St. John’s basketball has new leader quickly emerging and blossoming

St. John's basketball center Joel Soriano (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball center Joel Soriano (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The St. John’s basketball program is looking for a new leader entering the 2022-23 season. 

There was no question as to who the leader of the St. John’s basketball program was for the last two seasons, but that role is now vacant and head coach Mike Anderson is looking to see who will fill that void.

Julian Champagnie opted to leave the Red Storm after three seasons for the NBA and also left his role of being the spokesman for the team.

Now, the Johnnies are getting a head start on the 2022-23 season with ten approved practices by the NCAA ahead of its foreign tour of the Dominican Republic next week and hoping the extra time together pays off in the winter.

Anderson is wishing the tour not only create chemistry on the court but leaders emerge off the floor for this year’s version of the Red Storm.

“There are going to be opportunities,” Anderson said on Wednesday afternoon in Queens.

“One thing about leadership is it’s something not given, it’s earned.”

St. John’s returns eight scholarship players from a season ago, seven of which received at least 10.1 minutes per game on the floor.

“Who is going to be the guy that is the most vocal?,” the St. John’s head coach questioned.

“But you just can’t be vocal, you have to have something behind that and I am anxious to see who those guys will be.”

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Juniors Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu are the longest tenured players in the program while Montez Mathis and Andre Curbelo have won NCAA Tournament games at their previous destinations before arriving in Queens, but Anderson has his eye on someone else.

“One of those guys I certainly think it will be is a guy like Joel [Soriano].”

Soriano arrived in Queens last offseason after his transfer from Fordham and quickly had to transform his body to be able to play in the up-tempo system that St. John’s runs.

“I’m seeing a maturity in him that we saw a little bit of it last year at the end [of the season] but he has taken that into the summer and worked extremely hard. And he’s been pretty vocal thus far,” Anderson explained.

“This summer, his eating regiment has been really good. He is in the gym everyday now. I couldn’t say that last year.”

The 6-foot-10 starting center averaged 6.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game during his junior campaign.

“He’s hunting down managers and the coaches to work with him and get extra reps in. He is continuing to add moves to his repertoire. We’re going to see a guy that is going to help this basketball team in a big way, on and off the floor.”

St. John's basketball
St. John’s basketball center Joel Soriano (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

St. John’s basketball center hoping for a breakout season

The Big East was a gauntlet last season for centers and nothing will change entering this year.

UConn likely boats the Preseason Player of the Year in Adama Sanogo while Creighton, the likely preseason favorite in the league, returns 7-foot-1 star Ryan Kalbrenner.

Xavier brings back the formidable duo of Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle in its front-court and Eric Dixon returns to Villanova for another season after his strong end to his redshirt junior year.

“Going back to last year, just getting a feel for the Big East, seeing how competition is, how the speed is, how everything is really, it just opened my eyes,” Soriano said.

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“I sat down with Coach [Anderson] and we went down the negatives about my game, what he needs me to bring to the table and he needs a leader. So Posh [Alexander] and I are trying to be leaders on this team, to bring us where we need to be.”

St. John’s, projected to finish fourth in the conference last season, ended the year without a postseason appearance and was the No. 8 seed in the Big East Tournament.

The program has not made the NCAA Tournament under Mike Anderson and has not made the Big Dance since 2019.

St. John’s will play three games in four days in the Dominican Republic beginning on Friday, August 12 against the Dominican Republic U22 National Team and things conclude against the Dominican Republic Senior National Team on Monday, August 15.

“The beauty of it is that there is going to be a lot of competition for minutes and that’s when your team can rise up. Everybody’s got to be on their best game, they got to give me everything they got, because if not, the next guy will step up,” the St. John’s basketball center said.

Next. St. John’s releases complete non-conference slate. dark