Enter San Man

There are two ways the incoming men’s basketball recruiting class can approach the arduous task of continuing head coach Steve Lavin’s early success with the program.

The players can either understand their place as freshmen in the toughest conference in America and go through the Big East’s growing pains, or spit in the faces of everyone who thinks freshmen are supposed to go through growing pains in the first place.

And even though the players haven’t even suited up in red and black and taken the court as St. John’s basketball players just yet, it appears as though a few of them are more than content with the latter option.

That’s because earlier this month, incoming freshmen D’Angelo Harrison and Amir Garrett each guaranteed that the 2011-12 Red Storm team, one that will be made up of 10 new players to replace the eight seniors graduated from this past season, will not only continue the success of their predecessors—but far surpass it.

“Next year Final Four, I’m saying it right now,” Harrison told SNY’s Adam Zagoria on April 3. “Next year St. John’s Final Four. Bam.”

A few weeks later, Garrett took his future teammate’s guarantee a step further, telling Coast2Coast Recruiting in a

video interview: “We’re going to the Final Four next year. We’re going to win it all. That’s all I’m going to say right now. We’re going to win it all. Point blank, period. It’s over.”

I wonder how Jim Calhoun, fresh off his third national championship as the head coach of the Connecticut Huskies,  feels about that. How about Mike Brey, Jamie Dixon, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim? What does Jay Wright think of this?

I’ll bet I have a pretty good idea—they all probably don’t care very much. They all have highly-touted freshmen joining their programs next year, too, and they’re just as good as Harrison and Garrett.

On top of that, the performances of those freshmen won’t be nearly as vital to their programs’ successes as that of Harrison and Garrett’s to St. John’s.

To the conference’s coaches—and quite possibly the rest of the country—Harrison and Garrett are probably just a couple of overeager freshmen who saw cameras and tape recorders and an opportunity to run their mouths.

I, however, do not see it that way.

Right now, Harrison and Garrett are nothing more than individual talents—a carburetor and a brake pad, if you will—that need to be put together and properly utilized to help build the automobile that will take the floor in November as the St. John’s men’s basketball team.

That’s why they talked, not just for freak moments of maverick bravado, not just to guarantee a national championship for the sake of guaranteeing a national championship.

In guaranteeing a title, the future Johnnies were really saying that the Red Storm should not be overlooked come November—that the Big East had better watch out when the Red Storm go out on the highway and top 100 mph on the speedometer.

It also says that despite its youth next season, St. John’s will not revert to the meager “just-happy-to-be-here” Johnnies of old. That team you saw last season that blew out Duke and shut down Kemba Walker? Well, the players might be different, but the attitude will not change.

What we have here are the early makings of what made the Fab Five at Michigan so successful during the early 1990s the refusal to know their conventional “place” among their conference and the competitive drive to test their talents,  however raw, against those of their on-court adversaries, however polished.

After all, that’s probably what factored heaviest into Harrison and Garrett’s decisions to attend St. John’s in the first place. They saw the opportunity to not only play in a conference that will well prepare them for the NBA, but play — and potentially thrive — for a school long considered to be among the conference’s underdogs.

And if Harrison and Garrett play up to their words, St. John’s won’t be an underdog for long.