Tag Archives: St. John’s University

Cardozo wrestling city champs set sights on national tourney


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow  me @liamlaguerre

 

Before Benjamin Cardozo senior Douglas Chau joined the wrestling team, he was, as he put it, a “boring kid.”

Chau, 17, didn’t play any sports, wasn’t in any clubs, didn’t interact with many of his peers and maintained average grades (about 80 percent), before his freshman year in high school.

But wrestling became the catalyst of change for the Bayside resident.

He joined at the recommendation of his older sister, who had friends on the team. And Chau said the first time he trained on the mat, he enjoyed the camaraderie and discipline the sport taught. Since then he said he’s become a more social person, and Chau is set to graduate at the end of this semester with an 89 percent average.

“It made me dedicated to everything that I do,” Chau said. “I found myself more disciplined than I was ever before. I can’t exactly say the reason why I like wrestling, but I can feel it.”

After four years of hard work on the team, Chau won the PSAL Division I wrestling individual city championship at 113 pounds last month, his first city-wide title. A city championship was the goal, but this summer he hopes to win a national championship at the Fargo Wrestling Tournament in North Dakota to complete the mission.

Chau’s teammate and training partner, Steve Kim, a junior at Benjamin Cardozo, is also looking to win a national championship at the Fargo tournament. Kim won the PSAL Division I individual city championships at 145 pounds, and before the summer tournament he’ll compete in a national event in Virginia Beach on March 24 as well.

Unlike Chau, Kim has been wrestling since he was a young child. His older brother taught his techniques at home and in the past he was fond of the WWE, the professional wrestling show.

Kim, 17, has designed a special diet to go with his training that emphasizes natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and water, and he eats few carbs. It’s a testament to his dedication and desire to win a medal at the next level.

“That would be just beyond my dreams, that’s something unexplainable and unimaginable, to become a national champ,” Kim said.

The pair train about five days a week for two hours a day, sometimes conditioning in the weight room, and other times wrestling each other.

Chau said his Fargo appearance will be his last time on the mat because he’ll focus on studying pre-law at St. John’s University.

But after his personal wrestling experience comes to an end, he plans to start a brand new journey with another goal.

“My plan is to join the coaching staff at Cardozo,” Chau said. “My next mission is to help Cardozo move on and get another city champion.”

 

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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.

 

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Cheap Shots on the rocks: SLA to vote on liquor license


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) will vote next Tuesday to either cut off a problematic college bar in Queens or let the drinks keep flowing.

Cheap Shots, at 149-05 Union Tpke., has racked up numerous noise complaints and at least 10 violations since it opened in March 2010, mostly for disorderly conduct and alleged underage drinking, SLA records show.

Rowdy customers constantly break out in fights outside, and some have even been spotted urinating and vomiting on the street, 107th Precinct Community Council President Carolann Foley said.

The SLA’s licensing bureau will decide the bar’s fate on March 11 — either approving or rejecting Cheap Shots’ request for a license renewal — after a full board meeting, an authority spokesperson said. Its current liquor license expired Feb. 28.

“I fully expect the SLA to protect our community and revoke Cheap Shots’ liquor license,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, who called the site near St. John’s University a “magnet for criminal activity.”

In January, Community Board 8’s Liquor License Committee unanimously shut down Cheap Shots’ renewal application during a heated meeting with bar owners. The advisory vote was meant to urge the SLA to follow suit.

Bar boss Louis Abreu said he has since hired another security guard to keep a handle on commotions on weekends, bumping the total detail to five.

“I’m a small business owner trying to do the best I can,” he said. “We’ve been keeping the noise down. I’m still willing to work with the neighborhood.”

 

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J. Cole returns to Queens following Grammy Awards


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

KATELYN DI SALVO

St. John’s University graduate and former Queens Courier employee Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J. Cole, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Sunday night, but unfortunately lost out to mentor Jay Z.

He returns to the borough Monday night, where he will be performing at Queens College for the VH1 Super Bowl Blitz.

