What fans should expect from the St. John’s basketball backcourt

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 18: LJ Figueroa #30 of the St. John's basketball team celebrates a basket with teammate against the Seton Hall Pirates at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 18: LJ Figueroa #30 of the St. John's basketball team celebrates a basket with teammate against the Seton Hall Pirates at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

It seems that the St. John’s basketball roster is set and Mike Anderson will have a deep and talented pool of guards to choose from next season.

With yesterday’s news that St. John’s is no longer pursuing former Monmouth point guard Ray Salnave as a graduate transfer, the Red Storm’s basketball roster is almost set, barring LJ Figueroa’s decision of whether or not to enter the NBA Draft.

St. John’s will lose two key players in the back court for the 20-21 season to graduation, in Nick Rutherford and Mustapha Heron.

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Rutherford, who was also a graduate transfer from Monmouth, was a key addition to establish the defensive tone in Mike Anderson’s first season, and usually found himself matched up against the opposing team’s best guard. With Heron graduating, the Red Storm are losing arguably their most talented player, who despite his injury struggles, averaged just over 14 points per game during his two seasons in Queens.

For the purposes of this article, Figueroa (assuming he returns), Julian Champagnie and David Caraher will not be counted as guards, despite being listed as Guards/Forwards on the official St. John’s roster.

It’s been no secret that the Red Storm have struggled over the past few seasons when playing against a 2-3 zone. In the past, it appeared to be a lack of a gameplan to beat a zone, but this past season, the Red Storm struggled to stretch out zones because opposing teams didn’t respect their 3-point shooting.

The two names that are expected to make big leaps and lead two guard spots are Rasheem Dunn and Greg Williams Jr. Of those two, Williams was by far the better outside shooter, converting on 34-percent of his three’s while Dunn struggled, shooting 22-percent from behind the arc.

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For Dunn, it’s not about becoming a knockdown three-point shooter. He’s at his past when he’s driving downhill towards the hoop. However, if the Brooklyn native can increase that percentage next season to hover around 30-percent, teams are going to have to respect it more and press out, which will only allow Dunn to play to his strength of driving. Too often this season, Dunn was too hesitant to take an open 3-point shot.

Williams Jr. has a lot of fans excited given how he closed out his sophomore campaign. As Williams Jr. continued to get in to better shape, it was reported that he spent most of the offseason rehabbing a back injury, he capitalized on his minutes increase. After only scoring in double-figures three times the whole season until late-February, the sophomore finished the season scoring in double-figures four of his last five games, including the 21 point outburst in the upset win over No. 10 Creighton at Carnesecca Arena.

Next season, John McGriff will also be active for the Red Storm after redshirting this season after a shoulder surgery. McGriff’s best attribute is his passing ability, which which could give the Johnnies a facilitating point guard coming off of the bench.

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That’s all on the offensive end, but the defensive end is what Anderson cares about the most.

Both of these returning guards are extremely willing defenders and can be the anchors of the ’40 Minutes of Hell’. Williams Jr. is a really strong on-ball defender, and spending a year alongside Nick Rutherford likely helped Williams even more.

While those two players are two of the key returning pieces, Anderson is bringing in a recruiting class filled with guards that will contribute in their first season. St. John’s should also get a lift from behind the arc with the addition of Vince Cole, one of the two JUCO transfers coming to Queens for next season. At 6-foot-6, Cole will bring some height and length to the Red Storm backcourt, which will help replace Mustapha Heron (6-foot-5).

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Cole will bring some important floor spacing to Johnnies as this past season at USC-Salkehatchie, he shot just shy 45-percent from behind the arc, which is higher than any player who wore a St. John’s uniform.

From the high school ranks, Anderson added a pair of guards from Our Savior Lutheran High School in the Bronx, Posh Alexander and Dylan Wusu. Both Alexander and Wusu garnered national attention for putting up absurd individual scoring numbers during their senior seasons. The two complement each other very nicely, as Alexander is more of a downhill guard, while Wusu is a comfortable catch-and-shoot player.


Despite all the talent, expectations for some of the younger guys should be slightly tempered.

Mike Anderson has talked about how difficult this system is to play in, so experience matters. Dunn and Williams Jr. should have a leg up because they logged a lot of minutes in the system, having valuable in-game experience of what to do and what not to do.

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One thing of note about the St. John’s backcourt in the 2020-21 season, there are a lot of names. In the high pressure system of Coach Anderson, the importance of depth cannot be understated. There’s a lot of talent in this backcourt, but now it’s all about the development.