Young Johnnies Evoking Memories of 2011

Is it just me, or is it starting to feel like 2011?

I’m probably getting ahead of myself, but that’s how I feel whenever I watch the men’s basketball team play.D’Angelo Harrison stars as Dwight Hardy in Rise of the Red Storm II: The Lavining, while JaKarr Sampson has nailed down the Justin Brownlee role to perfection, albeit while adding his own flavor to the power forward position.

Phil Greene evokes memories of the steady hand of Malik Boothe, while Sir’Dominic Pointer is rapidly evolving into the do-everything swingman that D.J. Kennedy was in his senior year at St. John’s.

Steve Lavin reprises his role as the Air Force 1-rocking wordsmith, inspiring his charges in halftime speeches and bamboozling journalists at postgame press conferences.

It’s still too soon to see whether this edition of the men’s basketball team can reach the heights its predecessors did two years ago, but the parallels are starting to emerge.

Go-to scorer who can be deadly from three and raises his game in crunchtime? Check (Hardy/Harrison).Trusty sidekick who can play on the wing or down low, and excels in either role? They’ve got that (Brownlee/Sampson).

Rocky start to the season, with shocking losses to small-conference opponents? All to familiar to both teams (2010-11: at Fordham, 2012-2013: home to UNC-Asheville).

Embarrassing blowout at home to in-conference rivals? Those memories are depressingly familiar (2010-11: 76-59 loss to Syracuse, 2012-13: 67-51 beatdown at the hands of Georgetown).Statement win against Notre Dame? Book it (2010-11 72-54: 2012-13: 67-63).

I could go on, but the point remains — this St. John’s team is capable of emulating that magical season, and has done so far.And the players know it, too.

“They were winning when I was getting recruited by St. John’s and I wanted to be just like that,” Amir Garrett told reporters at yesterday’s pregame press conference. “We’re doing it so far right now, we’re a spitting image of how they were as of right now.”

Not everything is the same, of course. St. John’s was one of the most veteran-laden teams in the country two years ago. Now, Lavin likes to call them the youngest team in school history (conveniently forgetting last year’s “Fresh Five”). The youth has reared its ugly head at times — the Red Storm have a habit of letting teams hang around after jumping out to big leads, as they did against Seton Hall — reminding everyone just how valuable experience can be for a power conference team.

The Johnnies have much more talent, and much less experience than their 2011 counterparts, which means that they’re never going to be identical.

How is the rest of the season going to play out? It’s tough to say, but tonight’s game against DePaul will be a good barometer.

Yes, the Blue Demons have been the laughingstock of the Big East for as long as anybody can remember, but that’s the point. This is a game that St. John’s is supposed to win big, and must win if the team has hopes of being seriously considered as one of the Big East’s big boys.

It’s easy for the Johnnies to get up for a game against a team in the Top 25, or a team that waxed them by 30 last year. It’s a bigger testament of the team’s maturity and mindset if they can treat DePaul with the same seriousness as they did with Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

Win big, and it’ll send a message that the Red Storm, despite their prodigious youth, mean business. Let hapless DePaul hang around, or worse, score a huge upset, and we’ll know that this team isn’t ready for prime time quite yet.The shades of 2011 are palpable. Let’s see if they have staying power.

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