The St. John’s basketball team is putting a lot of emphasis on its scrimmage against Rutgers.
Preseason scrimmages are a great way to gauge where a team stands with weeks to go before the regular season but the St. John’s basketball program is putting a little more weight in its game on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Storm will host Rutgers in a charity exhibition benefitting the Jimmy V Foundation and it gives fans the chance to finally see Rick Pitino patrolling the sideline and coaching the Johnnies in a game.
“We’re very excited to see where we are at this point [of the season],” Pitino said on Tuesday afternoon at St. John’s media day at Carnesecca Arena.
“We have 14 players learning a completely new offensive and defensive system, with the exception of the three Iona [transfers].”
Both players are expected to return to the lineup at some point near the Charleston Classic.
“It’ll be a challenge for us this soon to play a team like Rutgers but we are also very excited to get on the court and compete against them,” Pitino added.
The Scarlet Knights fell just shy of an NCAA Tournament berth last season and lost in the opening round of the NIT to Hofstra while losing key players Paul Mulchay (Washington) and Cam Spencer (UConn) to the transfer portal and Caleb McConnell to graduation.
St. John’s basketball ready to have questions answered in exhibition
The intrigue around St. John’s this season not only spans New York City, but the entire country with the addition of Rick Pitino to the program as the Johnnies look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019 and win its first game in March Madness since 2000.
“I think we have improved [since the start of practice] because early on the two teams [in practice] weren’t competitive with each other,” Pitino explained.
Many are expecting the Red Storm to have immediate success under Pitino but the Hall of Fame coach does not want to put any unwarranted pressure of unfair expectations on the shoulders of his team.
“I’ll know more Saturday,” when asked about his expectations for his first St. John’s team.
“For us, being a young team and playing against Rutgers this early in the season, that will tell me where we are at and that will judge how good we are. Right now, I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful.”
Following Saturday’s exhibition against Rutgers, St. John’s will play one more scrimmage on Sunday, October 29 against Pace before the regular season begins on Tuesday, November 7 against Stony Brook.