Avery Patterson, a junior college transfer from Iowa Western, set a St. John’s all-time record last night by sinking eight three pointers en route to the Red Storm’s season-opening 74-53 victory over North Florida in the first round of the annual 2K Sports College Hoops Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Carnesseca Arena. Freshman Larry Wright added a pair of threes and freshman Qa’rraan Calhoun sunk one en route to St. John’s season opener in which they set an all-time team record by knocking down 13 three-pointers.
The mark almost doubles St. John’s single-game high last season of seven.
“We know that and we want to get the ball to AP [Avery Patterson]. We know he can really shoot it,” St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts said. “I love that the ball was going in, but I know this: in our league the ball needs to go in from out there but the ball needs to go inside.”
The team was outscored 26-14 in the paint. Despite the lopsided final score, St. John’s (1-0) portrayed weak interior defense and a penchant for fouls and turnovers that kept North Florida (0-1) within 10 points for most of the game.
“We were playing totally out of character and they [St. John’s] knew they were,” Roberts said. “We had opportunities where shots were tipped or missed and they [North Florida] just ran down balls better than we did and that can’t happen. We can’t play that way. We’re going to have to do a much better job tomorrow against Navy because they are tough and they spread the floor and they do a great job.”
Despite a season-opening blowout that debuted three St. John’s newcomers in Patterson, Wright, and Calhoun, the story of the night focused around a recruit dressed in street clothes: freshman Derwin Kitchen.
One of the studs of this year’s highly touted recruiting class, Kitchen was forced to sit out of the Johnnies season-opening weekend for academic reasons. The fact that Kitchen was allowed on the bench may indicate that the decision to sit Kitchen was an internal matter, and not an NCAA decision.
“I don’t think it means to suggest anything at all,” Roberts said. “He’s part of our team, part of our program.”
Kitchen has struggled with academic problems in the past. A Jacksonville Raines High School product, he initially committed to Florida, but was ineligible to sign with the Gators after failing the state’s high school exit exam. After passing the exam a half-season later at Florida Prep, St. John’s effectively recruited Kitchen.
When Roberts was asked if he anticipated Kitchen being able to play again for him, the coach responded, “I hope so.”
When asked if Kitchen’s return could happen this season he simply said, “I don’t know.” The Red Storm will play Navy in the second round of the tournament Saturday night at Carnesecca Arena.
Senior guard Daryll Hill, now fully recovered from a knee injury that kept him out for much of last season, came off the bench last night, as the team started team captain Eugene Lawrence at point guard.
“We just try to see what’s going to be our best lineup,” Roberts said. “Our lineups probably will change. They know each other as far as being good basketball players and on a given night you may have to change up, have to go smaller, bigger, things like that. I thought Daryll did a good job, [but] he got in foul trouble early.”
Hill was held to just 15 minutes after picking up three quick fouls in the first half, while Eugene Lawrence tallied 31 minutes.
“Geno [Eugene Lawrence] played a little bit more minutes because we had Dayrll on the bench with three fouls, so we had to play Geno a few more minutes,” Roberts said.
More foul trouble
Senior forward Aaron Spears committed three early fouls and was held to just 13 minutes, forcing Roberts to play senior forward Lamont Hamilton for 36 minutes. Roberts has previously said that he hopes to keep his players under 30 minutes by using a larger rotation than he has in years past.
“We couldn’t get Monty [Lamont Hamilton] much rest because Aaron got in foul trouble early,” Roberts said. “He’s got to be a little bit smarter because we want to keep him out there more.”
Patterson’s game-high 24 points marks the highest point total for any St. John’s player since Hamilton scored 24 en route to St. John’s Jan. 21 upset over previously-undefeated Pitt.
“Every shot I shoot I feel like it’s going in because I’m a shooter and that’s what shooters are supposed to do,” Patterson said.