St. John’s basketball still sorting through combinations at power forward

St. John's basketball forward Chris Ledlum (David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball forward Chris Ledlum (David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball team is still working through lineup combinations at power forward. 

Rick Pitino has said since the preseason that the weakest position on the St. John’s basketball roster is power forward and he is trying to find new lineup combinations that could help out the team.

The Johnnies split its first two games in the Charleston Classic, a victory over North Texas and loss to Dayton, and will battle Utah (3-1) in the 3rd Place Game on Sunday evening (5:30p.m. ET, ESPN).

Chris Ledlum, a transfer from Harvard that originally committed to Tennessee over the Red Storm before reentering the transfer portal to land in Queens, is nearly the only player who gets minutes at the power forward position, but has struggled to begin his career with St. John’s.

Listed at 6-foot-6, the New York native has 16 points and 14 rebounds on 7-of-15 shooting, 2-of-3 from 3-point range, in the team’s season opening victory against Stony Brook but has only made  5-of-24 shots in the three games since for a total of 17 points.

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Pitino mentioned that Ledlum might have to change the way he plays against better and bigger competition in the Big East.

“I have played him too many minutes,” the Hall of Famer said on Saturday morning. “And I’m not confident on who to put in [to replace him].”

Ledlum has played at least 31 minutes in three games for the Red Storm this season and the only game in which his minuted were limited — 25 against Michigan — was because none of the starters played the final nine minutes of the loss.

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St. John’s will be getting UMass transfer RJ Luis, who has not played this season because of a broken hand, back on the floor soon and Rick Pitino is hoping that he can help the minutes allocation among his team.

Luis, who is listed at 6-foot-7, is more regarded for his offensive prowess than his defensive game but Pitino sees him more as a small forward than power forward because of his lack of strength.

Glenn Taylor Jr., who has been starting at small forward in Luis’ place, cannot play power forward according to Pitino.

“I think we would have been okay if Quinn [Slazinski] stayed here,” Pitino said.

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Slazinski, a transfer from Iona who originally committed to St. John’s, reentered the transfer portal and landed at West Virginia shortly after Chris Ledlum pledged to the Johnnies. He’s averaging 17.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers on 44.4-percent shooting from the field and 50.0-percent from 3-point range.

Zuby Ejiofor, a Kansas transfer, is also not a serious option to play power forward next to Joel Soriano at center.

“We tried it. It was difficult,” the head coach explained of playing the two big men together in practice. “Zuby doesn’t have great hands right now to play the position.”

“I think it would be more beneficial to play RJ [at power forward] than Zuby.”

Drissa Traore is the most likely option to see more minutes at power forward.

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