St. John’s basketball: Rick Pitino planning to turnover much of roster

St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

There will be a lot of turnover within the St. John’s basketball program quickly. 

Players that St. John’s basketball fans have come to know in the last two seasons are unlikely to be there next year under new head coach Rick Pitino.

Pitino was asked about the team’s current roster and how many players could return in his introductory press conference on Tuesday and the Hall of Famer didn’t mince words.

“A lot of players probably won’t be back on this team because they probably aren’t a good fit for me,” Pitino said inside Madison Square Garden.

“I think my players love playing for me…but it takes a certain type of basketball player to want to play for me.”

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St. John’s only has two players who exhausted all of their eligibility, Montez Mathis and Esahia Nyiwe, and landed commitments from three players in the 2023 recruiting class, four-star forward Brandon Gardner, junior college All-American Yaxel Lendenborg, and unranked guard Harrison Reede.

Pitino, who has won two National Championships and seven Final Four appearances, announced during his press conference that senior Joel Soriano will be returning to the program for his final year of eligibility and named him as the captain of the team.

“Joel [Soriano] is the type of person that I want to build around,” Pitino explained.

Soriano was the only player from the current roster in attendance at The Garden.

St. John’s basketball roster in major flux

Rick Pitino said that he still has to talk with a majority of the players from last year’s team and would not commit to keeping anyone else on the roster but spoke glowingly of seldom used forward Drissa Traore.

“I know the young man, who I haven’t met, from [Long Island] Lutheran fits into the style of play and the character I need,” Pitino said.

St. John’s had three players from the local powerhouse on its roster last year, Andre Curbelo, Rafael Pinzon, and Traore.

The new head coach confirmed that he was talking about the 6-foot-8 sophomore and wants to have an extended conversation with him saying, “I’ve heard great things about him as a person.”

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“I want people who are really hungry, driven, respectful to others, treat coaches with great respect, treat the game with great respect, and if they are present at St. John’s I will keep them. If they are not present, they won’t be back.”

Curbelo was suspended twice during the season last year and Pinzon did not play in the final six games of the season due to an indefinite suspension for not adhering to team standards.

Rick Pitino was also noncommittal about the return of point guard Posh Alexander while saying there could be as many as eight new players on the roster next season.

“There are certain players that are going to fit in with me and certain players that won’t fit in,” Pitino explained.

“I’ve never met [Posh Alexander] so it’s tough to say.”

Many decisions regarding the St. John’s roster will be coming within the week as the program has not seen a player enter the transfer portal since the end of the season.

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