The men’s basketball team is gearing up for a new season that will feature the return of head coach Steve Lavin to the sidelines full time as well another highly regarded recruiting class ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation.
Lavin, as well as sophomores D’Angelo Harrison, Amir Garrett and Phil Greene spoke with media members prior to the “Dribble for the Cure” event this past weekend, where they helped raise more than $25,000 for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.
“We’re now closer to what I envisioned when I took the job over in 2010,” Lavin said. “We’re probably a year ahead of schedule in terms of our personnel, but I also temper that statement with the fact that it’s the youngest team I ever coached.”
This year’s team features 11 underclassmen as well as one junior and one senior, but Lavin sees a high ceiling for his team this winter.
“If we can grow and improve on a daily basis, both in terms of skill development and collectively as a group in terms of learning how to play in a cohesive manner and our kids grow up in a hurry because we have to get ready for Big East play,” Lavin said. “Then we can be competitive within our conference and have the opportunity to do something special come March.”
Last year, prior to the season, the players were asked who was most likely to come from under the radar and become a stand out player. They almost universally answered Phil Greene. This time around, the answer isn’t so simple.
“Orlando Sanchez,” Greene said. “He’s very versatile, he can play a lot of different positions. He’s a freak athlete and a defender.”
For Amir Garrett, his standout choice is a player who has had his fair share of publicity. He spent an extra year at prep school before re-committing to St. John’s this spring.
“JaKarr Sampson,” Garrett said. “It’s like he’s already been in college. He’s so smooth.”
While Harrison’s choice was Christopher Obekpa, the more important topic for the team’s de facto leader was his upcoming move to the point guard position.
“I’ve been working on slowing my game down,” Harrison said. “This offseason has been a lot about style of play, dribbling and reading screen-and-rolls. Reading plays is going to be big for me this year.”
Harrison stated that he spent time working with former NBA point guard and coach John Lucas in Houston this summer. With this new point guard role, comparisons with former St. John’s combo guard Dwight Hardy are becoming common.
“The staff has been showing me tape of Hardy, especially that game at home against Pittsburgh,” Harrison said. “He is certainly someone I would like to emulate.”
However, Harrison has stressed that he is his own player.
“Dwight Hardy is a great player,” he said. “But I’m D’Angelo Harrison, so I’m going to do what I do.”
The Red Storm’s season kicks off at home against Detroit at Carnesecca Arena on November 13.
While no one inside or outside the program knows for certain how this young team will fair once things get rolling, with Lavin back on the sidelines, a steady presence in front of the microphone is a sure thing.
“The old ‘Hammer to Rock’ mentality will let us blaze a trail to lead us to the opportunity to make some noise come March,” the ever-eloquent Lavin said.