Rick Pitino looking for more consistent effort from St. John's basketball players

Several players on the St. John's basketball team have an area to improve on entering Saturday’s game with Marquette.

Jan 13, 2024; Omaha, Nebraska, USA;  St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) backs in against
Jan 13, 2024; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) backs in against / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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The St. John's basketball team is not at a crossroads in its season yet but it could be if its overall effort does not improve.

"I was really feeling weak and sick and got a lot sicker [watching the game against Seton Hall]," Rick Pitino said on Friday after he missed Tuesday's game with COVID, which was the second straight loss for the Red Storm.

"If this team is not clicking on all cylinders from an effort standpoint, they're going to get beat. We have no chance of winning, we're not talented, tall enough, athletic enough to overcome not giving an extraordinary effort."

Daniss Jenkins also called out the team's effort after its loss to the Pirates and challenged his teammates to be better going forward. Pitino shared those same sentiments.

"I look at their motors, that's how I judge people on their work ethic," he explained.

"With players I don't want to see guys one night their great, one day in practice they are upbeat and passionate, and the next day they are moody. That takes the air out of the basketball."

The Hall of Famer made sure to express that he was not calling out any specific player but highlighted the play of Zuby Ejiofor and Drissa Traore for "playing their hearts out" late in a lopsided score.

"That's what I expect from every single guy."

The spotlight, however, is on Joel Soriano, who did not play in the final 14:43 against Seton Hall, and was anything but his dominant self in the Red Storm's most recent loss.

"Joel is the focal point of good as well as bad, and I think that's unfair," Pitino said. "I think Joel gets too much praise and too much criticism. He's just a good player on a decent team."

Soriano had just six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes and was outplayed by Pirate backup center Elijah Hutchinson-Everett.

"I have to be better, have to play better," Soriano said, who delivered a blunt assessment of his performance against Seton Hall. "Lack of energy, lack of motor, no intensity, no grit, no fight."

Like a true captain, he did not try and hide but was holding himself very accountable before the Red Storm take the court against Marquette.

"I know all the guys believe in him...everybody has a couple bad games, we're not worried about him and we know he's going to come tomorrow and bring it," Chris Ledlum said.

It will be a big challenge for St. John's frontcourt with the talented duo of Oso Ighodaro and and David Joplin, who average to combine 23.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

Tipoff between the Johnnies (12-6, 4-3 Big East) and No. 17 Golden Eagles (12-5, 3-3 Big East) is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET (FOX) inside Madison Square Garden.

Next. St. John's Jordan Dingle, coaches missing Marquette game with COVID. St. John's Jordan Dingle, coaches missing Marquette game with COVID. dark