J. Cole first received recognition in 2007 with the mix tape “The Come Up,” which was followed by two more mix tapes in 2009 and 2010; “The Warm Up,” and “Friday Night Lights.” In 2009 J. Cole was signed onto the Roc Nation Label, under the guidance of Jay Z.  The Roc Nation rapper’s debut album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” sold over 200,000 units in its first week.

In a 2011 interview with Courier sister publication Aspire magazine, J. Cole praised Jay Z.

“His advice is the best advice. Every time he gives advice, I realize why he is where he is. It wasn’t an accident—he really did study the game and he really knows what he’s talking about,” he said.

His most recent album, “Born Sinner,” released in 2013, was nominated for a Grammy for the song Power Trip featuring Miguel, for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Unfortunately J. Cole lost to Jay Z for his collaboration with Justin Timberlake for Holy Grail.

J. Cole is currently touring the world, promoting the “Born Sinner” album.

Before making it big, J.Cole worked at The Queens Courier in 2008 as a part-time sales telemarketer selling classified ads.

“It was the only job I could find that was real flexible with the hours; so I could go to the recording studio and be up real late and then go in to work at, like, 1 p.m,” J. Cole told Aspire.

 

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Cheap Shots bar near St. John’s University may soon go dry


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A problematic bar near St. John’s University is facing its last call after a local community board voted against renewing its liquor license.

Community Board 8’s Liquor License Committee rejected Cheap Shots’ renewal application Monday, citing numerous complaints the 149-05 Union Tpke. bar has racked up since it opened in March 2010.

“This is the most I’ve heard about any establishment,” Committee Chair Michael Hannibal said. “There’s a concern.”

Rowdy customers break out in fights, repeatedly robbing neighbors in a residential area of a good night’s sleep, board members said.

Some have also been spotted urinating and vomiting in front of the bar, according to 107th Precinct Community Council President Carolann Foley.

“It appears to me your business is a cancer to the community,” said board member Marc Haken. “It is decaying the community. You have to be cut out of the community.”

Bar representatives have had multiple meetings with local civic leaders, but to no avail, the board said.

“It’s pretty serious,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, calling the bar a “magnet for criminal activity” and the site of four arrests in the last year.

“Cheap Shots has failed to clean up its act and has instead remained a blight on our community,” he said.

The committee unanimously voted to shut down the renewal and urged the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) to follow suit.

The sobering news means Cheap Shots could be forced to close if it loses its ability to serve alcohol.

Its current liquor license expires Feb. 28. SLA officials did not immediately comment.

“Right now, we don’t know what this means for us. It’s basically in jeopardy,” said Louis Abreu, the bar’s owner. “I’m trying my best to fit in. It’s not easy, but I’m not throwing in the towel.”

The bar boss said he shells out at least $800 on security detail on weekends to keep a handle on commotions and often calls the police himself when fights erupt.

“What happened at the meeting was a lynch mob,” Abreu said.

 

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Man of the Year: Joseph M. Mattone Sr.


| CShanahan@queenscourier.com

Mattone345

When Joseph M. Mattone Sr.’s grandparents arrived in New York from Italy after the American Civil War in 1875, it was with the hope of a better life for their children and generations of their family to come.

Mattone’s father was forced into adulthood at a young age, and therefore developed a strong work ethic that was passed down to his children.

It was this work ethic, coupled with a dedication to education, that provided the foundation for Mattone’s successful career.

Born in the height of the Great Depression in 1931, Mattone worked his way through New York City’s public school system and eventually landed at St. John’s University, where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees.

“I’ve known Joe Mattone since I met him in grammar school,” said former Governor Mario Cuomo. “He was a quiet, hardworking and highly intelligent student, who has grown steadily in those directions ever since. His intelligence and hard work made him an extremely successful entrepreneur, helping his family flourish and do well. Joe also shared his success and other good fortunes with many of his friends and his numerous great causes. He is still shy, with a sense of humor and humility that has made him popular with hundreds of people. He is Queens’ ‘Person of the Year,’ but for many of us, his close friends, and those hundreds of people who know him too, Joe will continue and always be ‘Person of the Year’ for years to come.”

