Cunniff’s Corner: Men’s Basketball Team Enters Long Stretch With No Games

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The St. John’s men’s basketball team is enjoying a 12-day break between games. It’s a break that is sorely needed.
The Red Storm have lost four of their last five games, and haven’t looked at all like the swashbuckling unit that took Arizona and Texas A&M to the final minute in the 2K Sports Classic on Nov. 17 and 18.

In the spirit of Finals Week, here’s what some members of the Red Storm should be studying during their time off.

Nurideen Lindsey should study Jay-Z to find out how to get his swagger back. The sophomore was dubbed the Johnnies’ floor general by Arizona senior Kyle Fogg after his display against the Wildcats, and was the team’s undisputed leader on the court in the first five games of the year, averaging 15.8 points per game. But since missing two free throws with the Johnnies down by one with 2.3 seconds left against Texas A&M, Lindsey’s been a shell of his former self.

He’s only averaged 6.8 points per game since those misses and has lost the air of self-confidence that he’d displayed up
to that point.

Moe Harkless needs to give the NCAA eligibility rules a thorough read, to see if there is anything someone can do to get Amir Garrett on campus faster. Harkless has been the most consistent player on the team thus far, leading in both points per game, with 14.9, and rebounds per game, with 7.6.

But he won’t last until March if he keeps banging down low defensively for 34 minutes per game, as he has to this point. The 6-foot-6 Garrett isn’t going to be mistaken for Andre Drummond anytime soon, but the small forward should be able to relieve Harkless of some of the burden when he arrives on campus—which will hopefully be later this month.

D’Angelo Harrison should study the works of R&B singer Omarion, as he’s got an icebox where his shooting hand used to be. The freshman came into the season with a reputation gained in high school as a knockdown three-point
shooter, leading assistant coach Rico Hines to say that he thought Harrison could be the best shooter in the country as a freshman.
He’s certainly shown glimpses of his scorer’s mentality and flashes of what coaches and pundits raved about. But save for an inspired performance off the bench against St. Francis, his stroke from beyond the arc has been poor. He’s only shooting 35 percent from the field and just 32 percent three-point range and at times looks too eager to pull the trigger.

The career of a  certain ‘Sir’ should be studied by God’sgift Achiuwa. I’m not talking about his teammate, Sir’Dominic Pointer. I’m talking about Sir Charles Barkley, the “Round Mound of Rebound.” Barkley was shorter than Achiuwa (and significantly heavier), but used his skills, quickness and seemingly endless energy reserves to become one of the best players in NBA history.

Achiuwa is not Barkley, of course. Achiuwa doesn’t have the natural talent that Barkley did when he was at Auburn. But both were undersized big men with surprising skills and a fiery competitive nature that help them play bigger than they are and go toe-to-toe with taller players.

Achiuwa has had an up-and-down time adjusting to Division I play, looking great in some games and invisible in others. For the Red Storm to right the ship when they take to the floor again on Dec. 17, he has to channel his inner Barkley and learn how to deal with players that are bigger than him.

The only thing that head coach Steve Lavin should be studying from now until Dec. 17 is the TV listings. Lav admitted that he came back to the sidelines too quickly after his Oct. 6 surgery, but he is still recruiting, meeting with the media and attending practices.
His rationale for continuing to do those things is sound — they are all
much less stressful than coaching — but it still sends mixed messages when he calls into ESPN2 in the middle of a game in which his team is playing. It’d go against his nature, but he should keep a lower profile until he’s fully ready to return to the bench.
But whatever they do between now and their next game, the Johnnies will be well-served by the time off. It’s been a
tumultuous beginning of the season to say the least, and a few weeks away from the spotlight will go a long way towards restoring the confidence that was shattered by Kentucky and Detroit.

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