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The men’s and women’s basketball teams ceremoniously kicked off their 2012/13 campaigns with the annual “Red Storm Tip-Off” event that featured player introductions, a scrimmage and dunk contest this past Friday at Carnesecca Arena.
More than 3,000 fans celebrated the return of head coach Steve Lavin following his successful recovery from prostate cancer surgery that sidelined him for much of last season.
With the return of Lavin came the debut of his second top 10 recruiting class in a row, this time in the form of eight new players who will add both depth and size to a Red Storm team that had neither a season ago.
“As we get closer to the season, there’s that palpable energy and anticipation to see that young group of players take the floor representing St. John’s,” Lavin said. “Particularly when you have eight players who are new-comers.”
Following player introductions, the much anticipated men’s team took the court for the Red vs. White scrimmage, giving the public its first look at the new players as well as the second year returners.
Five players return to the Johnnies this season, including sophomore D’Angelo Harrison. He got to see the incoming players’ excitement of stepping out onto the floor at Carnesecca Arena for the first time, only a year removed from the experience himself.
“It was great,” Harrison said. “All of them were super hyped. It was great having them here, all the guys now.”
One of the newcomers, freshman JaKarr Sampson, gave St. John’s its first highlight of the year during the dunk contest as he took a kick pass from junior Orlando Sanchez for the winning dunk of the night.
The seven incoming players that are eligible this season will be asked to make an immediate contribution as the Red Storm look to build a full roster. Last year, the Johnnies were forced to rely on six rotation players for the majority of the year due to a large graduating class, transfers and academic issues.
“There’s a balance of size, strength, skill, quickness, an inside and an outside presence,” Lavin said. “The one aspect where we don’t have balance is with our classes, because it’s dominated by underclassmen.”
On the women’s side, first year head coach Joe Tartamella was introduced. Tartamella, who has worked his way up within the program, looks to continue the recent successes that the women have achieved.
“I’m coming into my 10th year here at St. John’s, my first time as the head coach, and this is the best turnout we’ve ever had at this event and that’s because of the fans and their support,” Tartamella said.
The banner honoring last year’s Sweet 16 run, the best in women’s school history, was unfurled in front of the student section prior to the scrimmage. The banner will be raised to the rafters for the first regular season game as the team looks to return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive year. If the team were to return to the tournament, their first two games would be played at home at Carnesecca Arena as the arena is slated to host the event.
While the women play their first game on Nov. 9 in Florida, the men make their debut on ESPN’s 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon at home against Detroit. It may be mid-October, but the Red Storm, both the uninitiated and the hardened are preparing for the challenge.
“It’s like Christmas Eve, shaking the presents and trying to figure out what they are,” Lavin said.