Opening his first law office, located in a home built by his maternal grandfather in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, Mattone served as legal counsel for various local businesses.

“My father was the only one in his family to graduate from college and law school,” said Mattone’s son, Michael X. Mattone, chief financial officer of the Mattone Group. “All of that was made possible by the sacrifices of his parents and his siblings, all of whom took jobs at young ages to help with the family’s finances. My father was the baby and it was incredibly important to them that he achieve his goals.”

Mattone’s real estate development career began in 1955. At the urging of his older brother, Carl, Mattone had earned his Certificate of Appraisal at Columbia and took his first steps into the real estate industry by working on the trial of condemnation issues in both Brooklyn and Queens.

With wife Mary Ann and Pope Benedict after mass at the Vatican.

A very successful endeavor, this work got Mattone noticed by the major real estate developers he was representing at the time. These developers retained Mattone’s legal counsel to negotiate leases purchased on their behalf. For Mattone, what would become a lifelong passion for and commitment to real estate development was born.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Mattone worked on developing over 1 million square feet of commercial and industrial properties in Brooklyn and Queens.

By 1962, the young mogul branched out and began to develop real estate on his own. Some of his earliest independent endeavors included the development of service stations and fast food locations. He built and leased facilities to McDonald’s, Burger King, Texaco, Exxon and Mobil. In addition, Mattone built for and leased to Chemical Bank and Home Federal Savings and Loan.

                        Yearbook photo from St. John’s                                

At this same time, Mattone began to delve into residential properties, most notably, the Harway Terrace. The Terrace consisted of two 19-story, 360-unit apartment buildings in Brooklyn.

Today, Mattone sits as chairman and chief executive officer of the Mattone Group, a Queens-based development and construction company that handles commercial, residential and industrial properties.

A true testament to the scope and scale of the Mattone Group, the company currently manages over 1.5 million square feet of property in New York, Georgia and Florida. Under Mattone’s guidance, the group manages its property portfolio with professionalism, financial expertise and a dedication to providing clients with the very best service in the industry.

“Joe Mattone is a business leader of great integrity who cares deeply for his family, his friends, and his community,” said Aaron Fleishaker, Senior Vice President of Fairway Market.

  Brother Carl

In an always-evolving commercial real estate market, Mattone’s leadership has allowed the company to stay abreast of changes and new developments, and respond effectively. This has allowed the Mattone Group to maintain its high-quality, diversified portfolio.

Among the most important ways that Mattone has achieved the company’s mission is maintaining a conservative investment profile to continue the company’s 45-year history of successful investment.

The Mattone Group also focuses on creating value by utilizing the best resources of both the public and private sectors, acquiring assets within the New York metropolitan area, diversifying equity into office, retail, residential and industrial assets, and diversifying equity contributions to include the purchase of assets, with either triple net leases or value added development and renovation opportunities.

Since the Mattone Group was founded, its dedicated chairman has placed strong emphasis on successful commercial, residential and industrial development and management. This includes working closely with clients to develop properties that fit their criteria, right down to the smallest details. With Mattone at the head, he and his team handle all aspects of commercial property development and management, from cost analysis and site selection to construction oversight and occupant recruitment.

In fact, one of Mattone’s most notable properties in Queens is the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, located in the heart of Jamaica.

“Queens is the home of the underdog … the place where the American Dream is still very much alive,” Michael Mattone said. “I think my father epitomizes that.”

In addition to his property development work, Mattone is also a senior partner in the law firm of Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Megna and Todd, which is a full-service, Queens-based law firm. The firm represents several financial institutions as outside counsel for their residential mortgage closings, including Citi Mortgage, BNY Mortgage Co., LLC, Washington Mutual, HSBC Mortgage Corp, Emigrant Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, and GreenPoint Mortgage Company.

Joe celebrates his birthday surrounded by his seven children

Stemming from Mattone’s family history, the Mattone Group and members of the Mattone family have maintained a dedication to education throughout the years. A testament to his continued dedication, Mattone sits on the board of directors for Futures in Education and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
He is currently a board member of St. John’s University and has been a trustee of the institution for many years.

