The St. John’s men’s basketball team will make its first NCAA tournament run since 2002 without a key contributor.
Senior guard D.J. Kennedy will miss the tournament after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during the opening minutes of the Red Storm’s Big East quarterfinal loss to Syracuse last week.
The swingman injured his knee upon driving to the basket and colliding with Syracuse’s Fab Melo, awkwardly twisting his knee as he went to the floor. He was helped off the floor at Madison Square Garden by teammates and did not return.
“I’ve wanted to play in the NCAA tournament since I picked up a basketball in grade school, and this is a real blow,” Kennedy said. “I am disappointed on a personal level, but I am happy that I will be with my teammates on the road during the tournament, supporting them the way they always support me.”
The senior-laden Red Storm now have to replace much more than a stat line in a box score as they prepare to face Gonzaga in the tournament’s opening round, but a locker room leader and good friend.
“D.J. is a big part of this team, this hurts me because we’re close on and off the court,” senior Sean Evans said. “It’s not many times where you see D.J. and you don’t see me, or you see me and don’t see D.J., so it’s going to be hurtful. But I think it’s going to be fuel to the fire and we’re going to have to step up.”
When news of the severity of Kennedy’s injury broke last week, St. John’s students and fans rallied behind the “Do It For D.J.” slogan, which suggests the Red Storm make a lengthy NCAA tournament run in honor of their fallen teammate.
The slogan reached the various social networking sites, as the Twitter hashtag #DoItForDJ became a trending topic in New York City upon hours of hitting the web and was a hot topic among local sports news sites.
Kennedy was also the darling of the Mac and Tierney ESPN radio show, which broadcasted live from the D’Angelo Center on March 16, just hours before the team was set to travel to Colorado for its first round game against Gonzaga.
Kennedy averaged 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Red Storm this year. Last year, he was the team’s leading scorer.
“Our basketball family is determined to bring an inspired effort to pay tribute to D.J. Kennedy for his outstanding
contributions to our program,” head coach Steve Lavin said. “Our players recognize we would not be participating in the NCAA tournament without D.J.’s efforts. He will continue to add value as we
continue our postseason journey.”