When St. John’s takes the court at South Florida on Saturday night, Daryll Hill, the team’s star, is expected to return to the lineup. The junior guard missed the last four games with a nagging left knee that just required rest. Now the stage is set for his return.
“I feel like I can be effective on the court,” Hill told reporters Thursday. “I think I’ll be fine. I’m very excited, I’m anxious to get out there and play."
Hill returned to practice this week and has not experienced any setbacks √¢?” something the team wanted before they would let him return.
St. John’s went 2-2 in Hill’s absence. During that time, the Red Storm took home its second straight Panasonic Holiday Festival title, but has dropped its last two Big East games to Seton Hall and Georgetown.
Hill’s expected return not only gives St. John’s (7-6, 0-2) back its leading scorer (13.7 points per game), but also a player unlike anyone on the team’s roster.
“He can get open and get to the ball,” coach Norm Roberts said “He’s a guy who can break pressure pretty much by himself at times because he’s so quick. He’s a guy that can create shots for guys and for himself when there’s not a play. We don’t have many guys like that in our program as of yet that can do those things.”
The trio of Eugene Lawrence, Aaron Spears and Anthony Mason Jr. have combine for much of the Red Storm’s offense in Hill’s absence. The junior Spears and the freshman Mason led the team with 14 points each in its 79-65 loss to Georgetown on Jan. 8 at MadisonSquareGarden. Lawrence, the MVP of Holiday Festival added nine.
This weekend, St. John’s travels to Tampa to face conference newcomer South Florida looking to snap its 25-game losing streak and current two-game slide. The Bulls are coming off a 63-57 loss to Syracuse on Jan 8.
“This road losing streak is an obstacle that we have to overcome, but we don’t really think about that that much though,” forward Phil Missere said. “It’s another game, and we have to try and get another ‘W.'”
Standing in the Red Storm’s way is 6-foot-2 guard James Holmes. The senior leads South Florida (6-9, 0-2) in scoring, averaging 19 points per game and shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. The Bulls, who nearly beat No. 16 West Virginia this season, also have some size and an inside presence in Solomon Jones. The 6-foot-10 senior is close to averaging a double-double so far this season with 13.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds.
“I’ve tried to get them to understand that on the road you have to take the game, you have to win it,” Roberts said. “It’s not going to be handed to you no matter what the situation is, and teams are not going to fold at home. You must take the game."