St. John's basketball hoping new practice regimen quickens development of RJ Luis

RJ Luis will operate under new practice guidelines for the St. John's basketball team
Jan 20, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  St. John's Red Storm guard RJ Luis Jr. (12) looks to drive
Jan 20, 2024; New York, New York, USA; St. John's Red Storm guard RJ Luis Jr. (12) looks to drive / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Pitino has raved about St. John's basketball forward RJ Luis since he arrived on campus but injuries have derailed his first season in Queens.

The talented sophomore transfer from UMass suffered a broken hand in October that sidelined him until late November and then just after one game he had to be put on the shelf again because of chronic shin splints.

"He's as good of a talent as I have ever coached," Pitino said after the Red Storm defeated Hofstra in late December, but the Hall of Famer hasn't been able to work with him in individual player development sessions because of his shin issues and he was only taking part in 20-percent of the Red Storm's practices.

It frustrated Pitino because, despite the unique talent Luis possess, it was becoming clear that he just wasn't getting better since his return like other players.

"This is not working...Coming to practice and practicing for 20 minutes out of two hours," Pitino said on Saturday after the Red Storm dropped a heartbreaker to Marquette.

The St. John's coach met with RJ Luis and his father and said he was either going to shut him down for the season or operate under his normal practice and developement schedules.

The latter was chosen.

However, Luis has said previously this year that he is going to have to shut down basketball activities after the season to fully heal from the shin splints.

"After a game, [RJ Luis] is going to take off. Then, [Luis] is going to go through a full practice the next day, then [Luis] is going to take off the day before the game," Pitino explained.

"What we were doing was asinine, to say the least."

The new practice plan worked against the Golden Eagles with RJ Luis finishing with a season-high 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, and three steals.

Luis said he was also frustrated with how inconsistent his time was on the court before the new regimen was put in place.

"Mentally, I'm not able to get in the gym as much as I want to get up shots so I still feel a little rusty," he said.

St. John's, riding a three game losing streak, is going to need RJ Luis to be available for the rest of the season as the Johnnies look to chase down an NCAA Tournament berth.