New Johnnies Look to Get St. John’s Basketball Storming

TORCH+PHOTOS%2F+NICK+BELLO+

TORCH PHOTOS/ NICK BELLO

An abrupt ending to the 2019-20 basketball season did not stop St. John’s Women’s Basketball Head Coach Joe Tartamella and St. John’s Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Anderson from scoping out new additions for their teams. 

Tartamella signed off a dynamic duo – in a web release on April 16, it was announced that junior college standouts Fapou Semebene and Rayven Peeples will join the roster. 

Semebene and Peeples both venture to Queens after a year at Northwest Florida State. There, the pair led the team to 27 wins. For the first time since 1996, Semebene and Peeples helped the Raiders claim the 2020 FCSAA/Region VIII Women’s Tournament Title in an overtime win against Gulf Coast State. 

Los Angeles-native Semebene spent one year with the University of Washington before her time at Northwest Florida. She led the Raiders with 9.2 rebounds per game, ranking sixth overall in the conference. For her stellar performance under the board, Semebene was named to the NJCAA All Panhandle Conference First Team. 

On top of her skills in rebounding, Semebene also proved she could score, averaging 10.4 points per game.  

Detroit-native Peeples played one year at North Carolina A&T before making her mark in Florida. She was named an NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention for her stellar shooting. This past season with Northwest Florida, Peeples averaged at least 14 points per game. Peeples’ 64.2% field goal percentage was the fourth best mark in the country this past season.

Peeples earned the honor of being named to the FCSAA/Region VIII All-Tournament Team and was also named Most Valuable Player in the tournament. She also received FCSAA/Region VIII All-State and All-Panhandle Conference Honors during her time with the Raiders.

Peeples ended in double figures in 24 of the 31 games she had minutes in this past season. She led the Raiders with 28 points on Feb. 15 against Tallahassee Community College,  bringing Northwest Florida to their second consecutive Panhandle regular-season title.

On the men’s side, Anderson has added one graduate transfer so far to his 2020-21 roster. In a web release on April 16, it was announced that Arnaldo Toro, after playing for four years at George Washington University, will be immediately eligible to suit up for the Red Storm. 

With the Colonials, Toros reached the 600 mark for both points and rebounds something that only 31 players in St. John’s history have done. The Puerto Rico native finished his career there with a total of 647 points and 611 rebounds, averaging 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

In his freshman year at George Washington, Toro had 17 starts on a team that finished with a 10-8 record in the Atlantic 10 conference. He reached his career-high starts his sophomore year, with 27 of the 33 games he played. 

In his junior year, Toro played in seven games before going out with an injury.

This past season however, Toro saw the court 24 times, 10 of which were starts for the Colonials. In those 24 games, he averaged a playing time of 18.5 minutes, 6.2 points per game and a team-high of seven rebounds. 

Ranking among the team’s leaders in field goal percentage with 47.6%, Toro scored in double figures six times throughout the season including back-to-back 20-point games in November. In a game against American University, Toro reached a career-high 24 boards in yet another double-figure performance. These 24 rebounds tied a single-game Atlantic 10 record. 

Toro’s years in high school were also nothing short of exceptional. At St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey he helped lead his team to a 35-2 record, as they made it to the Dick’s High School Nationals quarterfinals. St. Benedict’s also earned the No. 12 spot in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25.

Back home in Puerto Rico, Toro played for the Youth National Team system. His 16 points and 13.6 rebounds helped lead Puerto Rico to place fifth in the U17 FIBA World Championship in Dubai. In the seven games that Puerto Rico played during that tournament, Toro reached five double-doubles and never got below nine points or nine rebounds in a single game. 

With Semebene’s rebounds, Peeples’ superb shots and Toro’s experience, the men’s and women’s basketball programs have a lot to look forward to in 2020-21.