With the loss of five seniors, St. John’s future uncertain

Will Obekpa and Jordan declare for the NBA Draft?

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Stephen Zitolo, Sports Editor

On Saturday night, the St. John’s men’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament run came to a quick end in the second round versus San Diego State as they fell 76-64.

The game should have and could have ended differently. The biggest problem the Red Storm had coming into the season was their lack of size.  But with 6-foot-10 junior forward Chris Obekpa protecting the rim and the athleticism of senior G/F Sir’Dominic Pointer doing the same, they were able to withstand their lack of size and have a successful season.

But that success didn’t carry over to the postseason. According to reports, Obekpa tested positive for marijuana prior to the NCAA Tournament and head coach Steve Lavin decided to suspend him for two weeks on Selection Sunday. Without Obekpa in the line-up, St. John’s was too undersized to combat the SDSU big men and that was a big part of why they lost.

“Oh, I am upset about it and I will have some words for him when we get back,” Harrison told the NY Daily News. “All we needed was a little push from the big guy. I’m disappointed and this should have been a very different ending for all of us.”

The season came to an end for St. John’s, but what also came to an end were the collegiate careers of the first recruiting class of Lavin in 2011.  The class would be ranked as the third best in the nation coming in and the future looked bright for the Red Storm.  The class included what are well-known names and faces around campus like D’Angelo Harrison, Pointer, Phil Greene IV, Jamal Branch and Khadim Ndiaye.

It took time for the main pieces of the class to come together and be the team that Lavin envisioned. In the 2011-12 season they won 13, in 2012-13 they won 17, in 2013-14 they won 20 and in 2014-15 they won 21 games. Their goal was to get the program back to an elite level, to be nationally recognized again. This season they did that; they made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and were ranked as high as 15th nationally.

“I’m proud of this group of seniors for taking us on this ride and restoring pride in St. John’s by getting us back to the NCAA Tournament. They’ve represented the University in a first-class manner,” Lavin said. “This has been the most gratifying year of my coaching career because of the opportunity to participate in this senior class’s journey.”

The seniors finished their collegiate careers leaving a lasting legacy on the Red Storm. Harrison finished third all-time in scoring in school history with 2,178 points, Greene IV finished with 1,243 points and Pointer finished with 1,078 points. Combine those numbers with the play of Branch and Ndiaye and that gave the Johnnies 71 wins over the last four years and three straight postseason appearances.

Going into next season, St. John’s is going to have a lot of question marks. First off, Steve Lavin is heading into the final year of his contract. Reports are that Lavin is going to come back and is currently working on an extension with the administration.

With the loss of five seniors, three of which were starters and played crucial minutes night in and night out, how will the Red Storm replace the production of Harrison, Greene and Pointer?  With all of the production leaving, will sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa declare for the NBA Draft? If that happens, what will the Red Storm do? Is their recruiting class for 2015 (so far it includes: G Brandon Sampson, G Samir Doughty, G Sammy Barnes-Thompkins) going to be enough to keep them competitive in the Big East next season?

For St. John’s to be competitive next season, I believe Jordan and Obekpa will have to return.  The offseason is sure to have its twists and turns for the Red Storm; only time will tell what the Johnnies will look like next season.