2012-13 Record: 16–15 overall, 8–10 in-conference
Coach: Steve Lavin- Entering fourth year; *40–30 (.571) overall, 20–16 (.556) in-conference , 185–108 (.631) over his career.
“Key” Returning Players: D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, Jamal Branch, Phil Greene, Sir`Dominic Pointer, Christian Jones, Marc-Antoine Bourgault, God`sgift Achiuwa, Felix Balamou
Departures: Amir Garrett
Additions: Rysheed Jordan (top-20 recruit), Orlando Sanchez (finally eligible), Max Hooper (transfer from Harvard)
Projected Starting Lineup: Point guard: Rysheed Jordan, Shooting guard: D’Angelo Harrison, Small forward: Orlando Sanchez, Power forward: JaKarr Sampson, Center: Chris Obekpa
Consensus Projection: Expert picks range from the middle of the Big East Conference to as high as second in the league
Talent is not an issue for St. John’s. Really, this is the most talented team during the Steve Lavin era. With that, however, comes a whole new set of high expectations. Most of their issues, though, will have more to do with the team gelling than it does with their ability to put a basketball in a hoop.
The Johnnies return a slew of good, athletic players. Reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, JaKarr Sampson, comes back for another season. Many assumed he might jump early for the NBA, but the second-round’s loss is the Red Storm’s gain. Volume-shooter extraordinaire, D’Angelo Harrison, also comes back. Harrison, however, has as much to prove off the court as he does on it. Now a junior, Harrison not only has to keep up on his always blistering scoring pace, but needs to avoid trouble and find ways to be a leader for the Johnnies — something that he still has to earn despite being the team’s most experienced, possibly best player.
It doesn’t hurt that St. John’s returns a slew of more than solid roleplayes. Pointer, Branch, Jones and Obekpa are all going to play pivotal roles for the team.
Chris Obekpa led the nation in blocks last season. It would be nice if his offensive game was not solely put-backs, but his limitations on offense are not going to be a huge issue this season — as the Red Storm have a slew of bucket-makers on the roster.
Jamal Branch is an interesting player. Most assume that top-recruit, Rysheed Jordan, will end up being in the starting rotation, but Branch is no slouch. He could easily start the year as the first point guard up. Only to have Lavin ease Jordan into the rotation. Regardless, having depth at the point guard spot is a good problem to have.
Pointer, Christian Jones, Gods’gift Achiuwa and others are all going to get time. Pointer more so than the others, but guys like Achiuwa and Jones have started for the Red Storm in the past. The fact that those two are likely back-end of the rotation players just shows how deep of a team the Johnnies have this season.
Then, there are the new faces. Max Hooper — a transfer from Harvard — should be a perfect fit for this team. St. John’s has seriously lacked consistent long-range shooting. That is precisely what Hooper brings to the table and what many assumed Marc-Antoine Bourgault would be able to do last season — a void Bourgault was unable to fill. Hooper, worst case scenario, should do enough to help spread the floor on offense and be a bit of a scoring bust off the bench. His defense is more than questionable, however.
The finally eligible, Orlando Sanchez, is a player Red Storm fans should be excited about. I already have him penciled in as the starter at small forward. A guy like Pointer might get the first look in Lavin’s starting rotation, although, a player with the talents Sanchez has will eventually find his way to playing some big-time minutes. Sanchez is a do-it-all, few flaws type of player. His ability to pass is what everyone seems to be praising, though. Not a bad attribute to have for the Red Storm — as this should further help open up their offense if they were to run some of their sets with the ball in his hands.
Finally, the hyped Rysheed Jordan. The Philly native is not only projected to help the Red Storm return to the NCAA Tournament, but he is already living up and adding to the hype that surrounds him. Jordan is a pass first-ish point guard, although, he has the ability to score in bunches. He is also a solid defender, a supposedly heady player and a potential NBA Draft prospect. That’s big boy billing for a guy who has yet to play a single game of college hoops, but it’s kind of how it works these days.
As stated earlier, the talent is clearly there. NBA level players on the roster (check), deep bench (check), experience (check), transcendent players (check), good coach (check) and a partridge and a pear tree (TBD).
As For The Schedule
St. John’s opens their non-conference schedule with a doozy (vs Wisconsin Badgers), but after that they don’t play another super tough team until December 15th, when they play against the Syracuse Orange in a
fictional battle for New York.
It is pretty much the perfect non-conference schedule for a team looking to build chemistry. Fully expect Lavin to use that portion of the schedule to tinker with his lineup, insert/take out/scold different players each night and use it as a tool to build the team’s confidence and chemistry before the Big East schedule starts.
That, of course, brings St. John’s to the new Big East Conference portion of their schedule. Obviously, it is going to be a tough road for the Red Storm. But to be fair, it’s going to be equal amounts of tough for every team in the league. It is certainly worth noting, however, that they play their first three-out-of-four conference games on the road.
Record: 20-10, 10-8 in-conference**
NCAA Tournament: At-large birth
NCAA Tournament Wins: One (obviously depends on seed, match-ups)
Will St. John’s Actually Win New York: Yes, screw semantics — or the game they play with Cuse at MSG.
* Lavin has missed some games due to health issues and the death of his father.
**Does not count second Barclays Center Classic game. Which will be either Georgia Tech or Ole Miss.
Joseph is the Managing Editor for Storm The Paint. Follow him on the mean streets of Twitter @JosephNardone