.

“It’s just something I have,” he said. “When I leave and go play one sport, I pick up on it right away.”

Garrett said he learned a lot from joining the team last year as one of five starting freshmen and getting a full year this year will tighten his skills.

“But after the first week-and-a-half [to] two weeks … it was a pretty tough transition but I made the best of it,” he said. “I picked up from where I left off because you know I came in so late in the season, I was kind of nervous. I think it carried over to this year because I get to play at the start of the season.”

And while Garrett’s wearing red and white for St. John’s he won’t discuss baseball.

“When I’m in baseball, no basketball; when I’m in basketball, no baseball.”

That didn’t stop Garrett, however, from sighing and shaking his head when asked about his reaction from the Reds’ elimination from this year’s postseason.

John Starks and St. John’s Dribbles for a Cure


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

In front of nearly 400 students, children and family members, St. John’s men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin stood in his trademark black pants and white sneakers. His focus wasn’t basketball, the upcoming season or the string of new Dribbles recruits he has ushered in.

Instead, Lavin reminded the crowd that cancer, in one way or another, affects everyone sooner or later.

“Cancer will touch everyone at some point in your lifetime,” he said. “Whether it’s you personally going through that battle, just the probabilities, the law of averages, a sibling, a mother or father, a grandfather, someone in the neighborhood, someone that is a good friend. It’s going to touch all of us at some point.”

Lavin, who last year underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer, was one of several St. John’s sports officials who took part in the school’s second “Dribble for the Cure,” held on Saturday, September 22 to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Among those who came out to support the cause were former longtime coaches Lou Carnesecca and Jack Kaiser, women’s basketball coach Joe Tartamella and New York Knicks alum John Starks.

At press time, the event raised around $25,000 for research, according to the school.

Taking a break from training for their upcoming seasons, players on the men’s and women’s basketball teams took part in the dribble, which circled around the school’s campus before reconvening at their home court in Carnesecca Arena.

One of those players, guard Phil Greene, said taking the time out to participate in an event like this really benefited the kids who were battling cancer.

“Giving back to the kids, you give them something to look forward to,” he said. “Giving the time out of our day, it’s nothing because they’re going through a lot of turmoil right now. It just makes you feel good, because they look up to us and we just give them something just to look forward to.”

Starks, who has lost several relatives to cancer, said he lost his grandmother, mother and sister to breast cancer and could empathize what it was like to battle the disease.

“I understand what the families go through, and it’s great to see we’re all here and understanding that this fight is never, never, never ending,” he said.

Lavin, who before the event confirmed to reporters that he is now cancer free, told the participants that their attendance was inspiring and should drive others to support the fight against cancer.

“Clearly, this is an example of the human spirit, and that’s what this is really a celebration of,” he said. “Those that support loved ones that are struggling with the dreaded disease are showing compassion, and compassion is part of the human spirit. Your time is well spent today and I want you to pat yourself on the back for showing up, showing a great example for others to follow and creating great synergy.”

St. John’s fencer finishes sixth in men’s individual saber at Olympics


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s University

Daryl Homer was underrated going into the men’s individual saber event in the London Olympics, since it was his first-ever appearance in the pinnacle of athletic competition.

But the 18-seeded Homer shocked everyone when he upset world ranked No. 2 Alexey Yakimenko of Russia, 15-14, showcasing the strength of the U.S. fencing team.

“In my honest opinion, I think Russia came here today thinking they were going to walk all over us,” Homer said. “We just proved to them that they’re going to have to rewrite their plan if they want to beat us.”

Homer, a student of St. John’s University, tied St. John’s alum Keeth Smart for the highest finish in men’s individual saber (sixth) since the 1984 games.

Homer received a first round bye to start the 64-bracket tournament, but in the round of 32, Homer won his first bout against Romania’s Tiberiu Dolniceanu, 15-11.

In the ensuing round, Homer dominated early against Yakimenko, taking a 14-9 lead before the Russian national tied the score with five consecutive touches. The fencers then had five straight standoffs where neither received a point, because they were ruled simultaneous attacks.

Yury Gelman, coach of the Olympic team and St. John’s fencing program, gave the 22-year old some advice during the match, as referees watch instant video replay of the fencers’ attacks.

“Yury told me to keep the pressure on him, stay confident, and be sharp,” Homer said. “He said not to watch, because Yakimenko is amazing at his invitations.”

Following his coach’s guidance Homer was able to land the final blow and pull off the upset.

But, the young fencer’s run would come to an end in the round of eight when he lost to Romania’s Rares Dumitrescu, 15-13, despite defeating a stronger opponent a round earlier.

“Yakimenko is a fencer who’s more comfortable for me stylistically,” Homer said. “He’s going for more meditated actions and is fencing more off his tactics. Dumitrescu is more difficult for me. He’s strong. He’s huge.”

Homer isn’t done just yet.

He is set to compete in the men’s team saber event on August 3, and he is sure his previous performance delivered a direct message.

“We had our plan and it was successful,” Homer said. “If we can execute in the team event, I’m very confident in how we’ll do.”

Another St. John’s fencer, saber Dagmara Wozniack, will compete in the women’s individual tournament in London on August 1.

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)

Moe Harkless drafted by Philadelphia 76ers


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's University

After more than three months of waiting and debating, Moe Harkless is in the NBA.

The 6-foot-8 small forward who spent only one year playing at St. John’s was selected 15th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers – becoming the first Red Storm player in 12 years to be a first-round pick.

The Jamaica, Queens native joins other Red Storm alumni like Erick Barkley and Ron Artest to go in the first round. The highest draft pick in St. John’s history was Sonny Dove, who in 1967 was selected fourth-overall by the Detroit Pistons. The most recent draft pick produced by the school was Omar Cook, who went in the second round of the 2001 draft and now plays for the Montenegrin National Basketball Team.

