Nostalgia Sparks Fascinating Comparison
Exactly two years ago, the 11 seniors of the 2010-2011 St. John’s men’s basketball team upset the then No. 3 Duke in grand fashion and sparked off a meteoric rise to the finish line in March that resulted in a trip to the NCAA tournament and captivated a city.
This year, the cast is very different. Instead of a group of hardened upperclassmen, the Red Storm are comprised almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores. Those sophomores, in particular, saw the rise that St. John’s experienced in the early months of 2011 while they were committed and prospective recruits for the program. Now, they themselves are 13-7 and 5-3 in conference and in a position to become the next chapter in the reclamation project.
“They were winning when I was getting recruited by St. John’s and I wanted to be just like that,” sophomore Amir Garrett said. “We’re doing it so far right now, we’re a spitting image of how they were as of right now.”
Following the Red Storm’s defeat of Duke, the team went on a tear going undefeated in the month of February in conference play and winning their last nine of 11 games before the Big East tournament. Now, these players are in a position to replicate more than just the team’s performance in late January, but it will require being consistent.
“I think we can if we keep working hard, playing our game and taking it one game at a time,” Garrett said. “As of right now, we’ve been winning and they were winning back then at least right now.”
When the sophomores came to St. John’s following head coach Steve Lavin’s first year successes, they made up a highly touted recruiting class with just as high expectations. Things didn’t go completely according to plan as three players
dealt with eligibility issues and the team played with a six-man rotation.
“[Lavin] recruited a lot of highly ranked players and top classes,” sophomore Phil Greene said. “Last year it was hard losing all those games and how we lost it. This year we just wanted to make up for it.”
Because of their experiences with adversity a year ago, Lavin doesn’t see an issue with keeping the team grounded despite being in the midst of a four-game winning streak that will go on the line against DePaul tonight.
“Those groups [that have had success in the past], I think you concern yourself with complacency and overlooking an opponent or feeling too good about themselves,” Lavin said. “This group because they were beat down, very similar to that first team I inherited from Norm, they were a group that had no degree of success and the concern was how fragile that group was.”
Lavin continued to draw comparisons between the two teams, suggesting that because of the lack of success, they understand how precious any place in the standings can be and how easily it can be lost. The biggest task becomes the need to build the confidence to continue to win.
“The psyche that first year was different than this group because this is a very young team,” Lavin said. “That was an older team, but it’s still the same element of groups that have had no success. How do you teach teams to win, bring them a long at the necessary rate in terms of maturation and also build that confidence that you need to win games at this level.”
For now, the Red Storm is focused on playing one game at a time and maintaining their position near the top of a tough conference. Garrett knows that’s a tall task in itself.
“Just as easy as we’re at the top we can be at the bottom,” he said. “Teams are losing, teams are winning, you don’t know how it’s going to go. Hopefully, we can maintain how we are right now and keep winning.”