St. John’s Star Leilani Correa Will Not Back Down

All-Big East Talent Explains The Johnnies’ Mentality Shift In 2021-22

TORCH PHOTO/ Brenden Willsch

TORCH PHOTO/ Brenden Willsch

Leilani Correa is returning to St. John’s after an excellent sophomore season in Queens which saw her earn a spot on the 2020-21 All-Big East First Team as the Johnnies’ leading scorer. 

Correa was named to the Preseason All Big East team for the 2021-22 season, which comes with high expectations, all of which she’s ready to live up to. “It’s an honor and blessing to be able to be that topic of a conversation,” Correa told The Torch. “It motivates me to want to be my best and do the best for my team.”

The Women’s Basketball Team had a disappointing 2020-21 season with an overall record of 8-15, but Correa’s success was one of the bright spots of last season. Correa averaged 17.6 points per game in that season, which ranked fifth in the conference. In a talented league like the Big East, which features national stars like Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers, Correa’s placement in the standings is downright impressive.

The Red Storm guard’s sophomore season cemented her in program history due to her scoring prowess. Correa became the first woman to reach 35 points in the game for St. John’s in over 25 years since Tawana Jackson scored 36 against Boston College on Feb. 1, 1995. She’s also the only player in program history to score 30 points or more on eight separate occasions through her first two seasons. Correa’s recognized in conference history as well for the same reason — she’s the first and only woman to achieve the feat since the new Big East was established roughly a decade ago. 

Correa’s game was more than just scoring though, and the numbers show it. She led the Johnnies defensively with 1.8 steals per game, and also pulled down 5.4 rebounds with 2.7 assists per contest. Now, Correa is focusing on a new mentality to improve her game and to create team wins. “Mentality has always been a big thing for me,” Correa told reporters at St. John’s Basketball Media Day. “Having a strong mentality and knowing who I am and who I can be.”

That new mentality has come from the top of a new-look coaching staff. “We just took steps back,” Correa said. “[We] got new coaches, [a new] coaching staff and [added] a lot of new elements to our team this season.” 

After a decade in Queens, Women’s Basketball head coach Joe Tartamella describes the program mentality as “physical and aggressive.” It’s partially because of players like Correa, who are defensive threats, and partially because the roster features more size. Either way, Correa and Tartamella both agree it’s going to lead to wins. “We’re in a good spot to feel good about where we are at the end of the year,” Tartamella continued. 

After being the star player in empty arenas, Correa and her team are ready to light up the court with fans in the stands. “I know they are excited to feed off that energy,” coach Tartamella said. 

For Correa though, the culture shift and mentality changes are most important to her and the program’s success in the 2021-22 season. In a single sentence, Correa states the meaning behind the team’s mentality.  “We are not backing down,” Correa declares.