What can be said about D’Angelo Harrison and his troubled few seasons that hasn’t already said before? Not too much, really. The St. John’s Red Storm guard has had as much on the court success as he has had people writing about his sometimes worrisome issues — and to be honest, the criticisms are mostly fair and usually Harrison’s own doing.
What head coach, Steve Lavin, as well as Harrison are hoping, however, is that those issues are all in the past. That the suspensions, articles in the Post and in blogs are positive going forward and that Harrison can now lead the Johnnies back to the NCAA Tournament. Just like the criticisms written before these new expectations, though, setting up standards for Harrison to live up to on and off the court are all fair game.
When D’Angelo Harrison was coming out of high school St. John’s was in a different place. Steve Lavin was basically just starting his tenure with the program (which, in his first season without his players, resulted in the Johnnies’ last NCAA Tournament appearance). What Lavin was known for before his stint as a sports TV personality, way back in his days with the UCLA Bruins, was his ability to bring in top-notch recruits.
That’s exactly how and why Harrison came to the fold. As a senior in high school, Harrison was ranked as high as the ninth highest rated shooting guard prospect in the entire nation. Naturally, Lavin wanted the volume-shooter to come play for the Johnnies. He also wanted Harrison to be as prolific an overall playmaker as he was a natural scorer. Unfortunately, so far at least, Harrison has really only showed his ability to score buckets in bunches and has done very little in the way of making his teammates around him better.
All of that can change, however, as the Red Storm are returning nearly all of their rotation from last season and have added some key pieces through recruiting and the new eligible. Not only is this a great opportunity for Harrison to redeem himself, but it is also Lavin’s (assumingly, hopefully) first full season on the bench with his own recruits. As much time as Harrison has missed because of suspension, Lavin has missed some because of a battle with cancer and the loss of his father, Kap Lavin.
Their possible successes happens to be linked at the hip at this point. Well, at least for this season. The only difference being that Lavin has far more goodwill deservedly built up with the public. His legacy or lack there of with the Johnnies won’t be damaged beyond repair if the Red Storm were to falter in the new Big East Conference this season. Harrison, though, has nearly a career’s worth of highlights as well as mistakes riding on his junior campaign.
Fair or not, Harrison is going to be the perceived reason St. John’s succeeds or fails this year. Being the “star” of the team brings all those extra pressures along with it. Thankfully for Harrison, he does have the most help he has had since he was a freshman and Maurice Harkless was his running mate. Even then, though, the Red Storm were not nearly as deep or talented.
Harrison has a slew of holes in his game that he needed to be working on this offseason. Some of which aren’t really fixed by going to the gym everyday, but rather by watching film and, basically, maturing as a person. The junior’s shot selection, inability to give up the rock and instead dribble it off the hardwood like the floor punched one of his family members in the face and his sometimes iffy defense are all going to be questioned this season. Essentially, all eyes are going to be on Harrison — and it’s his own fault.
What he can’t do, however, is stop being who he naturally is as a player. Harrison must continue showcasing his ability to put the ball in the bucket from anywhere on the floor. It’s a tough balance to ask of any player. To still score in bunches, but not shoot as much and try to share the ball with teammates more. To be a type of player that Harrison has never been.
It’s the perception of him as the player that will go as far as determining his legacy in Red Storm lore as it is his actual play. So, really, regardless of what brand of hoops Harrison actually plays this season, the wins, losses and possible birth in the NCAA Tournament will be what will really helps determine his legacy.
The weird thing about it all, though, is the fact Harrison is only a junior. Meaning, we are likely to have a similar discussion this time next year. Although, It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Harrison to start weighing the fictional legacy meters in a positive direction as soon as humanly possible. That way next year, well, it won’t be what his legacy will be when he leaves the program, but how high up the rung D’Angelo Harrison is, in St. John’s lore.
Either way, Harrison needs St. John’s, Lavin and his teammates this season more than they probably need him. Which might very well end up being the best thing that could have happened to the program since they hired Lavin. Hopefully, Harrison realizes all this and the 2013-14 goes on without incident.
Joseph is the editor of Storm The Paint. If your soul feels empty, I believe you can find it on Twitter @JosephNardone