“He has an incredible fondness for St. John’s University and St. John’s Law,” Michael Mattone said. “The Vincentian fathers allowed his family to pay tuition when they could, and he has never forgotten that.”
As a true display of his commitment to education, Mattone has been quoted as saying, “As the expression goes, it’s either the book or the gun. Choose the book.”

Mattone has spent his life and career instilling values of charity, service to the less fortunate and commitment to the community into the lives of his seven children and 27 grandchildren.

“My father’s success has enabled him to help so many people along the way,” said Michael Mattone. “He sees it as his obligation to give back, like the many people who helped him along his path to success.”

In fact, Mattone has been an active philanthropist since early in his career. In the 1970s, he was honored for his services as chairman of the St. Vincent’s Home, Queens Division.


With Governor Andrew Cuomo

In 1983, he was selected as “Man of the Year” by the Italian Charities of America for his commitment to the organization and the people that it serves.
From 1983 to 1987, Mattone served as general chairman of the annual dinner of the Order of Sons of Italy.

His fundraising did not stop there, as he served as the general ticket chairman for the Coalition of Italian American Organizations from 1984 through 1995.

“In the 35 years I’ve known him, despite the complexity of his life, he has always been able to maintain relationships and always has time for everyone,” said son-in-law, Dr. Gaetano Bello. “He has been so generous and philanthropic and is the best example of what a real father, husband and businessman should be. He is honorable and upstanding. Everyone who knows him admires him.”

Throughout his career, much to the honor and delight of his children, grandchildren and loving wife Mary Ann, Mattone has been the recipient of the Good Scout Award from the Queens Council Boy Scouts of America, the Progress of People’s Achievement Award from the Catholic Charities, the Community Leader Award from the Queens Symphony Orchestra and the Spirit of Service Award from St. John’s University.

The acknowledgement from St. John’s holds particular significance due to Mattone’s personal and professional involvement with the university, where he met his first wife, Irene.

And this year, the Columbus Citizens Foundation’s annual fundraising event paid tribute to Mattone.

Late wife Irene at top left, with daughters, Teresa, Fran, Irene and Julie

In describing his father’s long career, Michael Mattone fondly says, “His success inspires me not because of the material aspects, but because of how it has enabled him to help so many people along the way. When I talk to my kids about success, I use their grandfather as the perfect example of how being successful gives you the ability to help others.”

“It is not enough to simply call Joe the ‘Person of the Year’,” says Mattone’s longtime friend, Judge Joseph Golia. “He is respectful, a regular church attendee, intelligent, humorous, charitable. These are just a few of the many accolades that encompass Joe’s character. He’s committed to young people. He contributes to many Catholic charities that support education, which is a testament to his sincere concern for education.

He is just a very honest, upfront, truthful person. It’s hard to find someone with all these traits.”

Bruce Ratner, Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, echoed the sentiment: “Joe Mattone is one of the finest, most giving individuals that I have ever met. We go back many years as both friends and business partners. I am grateful for the many years that I have had the honor to know him and experience first-hand his integrity, his business acumen, his humanity and his wonderful family. I congratulate Joe and the whole Mattone family on this well-deserved honor.”

 

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SNOW DAY: NYC public schools closed Friday


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

All New York City public schools are closed Friday due to Snowstorm Hercules, education officials announced.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña made the call to give city kids a snow day Jan. 3 shortly after 5 a.m. Friday field trips, PSAL games and after-school activities are also called off.

St. John’s University and Queensborough Community College has closed, as well, university officials said.

The first major snowstorm of 2014 so far has forced the temporary shutdown of the Long Island Expressway from the Queens/Nassau County border to Riverhead.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the ban on commercial and passenger vehicles will be extended until 8 a.m.

A winter storm warning has been issued until 1 p.m. Friday. About five to nine inches of snow are expected, with winds up to 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Kew Gardens and South Ozone Park had accumulated more than 5 inches of snow as of 4 a.m., according to NWS. 



