“Madness” Comes to St. John’s

St. John’s unveiled its 2011/12 men’s and women’s basketball teams at Oct. 14’s Red Storm Tip-Off, which was held at Carnesecca Arena for the second straight year.

The event marked the official beginning of practice for both programs. The women’s team returns three starters from the team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while the men’s team is the youngest in school history.

Students huddled under umbrellas in the pouring rain at 2 p.m. to acquire their free tickets, and then again prior to the 7 p.m. opening of Carnesecca Arena for the event.  Once inside, they were treated to food, music
and basketball.

The event kicked off with the women’s team’s introduction and scrimmage.  This was the first look at an experienced team who will try to make it to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year under head coach Kim Barnes Arico.

The arena reached the height of its excitement when the men’s players were introduced, popping out of the crowd, one by one, just as the women’s team had done.  This marked the first time that fans of the Red Storm got to see the consensus Top 5 recruiting class put together by head coach Steve Lavin
in person.

Six of the men’s team’s eight players were experiencing everything for the first time as St. John’s players. Freshmen Maurice Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison were among them.

“It’s really exciting to finally be here.” Harkless said.

Harrison added, “I’m excited, period.  Just to be hanging out with the guys, getting ready for the season.  It’s crazy how we’re here now, we’re in it, and ready to get started”

The young team had to experience its unveiling without  Lavin, who was recovering from surgery undergone on Oct. 6 to treat prostate cancer. However, that didn’t stop him from releasing a statement of support for the evening as well as tuning in via live stream from his home in Manhattan.

“He’s good.  He won’t stop texting.  He’s a positive guy,” said assistant coach Rico Hines, “I care about him as a person.  We’re going to hold the fort down for him.”

When it was announced that Lavin was watching the festivities, the crowd rose to its feet to give him a standing ovation. Things didn’t quiet down again until after a student section chant of “We love Lavin!”

Following a reading of Lavin’s statement by Harkless, assistant coach Mike Dunlap addressed the crowd in the head coach’s absence and credited the “Lavinwood” student sections for helping to push last year’s team to success.

Afterwards, sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey expressed the team’s goals
for the season.

“(Our goal) is winning the national championship,” said Lindsey. “We have the coaching staff that can get us there. St. John’s basketball is a family. We’re brothers. We can all benefit from one another and winning is the big picture.”