Freshmen on Their Grind

Joy McCorvey, Allie Patterson and Nikki Jo Rotolo. If you are a fan of the St. John’s women’s basketball team, get familiar with these names.

For a Red Storm team that graduated five seniors, three of which were starters, and is battling some serious injuries early this season, the 2006-07 freshmen class is going to be a big part of whatever the women do this year. Good or bad.

And fifth-year coach Kim Barnes Arico knows this.

“I think they’re solid,” she said. “But they are going to be expected to contribute right away.”

McCorvey, a six-foot forward from Brewton, Ala., is the player who is filling the biggest injured starter’s shoes. She has been seeing time early down-low in the spot where Red Storm fans are used to watching last season’s First Team All-Big East selection Angela Clark.

Clark has missed practice because of stomach problems and did not play at all in the team’s opener, a 66-56 loss to Iona Nov. 9.

McCorvey is well on the way to her preseason goal. “I want to get a double-double every time,” she said. She recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes against Iona and posted 12 points and 12 boards in an exhibition against Team Adidas Premier Players on Nov. 2.

She has Kia Wright in awe. When asked which freshman has impressed her most, the First Team All-Big East guard responded without hesitation: “Joy.” Wright feels completely confident with the inexperienced freshman.

And so does Barnes Arico, who expects McCorvey to be a vital cog in the paint even when Clark gets back into the lineup.

“She needs to give people breaks,” Barnes Arico said. “She needs to come in and be a physical presence, and be a rebounder and do the dirty work to help us win.”

Rotolo had expected to attend Monroe Community College before receiving a scholarship to St. John’s because, as she admits, she had things about her game that needed work.

But she is here now, and with sophomore guard Monique McLean out a few more weeks with a knee injury and Wright seeing limited time, she is going to be expected to perform right away.

She has been running the point in place of Wright, who only played 10 minutes against Iona. Conversely, Rotolo was on the floor the entire 40 minutes.

The 5-9 guard from Rome, NY, was the team’s second highest scorer with 13 points. She added four assists and went 8-9 from the free-throw line.

“She had a tough time adapting but she was solid,” said Barnes Arico after the exhibition against Team Adidas.

Look for Patterson on the floor of Carnesecca Arena a lot too. The versatile Street & Smith All-America honorable mention at Rancho Cucamonga High School in California can play both forward and guard.

Teams will have to recognize her ability in the post as well as her knack for driving to the hoop. Her inside-outside play was only good for five points against Iona, but her versatility will keep her on the court.

Freshmen Victoria Hodges and Recee Mitchell are among the injured for the Red Storm. Mitchell, a 6’1″ low post presence, recently underwent shoulder surgery and the 6’2″ forward Hodges, an excellent defender, is out with a broken foot.

The freshmen class, like all freshmen classes, is inexperienced.

But that doesn’t seem to faze them. “This is a great opportunity,” said Rotolo. “We’re getting our experience now.”