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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Overcast. High of 48. Winds from the East at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the South in the afternoon. Thursday night: Overcast. Low of 45. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: CabaNOIR: The 15th Annual Cabaret For Charity

Come to St. John’s University Little Theatre for a fabulous night of music and dancing set in the classic era of film noir. It’s cops versus gangsters “Under Pressure” in this tale that you won’t soon forget and would be “Crazy” to miss! The Cabaret is an annual production of the St. John’s University Chappell Players Theatre Group. All proceeds go to the St. John’s Bread and Life Program in their tireless efforts against poverty and hunger in the five boroughs of New York City. Thursday, November 21, – Saturday, November 23. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police arrest Flushing attempted rape suspect

Cops have arrested a man and charged him with the attempted rape of a woman in Flushing, said police. Read more: The Queens Courier

De Blasio meets with Bratton, Banks, Pineiro

Bill Bratton, who served as New York’s police commissioner from 1994 to 1996, met at length yesterday with Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Read more: Fox New York

NYC council members make their pitches to be next speaker

The race is on to succeed Christine Quinn as the New York City Council speaker. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Toll hikes kicking in over Thanksgiving weekend

The Port Authority will be stuffing its coffers with holiday travelers’ cash. Read more: New York Post

President Obama presents freedom medals to Clinton, others

President Barack Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on former President Bill Clinton and a dozen other prominent Americans 50 years after the death of the award’s founder, President John F. Kennedy. Read more: AP

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


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Star of Queens: Gabrielle Fonrouge, president, Society of Professional Journalists, St. John’s University; Homes for the Homeless at the Saratoga Family Inn


| editorial@queenscourier.com

New Picture (1)

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Gabrielle Fonrouge is more than just a journalism student at St. John’s University and president of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is also a major community service leader at Homes for the Homeless at the Saratoga Family Inn in Jamaica. She works with the adult program there which assists homeless adults in finding jobs so that they are one step closer to being off of the streets or out of shelters.

She also travels abroad to places such as Ecuador and Vietnam in the hopes of creating a sustainable service that can change lives. Her mantra is “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

“I believe in justice and sustainable service,” said Fonrouge. “It is changing the systems and studying the systems and finding ways so that [people] no longer will be in these positions.”

BACKGROUND: Fonrouge is originally from a low income neighborhood in southern Florida. Growing up there, she made it her mission to assist people in reaching their potential through motivating them.

“I think some people just got off the right track because they do not have someone there motivating them, telling them that they can do it, telling them that they are worth it, all of these things. Those people will never go anywhere and I have watched it first hand, so that made me want to let people know that they do have a purpose, they do have a meaning and you will succeed if you try.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: On the final night of a three-week program in the Miguel Chiriap community of Ecuador, the group Fonrouge was with prepared an American feast and dressed in native garb and danced tribal dances.

“It was such a magical moment,” said Fonrouge. “We were underneath the stars, outside, the music was playing and nothing else was happening in the world at that moment. It was just us, the people we were serving and the music and dance.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “To truly commit yourself to community service and fully devote yourself, it means saying goodbye to yourself and the other people in your life, saying goodbye to your responsibilities, saying goodbye to your income, saying goodbye to all of that. You must put yourself and the ones you love second to those you serve.”

INSPIRATION: She finds inspiration through her passion for media and journalism by creating documentaries that focus on the underserved population and impoverished communities. She hopes to bring awareness to her subjects so that she can make a difference in their lives. “If the world doesn’t know a problem exists, it is never going to change and will always exist.”

NIKKI DJOKOVICH

 

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St. John’s men’s basketball makes promise at annual Tip-Off


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

“Let’s get it in.”

The St. John’s University men’s basketball team embraced this phrase as their season motto at the Red Storm Tip-Off Friday. Men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin said it first, declaring that this year they are expecting to do something “special.”

“This year the goal is to get it in,” Lavin said as he addressed the crowd of 5,308 in a packed Carnesecca Arena. “So let’s get it in.”

While the motto, which was inspired by former Johnny Metta World Peace, started a chant by fans and made its way around social media, the news of the night was that sophomore center Chris Obekpa had been suspended.

