Phil Missere

The third time’s the charm.

After failing to make the cut his first two years at tryouts, Phil Missere finally made the men’s basketball team prior to the 2003-2004 season. Little did he know that he would be going from walk-on to starter to scholarship athlete in less than two years.

Missere became the unlikely hero for the Red Storm two years ago, starting eight games en route to averaging 5.3 points and 5.4 boards. His emergence commenced with a 13-point, five-rebound performance against Boston College before exiting to a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

Missere, who was born in Queens and had always wanted to play for St. John’s, considers that day, Feb. 8, 2004, the finest moment of his career.

“I grew up down the road,” he said. “I’ve been a St. John’s fan all my life.”

His Red Storm roots go even deeper, as his cousin Robert Werdann was a member of Lou Carnesecca’s team from 1988 to 1992.

“Malik [Sealy] and my cousin played together [with] Shawnelle Scott,” the 6-foot-5 senior recalled. “I remember watching them play Georgetown.”

Years later, as St. John’s is trying to bridge together past and present and restore its storied tradition, Missere finds himself in the midst of the transition.

Yet, when asked if he ever felt frustration stemming from the growing pains, Missere strongly replied, “No, not at all.

“Just being a part of St. John’s-to have that written across your chest is a great feeling,” Missere said.

As time progresses, and as the team successfully moves forward under the direction of coach Norm Roberts, Missere has seen his role change drastically. He has gone from being the unlikely go-to guy of the 2004 season to becoming a fixture in the lineup the following year.

The proof is in the numbers. He had gone from playing nine games his first season to appearing in 26 the next.

Most commendable of all, however, is that his scoring is not always his most impressive stat. The forward, who has always considered himself a blue-collar player, is happy to do it all for his team, even if it includes the not-so-glamorous task of cleaning up the glass.

“I just work hard,” Missere said. “Ever since I was put on the team junior year, I just came to practice every day trying to improve my game.”

Roberts, who rewarded Missere with a scholarship as thanks for his tireless efforts, added that the senior’s role is just as vital as it had been in years past.

“Whenever a coach says that about you, you’ve got to feel good about yourself,” Missere said. “Then again, don’t think of it as ‘Oh, he’s going to play you.’ No, he’s not going to play you. He’s got to want to play you.”