Mark Pope, Kentucky win recruiting battle against Rick Pitino, land Amari Williams

The Red Storm are out of the running for one of its major transfer targets
Drexel v Seton Hall; St. John's basketball transfer target Amari Williams
Drexel v Seton Hall; St. John's basketball transfer target Amari Williams / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

The search for the next St. John's basketball center will continue as Amari Williams has committed to Kentucky and head coach Mark Pope over the Red Storm and Rick Pitino.

Williams, a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) announced his decision on Sunday night, shortly after his official visit to Lexington concluded.

He visited St. John's earlier in the week and was also considering Mississippi State.

The Red Storm were removed from consideration in WIlliams' Top-3 finalists about 24 hours prior to his commitment but Kentucky was always the heavy favorite since entering the race for the Drexel standout.

It was the first of a (friendly) rivalry that is brewing between St. John's and Kentucky since Pope, Pitino's capatin on the Wildcats 1996 National Championship team, was named as the head coach of his alma mater.

Mark Pope publicly pleaded for a game against the Johnnies in his introductory press conference, which the Hall of Famer 'accepted' on social media the following day.

If the non-conference game gets finalized, St. John's will see Amari Williams next season after he posted 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game this season.

Williams was one of the priority targets in the portal for the Red Storm, who are looking to find a replacement at center for Joel Soriano. Rutgers center Cliff Omoruyi and USC's Vincent Iwuchukwu are still being sought after by the program.

However, things look slim with Omoruyi, who just completed a visit to Georgetown this weekend and will visit Alamaba next weekend. He has yet to visit St. John's, unlike Iwuchukwu, who wrapped up a visit late last week.

The Red Storm have yet to land a prospect out of the transfer portal this offseason and have five scholarships to fill.