Lavin said Obekpa violated “university policy” and will miss two exhibition games, but return to the team in time for the season opener against the University of Wisconsin on November 8. The bad news dulled the mood slightly as it brought back memories of junior D’Angelo Harrison’s suspension last season and the need for the players to become mature.

“I think it will be a valuable learning experience for Chris,” Lavin said. “That’s where the focus is on, the lesson and opportunity to understand that there is a responsibility that comes with representing this basketball program and University.”

Obekpa’s trouble aside, the Tip-Off was once again a fun event for students, residents and past Johnnies to celebrate everything about both men’s and women’s basketball teams and to signal the start of the season.

Much like previous years, the season kickoff event included tons of giveaways and prizes for fans, daredevil performances by the cheerleading squad and energetic performances by the dance team.

Grammy-nominated rapper Lupe Fiasco headlined all performances. In his return to St. John’s he rocked the house with hits, such as Kick Push and Superstar.

The event started with an alumni basketball game, which featured past greats such as Felipe Lopez and Tyrone Grant, and recent Johnnies such as Rob Thomas and Sky Lindsay.

As with tradition the current men’s and women’s basketball team members were introduced one-by-one with fog and music. The women’s basketball team performed a dance-off among themselves and then they separated for a three-point shooting contest.

The men’s basketball team played a scrimmage game, which served as the debut of big man Orlando Sanchez, touted freshman Rysheed Jordan and lethal shooter Max Hooper.

To end the athletic showcase, the men’s team held a dunk contest. Sophomore Christian Jones, who pulled off an amazing 360-through-the-legs jam, took the crown, but Jordan also made a big splash by dunking over 6’8” God’sgift Achiuwa.

And when the event came to an end, the Red Storm knew that playtime was over.

“The energy was crazy. Everyone is excited for the season to start so the energy was off the meter,”said sophomore Phil Greene IV. “This is a key year for us and we’re going to deliver.” 

 

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


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

St. John’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin once said it would take about “three or four” years to build back the Johnnies’ program.

Now in his fourth year as head coach, Lavin was optimistic at the annual St. John’s basketball media day on Thursday, October 10, because the Red Storm has a full set of returning players, plus new talents like never before.

“The last three-plus years was to put our program in position,” Lavin said. “We now feel we can be competitive, because we have the artillery and the firepower to be on more equal footing to the competition.”

After a spring of practicing and a summer playing basketball in Europe, the Johnnies, which were once the youngest team in school history, are all grown up. The Red Storm’s leading scorer junior guard D’Angelo Harrison’s behavior behind the scenes last season eventually got him kicked off the squad at an essential time. This time around, he said he’s changed his ways.

“Knowing how I used to act and the way I am today, now I can see,” Harrison said. “I can honestly say I thank Lavin for what he did.”

A whole cast of Johnnies who were prominent in last year’s National Invitational Tournament appearance will be returning, including the country’s leading shot blocker, sophomore center Chris Obekpa, reigning Big East Conference Rookie of the Year Jakarr Sampson, junior Sir’Dominic Pointer and combo guard Phil Greene IV.

A fresh set of players will also join them for this season, including senior Orlando Sanchez, a 6’9” forward from the Dominican Republic, who hopes to provide stability to the front court.

Sophomore transfer Max Hooper, a three-point specialist, will help the Red Storm from behind the arch, which they desperately needed last season. Also, after redshirting last season, forward God’sgift Achiuwa will return to the Red Storm, and said taking a year off actually improved his game.

“I was able to watch the game from the sideline,” Achiuwa said. “So now I have good perspective of a basketball game. I have an overview of what basketball is all about from every angle.” 

The team’s only true freshman, point guard Rysheed Jordan who was missing in action at the media event, is one of the nation’s top recruits, rated 17 in the country by ESPNU. Jordan hopes to help the back court with scoring.

With this armament of talent for the Johnnies, it seems like the only problem might be how to distribute minutes on the court.
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St. John’s 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.”

 

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


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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