The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Barnes Arico has Red Storm ready to dance


Kim Barnes Arico sat in the state-of-the-art media room at the new Taffner Field House during media day. She spoke about the leaps and bounds her St. John’s program has taken with the addition of the new facility. She smiled before she told the story of how Mr. Taffner’s simple words foretold the future.

“You know, it’s funny,” Barnes Arico said. “Mr. Taffner, who this building is named after, two years ago, he sent me in the mail a plaque that said ‘anticipate miracles,'” Barnes Arico said. “Every time I think about this facility I look at that plaque and I think he has such a great part in that and ‘anticipate miracles.’ Nobody thought our program or the facility would be here in this short period of time, and it is.”

Miracles are defined in the dictionary as extremely outstanding or an unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.

As it turns out, miracles have come true for Barnes Arico and St. John’s. In the last year, the St. John’s women’s basketball coach gave birth to her second child, Emma, and led the Red Storm to a 20-win season and an appearance in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Yet another event that seems a miracle four years ago looms around the corner.

The 2005-2006 group that Barnes Arico and staff has assembled has all the ingredients to go the NCAA Tournament. Anything short of a tourney bid would be disappointing and considered an underachievement.

St. John’s posted impressive stats in 2004-05 that leads its fans to believe the best is yet to come. The Storm was 11-0 in non-conference play for the first time in team history and recorded the school’s first winning season since 1994-1995.

Barnes Arico was named 2004-2005 Basketball Coaches Association of New York Division I women’s coach of the year and the Red Storm also received votes in the USA Today/WBCA/ESPN poll for the first time in school history.

Things can only get better from here, right?

When Barnes Arico came in three years ago, the team finished 8-19. A year later, they mustered together a 10-18 record. The records show baby steps, but recruitment and development of core players was evident.

This year’s squad will be anchored by the one-two punch of juniors Kia Wright and Angela Clark, both of whom came into their own last season.

Wright, an All-Big East second team selection, averaged 14.8 points a game, third in the conference. Clark averaged 11.6 points a game and was fifth in the conference with 8.4 rebounds per game.

Clark and Wright will have a strong supporting cast in veterans Greeba Barlow, Danielle Chambers, Mercedes Dukes and Tara Walker.

They’ll be joined by the arrivals of newcomers Lisa Claxton, Monique McLean and Angel Tate.

All in all, the Red Storm returns nine of their 12 letter winners from a year ago.

The talent is evident and the expectations have risen for Barnes Arico and the team. Obviously, with winning comes the spotlight.

Pressure to meet those expectations? Barnes Arico has them under control.

“I think that’s part of my job, to keep them level-headed,” Barnes Arico said. “When we came in as a staff three years ago we said, ‘We’re not going to look at wins and losses. We’re going to say, Let’s look at the process and say let’s take it one game at a time and work on getting better,’ and I think the same is true now.”

Getting better for St. John’s means winning a few more games here and there to make the difference in the end. It will mean trying to win the Big East Tournament, something very attainable after Rutgers, not UConn, was selected to finish at the top the conference.

The Red Storm was picked to finish eighth in the revised Big East, that will feature five new schools expanding the conference to 16 teams. But the goal of advancing in the Big East standings and playing well in conference play can only be precursors to something bigger.

“I think playing some of these good teams are going to make us more competitive,” said Clark about the additions of Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul, and the University of South Florida to the conference.

Clark, like her coach, is confident this team is ready for the big dance. St. John’s is finally within reach of the tourney after only making three trips to the dance and recording their only NCAA tourney victory in 1988.

“I think that we have to realize that as a program, saying it and achieving it are two different things,” said Barnes Arico when asked of targeting the NCAA tournament. “We have to give a consistent effort and do the things needed to get done to get to the NCAA tournament.”

The 28-game season that runs from November through the end of February will be in full gear come January when the Storm kick off its pivotal 15-game Big East schedule against Notre Dame.

Highlights include a pair of games the Red Storm will play at Madison Square Garden versus Villanova and West Virginia.

These two games will mark the first time the program has played a pair of games at the World’s Most Famous Arena, an indication that St. John’s as an athletic program is aware of the accomplishments of this team and that perhaps they’re on the cusp of putting together a season to remember.

“I think you can really see with all of these steps the University has made a commitment to the program and to women’s basketball,” Barnes Arico said. “I think that in order for us to be successful in the Big East conference, we need to take those strides to say, ‘Hey we’re on par with all the rest of the teams in the league.'”

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