The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Outspoken Johnnies Deserve to Succeed

The roller-coaster ride continues for the St. John’s men’s basketball team.

One week after looking like a group of shell-shocked high school seniors assembled for the first time against a hungry Seton Hall unit looking to make the NCAA Tournament, the Red Storm were pitted against two teams in UCLA and DePaul that were much like the Johnnies are – young, inexperienced and inconsistent.

Losing games to the likes of Cincinnati and Seton Hall – even if by wide margins– is explicable. But the “Fresh Five” is supposed to be one of the most talented collection of freshmen in the country. And matched up against teams as reliant on underclassmen as UCLA and especially DePaul, St. John’s needed two wins to prove that the program is going in the direction that Steve Lavin and Co. insist it is.

Mission accomplished. The Johnnies gutted out a win over UCLA at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 18 and took care of business at Carnesecca Arena against DePaul on Feb. 20.

The most impressive aspect of the wins, especially the win against DePaul, was the swagger that the Johnnies have not displayed since the beginning of the nonconference slate. Before, the strain of the Big East season was clearly getting to them, with the low point coming against Seton Hall.

Maybe it was the familiar grounds at Carnesecca that inspired them. Maybe it was the presence of former standout swingman D.J. Kennedy. Maybe it was just that DePaul is that bad.

But whatever it was, the Johnnies didn’t just win Monday night, they won in style.

There was freshman forward Amir Garrett’s emphatic throwdown of a Sir’Dom Pointer miss, which I (perhaps caught up in the moment) compared to one of Blake Griffin’s jams on Twitter.

And there was D’Angelo Harrison’s buzzer-beating three to end the first half and give St. John’s the lead. Or Phil Greene’s game-clinching layup that sent Carnesecca Arena into a frenzy.

More than the individual plays, St. John’s carried themselves with the demeanor of a winner. When they’re on, the young team is the type of team that you love if you root for and hate if you root against. After his tip slam, Garrett let out a yell that could probably be heard back in his native California, and after his buzzer-beater, Harrison nodded his head as if to say, “yeah, I’m awesome.” As time ran down in the game, Harrison screamed at the top of his lungs, unleashing the pent-up frustrations this season has brought.

“Our team is very emotional,” Garrett explained. “D’Angelo gets me hyped. We’re a very emotional team. When we make a good play, we’re all screaming and yelling. It’s just an emotional team altogether.”

This type of team is one my old-school father hates and one that legendary trash-talker Larry Bird would surely love.

But that emotion was stifled as the team fell down the Big East standings. Faced up against teams that were better than them, the Johnnies looked like a shell of their former self. The looks on the players’ faces were not of exuberance and excitement, but of exasperation and frustration.

The worry when dealing with a group of players that wear their hearts on their sleeves is how they react to losing. Another
New York team, the Jets, had a similar type of swagger to St. John’s. When things went well, they were a family, a unit. It was maddening for opponents to not only get beaten by the Jets, but to also hear all about it while it happened.

We all know what happened when the going got tough for Gang Green, however.

They fell apart, and started pointing fingers at each other. The worry with St. John’s was that the same would happen to the “Fresh Five” (plus junior God’sgift Achiuwa).

That hasn’t happened. The Johnnies– well, the players that have stayed anyway – have shown remarkable maturity throughout the season and taken their mounting losses in stride without ever losing sight of the bigger picture. They’ve never shown any signs of quitting on each other, and not once pointed the finger at another player, or the coaching staff.

For everything this team has gone through, and the way they’ve handled things, they deserve to be good. They deserve
to have another top recruiting class supplement them next season. They deserve to be a top Big East team.

And when they are, they deserve to let their opponents know all about it.

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