Courtside: Allow me to reintroduce myself

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Marcus LoVett looks to make an impact in his first season on the court at St. John's (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com).

Troy Mauriello, Co-Sports Editor

It’s a debut that can’t come soon enough.

On Nov. 11 when the Johnnies open their regular season against Bethune Cookman, it will have been one year, five months and three weeks since Marcus Lovett Jr. committed to play for St. John’s. Red Storm fans, players and coaches have been waiting anxiously throughout that period for LoVett to make his St. John’s debut.

After he was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA around this time last year, LoVett had to spend what would have been his freshman season watching on the sidelines as his young teammates struggled to an 8-24 overall record.

Now as a redshirt freshman heading into this year, LoVett does not seem to be phased by any of the expectations for his highly anticipated first appearance in red and white.

“I don’t look at is as pressure, to me honestly,” he said at St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 27. “I just look at it as going out there to do what I do best, every day, which is play the game. Go out there not thinking that this is pressure at all, just going out there to play basketball.”

Coming out of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, LoVett was a consensus four-star recruit across the board in the Class of 2015. However he spent time at four different high schools throughout his career, excelling and becoming a team leader at each stop along the way.

He’ll hope to transfer those leadership qualities into his first season on the court at St. John’s, where he’ll likely step in as the Red Storm’s starting point guard on opening night.

“Of course it’s a different experience,” LoVett said on the conversion from high school to college. “You’re playing with better players, guys that are real athletic and can do everything. It’s definitely different from high school to college, but it’s a great journey and transition and I’ve been enjoying it.”

Making that transition a tad easier for LoVett will be the year that he spent examining on the sidelines in 2015-16. Red Storm fans can only hope that “lost” season for the talented guard ends up being a blessing in disguise, and to this point, it appears that may be the case.

LoVett is already exhibiting incredible maturity levels not usually seen from 20-year-old point guards making their collegiate debut. He has described himself as the “quarterback” of the Red Storm’s offense this year and can be seen constantly pushing his teammates to get better in practice.

“I’m basically the quarterback of this team, so I’ve got to direct guys in certain positions and make sure they succeed,” LoVett said. “So that’s pretty much my main concern, putting people in the right positions to do good.”

While many of his teammates were gaining in-game experience and learning lessons on the fly last year, LoVett can use almost a full year of observations from the sideline to help guide him on the court in 2016-17

“Just being able to watch [last year], not being able to play, just knowing where I can help out in every aspect. Last year wasn’t so great for us but it was a learning experience for everybody, everybody on the team, so it was great,” he said.

Also joining LoVett in his first season on the court at St. John’s will be another four-star recruit in Shamorie Ponds. Those two, coupled with last season’s leading scorer, Federico Mussini, turn a once weak Red Storm backcourt last season into one of the team’s biggest strengths heading into this year.

“It’s great, [Shamorie and I] work well together, we always find each other at different positions and places on the court,” LoVett said. “[Him, Federico and myself] always work well together so it’s going to be great for us to actually be on the court together and play on the same team.”

Head Coach Chris Mullin was also high on his pair of four-star guards at the team’s media day. He described LoVett and Ponds as “gym rats” who “love all the different aspects of the game.”

“He’s got so many different skills, I think probably the biggest is speed and his ball handling,” Mullin said about LoVett. “He’s really unselfish, very meticulous in his preparation, he wants to execute exactly, he wants to be efficient.”

When asked if LoVett reminded him of any players that he played against throughout college or in the NBA, Mullin brought up that LoVett bears a resemblance to Kenny Anderson, a fellow southpaw guard who spent over 15 years playing professionally.

After seeing some of his highlight videos posted to social media, Red Storm fans may liken LoVett to recent NBA Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson, who, like LoVett, stands only six feet tall yet used his craftiness to excel in the league.

“Guys like Marcus, years ago they were too small. It seems like those guys are really starting to have a big impact on the game at every level now,” said Mullin. “Maybe small in stature but within the last five to 10 years those guys have been having a big impact.”

It’s clear that the feeling of respect is mutual between Mullin and his incoming point guard. LoVett noted that the Red Storm head coach was one of the people who helped him out the most after the disappointing verdict on his eligibility came down last November.

“He’s just always there with positive words. And it helped a lot, just making sure that I was never falling off or thinking of any negative thoughts that I had went through,” LoVett said.

Those positive vibes will hopefully continue for the Johnnies in the next few months, where they’ll try to improve upon a forgettable 2015-16 campaign with a nice blend of experienced sophomores and new incoming faces.

LoVett will be expected to be one of those new faces that carry the load for St. John’s this year, a task that he is more than willing to take on.

“This is the big year for us, to turn the program around. Just coming from last year’s team, how we did, I think this year’s team is real special,” he said.