Harkless was named the Big East Rookie of the Year while at St. John’s, where he flourished as a small forward and found his game on a team comprised mainly of freshman. When Harkless declared on March 19 that he would enter the draft, however, his size and experience were criticized.

Should the small forward see playing time this upcoming season, there is a good chance he’ll go against Charlotte Bobcats head coach and former St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap — who coached Harkless during his single season in the NCAA, while Head Coach Steve Lavin was recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

When Harkless announced in March that he was entering the draft, he acknowledged that Lavin’s on-court absence this season was a factor in deciding to go to the next level. Regardless, Harkless said this week that he and Lavin had become more friends than player and coach.

“We became more friends as the season went on especially as he wasn’t coaching it was easier for me and him to have a relationship and I think we’ll be friends for a long time,” Harkless said.

After spending nearly his entire, young career playing in the tri-state area – three high school years at Forest Hills, his senior year at South Kent in Connecticut and a season in Jamaica – Harkless said leaving New York would be a change, but is ready to go anywhere the game takes him.

“It’d be different but it would definitely be a good experience and I’d be excited to go wherever,” he said.

Harkless said New York basketball players had not diminished in prominence; rather, this draft shows that New York still has a strong basketball presence.

“A lot of people say that New York basketball has fallen off and I think this indicates it hasn’t,” he said. “This definitely puts New York back on the map.”

 

St. John’s asst. coach Mike Dunlap named head coach of Charlotte Bobcats


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The pipeline that Steve Lavin has created from St. John’s to the NBA is not for players only.

Assistant coach Mike Dunlap has been named as the next head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats — his first head coaching job at the Division I or NBA level.

Dunlap, 54, took over Red Storm coaching duties this past season as Lavin was recovering from surgery. He led the team to an 11-19 record while at the helm of a team that played almost exclusively freshmen.

“The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap’s opportunity. Mike’s selection as the Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach is a well-deserved honor,” Lavin said in a statement. “ To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is testament to both Mike’s abilities as a teacher and our basketball program’s marked improvement over the past 27 months.”

Dunlap was reportedly not on the Bobcats shortlist — which included Jerry Sloan, Indiana assistant Brian Shaw and Lakers assistant Quin Snyder — for the opening, but was offered the job Monday night.

Prior to joining the Johnnies, Dunlap was associate head coach with the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats.

The new Bobcats coach also has NBA coaching experience. Dunlap spent two seasons as a coach on George Karl’s staff with the Denver Nuggets.

Moe Harkless, another former Red Storm who will shortly join Dunlap in the NBA, tweeted, “Dunlap, a great coach, better person. Strong passion and is dedicated to the game more than any coach I’ve had. No doubt he’ll be successful.”

The Bobcats last season set the record for NBA futility finishing 7-59, the worst winning percentage in NBA history.

 

Kyle Hansen’s high school coach remembers a player destined to be drafted


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

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St. Dominic High School head baseball coach Richard Garrett was sitting at his desk on Tuesday, June 5 when his BlackBerry began “buzzing like a pinball machine.”

Immediately he knew what had happened as he saw various texts from assistant coaches and players that read “sixth round.”

The text barrage was to let him know that former St. Dominic starting pitcher — and current Johnnie — Kyle Hansen was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the sixth round, 201st overall, of this year’s MLB draft.

“I was so happy for him,” said Garrett, who waited about 30 minutes before he called his former player to congratulate him.

Hansen, as well as four other players — Jeremy Baltz, Matt Carasiti, Matt Wessinger and Sean Hagan— were all taken from St. John’s in the draft.

The 16-year head coach said even during Hansen’s high school days in Oyster Bay, he knew the righty had the stuff to play in the majors. He added Hansen will without a doubt be inducted into the St. Dominic Athletic Hall of Fame, which the school is currently building for next year.

In his senior year at the school, Hansen led the Bayhawks to a first-ever championship in the 53-year history of the Nassau Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association (NSCHSAA), closing out the final game over St. John the Baptist, 6-4.

“Kyle was the complete package,” Garrett said. “He had the work ethic to get better and stronger, and the desire to push himself at all times.”

Teams also took notice of those tools. Garrett said at every game Hansen pitched there would be around 30 major league scouts in attendance, wielding radar guns and watching his every move.

When high school came to an end, Hansen was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 40th round of the 2009 MLB draft.

But at that time he felt he still needed to improve before heading to the pros.

“I didn’t feel like I was ready to go. I was still 18 years old,” Hansen said. “I thought college would help me advance myself.”

Garrett, who is also the dean of schools at the high school, agreed that college was a good idea and helped him through the process. But he always thought no matter what, Hansen would make it to the majors.

Garrett had also coached Hansen’s older brother, Craig, in a summer league. The elder Hansen was a first-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2005, and Garrett said the younger brother’s pitching was similar.

So when Garrett heard Hansen was drafted it came as no surprise, and he believes Hansen will be pitching on a major league mound very soon.

“Maybe two years we’ll see him in a major league ballpark,” Garrett predicted. “The game gets faster. [But] the bases stay the same. They’ll [The White Sox] teach him the changes of speeds.”

Although he was drafted, Hansen still hasn’t made the decision on whether he will pitch one more year for St. John’s or whether he will move to the majors.

But whenever that time comes Garrett said the pitcher will be a shoo-in for the high school’s Hall of Fame.

“It will be an honor,” Hansen said about being inducted. “A lot of baseball talent has come out of St. Dom’s and a lot more will come out of there until coach calls it quits.”