Tag Archives: Red Storm

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


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.”

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.

St. John’s baseball advances to Super Regionals for first time

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of St. John's Athletics

It’s a bird, it’s a plane— no it’s the “Super” Johnnies.

Led by sophomore Frank Schwindel’s perfect 5 for 5 day at the plate, the Red Storm knocked out No. 1 seeded University of North Carolina, 9-5, in the Chapel Hill region and knocked down the doors to its first ever Super Regional tournament.

Junior pitcher Matt Carasiti held the Tar Heels offense to four runs over 5.1 innings and juniors Sean O’Hare and Robert Case added two RBIs each to help the Red Storm in the final game of the opening bracket on Sunday, June 3.

“I’m proud of these guys,” head coach Ed Blankmeyer said about the win. “We had a tough start this year and we were trying to find ourselves, but towards the end of the season I felt that we had a chance to do something special.”

The Johnnies (40-21) stormed past the NCAA Division I regional tournament with three straight victories.

Junior outfielder Jeremy Baltz was named the Chapel Hill regional MVP batting .400 (4 for 10), slugging .900 and scoring eight runs.

Following the victory, former St. John’s standout and Mets captain, John Franco sent a message to the Red Storm on the university’s website.

“Good luck St. John’s Baseball, bring us home a winner; let’s go boys,” Franco said.

After capping the regional district wins the Johnnies will advance to play against No. 1 seed Arizona University (41-17) in a three-game series, for a chance to play in the eight-team College World Series.

A basketball player kids have to look up to

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ photo by Liam La Guerre

There’s more than one reason for kids to “look up” to 7’3” Curtis Johnson.

Johnson, a Queens resident and former Red Storm big man at St. John’s University, will perform in entertainment basketball games at York College on June 4 and 6, to amuse and mentor kids from Pre-K to eight grade.

“I just want to teach them to respect each other, respect themselves and each other and just to have fun,” Johnson said about the show’s purpose.

Johnson also wants to spread positive thinking to the kids by letting them know of his philosophy that life has unlimited possibilities – a message he lives every day.

Johnson had big dreams after graduating St. John’s with a Bachelor’s degree in theology.

He went to try out for various professional basketball teams, even as far as Fujian, China, hoping to make his way through the system and hit the hardwood of the NBA.

Although he can dunk without leaving his feet, injuries plagued the 7-footer.

“I thought I would be an NBA player and maybe a pastor someday, but life didn’t turn out that way,” he said, adding “but I didn’t get stuck there.”

When basketball was a no-go, Johnson began seeking professions he believed would give him stable hours and keep him away from the doctor’s office — like jobs on Wall Street.

He was already working part-time as a clerk for Morgan Stanley, but in 2005 he became a financial analyst, re-reading contracts for Lehman Brothers.

His time in the financial sector came to an end in 2008, just before the company filed for bankruptcy, but he enjoyed it, he said.

“I always had a deep interest in business,” Johnson said. “It’s always interesting to me how you could start off with a small investment and end up with a large return. It’s really ‘the sky is the limit.’”

Next he landed a job delivering various newspapers for several months in Westchester and then after that he began working in security.

While working as a bouncer at a Korean nightclub last year, he was given a unique opportunity to compete in a traditional Korean Ssireum wrestling tournament.

One day the club owner asked Johnson if he was interested, to which Johnson replied “Yeah, you only live once.”

“I realize that for me basketball is a tool,” Johnson said about his worldly adventures and various jobs. “You can do whatever you want in life. There are no limitations.”

During his time away from professional basketball Johnson played part-time for the entertainment basketball group, Harlem MagicMasters, and now he wants to do it full-time.

“Entertainment basketball is something a guy like me could do for the rest of his life,” he said. “We make a lot of kids happy. It’s very emotionally rewarding.”

The basketball group also thinks that Johnson will help convince kids to focus on positive thoughts.

“If people like [Johnson] come into the gym and they talk to the kids and tell them do not attempt to use any type of drugs or alcohol, don’t bully or tease your fellow classmates, then the lessons resonate,” said Jay Bryant, Vice President of the Harlem MagicMasters.

Johnson enjoys traveling up and down the east coast and sometimes the mid-west with his teammates, spreading their message to kids, but also personally motivating them with his own life.

“I’ve always wanted to help motivate and help other people,” he said. “I realize that even though I’m not an NBA basketball player I could still promote what we do — and do it well.”

Congrats grads!

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of St. John’s University

St. John’s University graduated nearly 3,000 students on Mother’s Day, May 13, for its 142nd Commencement festivities.

“Today is one of my favorite days of the year, when we get to celebrate the accomplishments of our students,” said Rev. Donald Harrington, president of the university. “And, I have to say that in my 23 years as president, each year I’m more proud of the students who walk across that stage.”

Red Storm head basketball coach Steve Lavin, who recently completed his second year with the team, delivered the commencement address in front of an estimated crowd of about 19,000 graduates, family members and friends.

Lavin, a cancer survivor, told the sea of red robes to enjoy life and look forward to the future.

“Life is precious and fragile. Don’t take it for granted,” Lavin said. “You can take pride in knowing that you’ve prepared at St. John’s for the challenges ahead, and you’re capable of striving for excellence and blazing your own trail as St. Vincent de Paul did.”

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

| brennison@queenscourier.com


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.