“[This loss] was probably the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life,” Malik Boothe said after Georgetown beat St. John’s by 32 points on Jan. 30, the worst loss in the programs’ history. “Nobody wants to lose at all, but to lose by that much is worse.”
Those are wise – and absolutely honest – words for an 18-year-old, a kid who has recently found himself in the starting lineup at a Division-I basketball program.But for the maturity Boothe shows on the floor, his abilities on the hardwood are equally impressive.
“He creates [opportunities] for others, but you don’t really see that in his stats,” head coach Norm Roberts said.
That much is true. Boothe is averaging a modest 3.0 points and 2.5 assists for the season, but over the last nine games he has upped his numbers to 4.1 and 3.8, respectively.
But Boothe isn’t all about the numbers game. Even during his high school days at top-25 Christ the King School, Boothe averaged just 8.0 points and 4.2 points per game during his senior year.
“[Boothe] brings a lot,” said big-man Justin Burrell. “He sees the court well and he knows what’s going to happen [before it happens].”
While earlier in the season Boothe would sub into the game to give Eugene Lawrence a breather, Roberts has recently been starting Boothe at the one and Lawrence at the two.
The combination of Lawrence and Boothe allow Boothe to display his fast-paced set-up style of play while Lawrence can take more of a secondary role, a luxury that hasn’t been afforded to him since Daryll Hill was healthy two years ago.
It paid dividends last Wednesday against Rutgers and Saturday against Providence, as Lawrence recorded 15 points and 10 points, respectively, including a clutch three-pointer in the final minute against Providence.
“[Lawrence and Boothe] bring better speed and better ball handling, and those things have helped us,” Roberts said.
Burrell echoed similar sentiments:
“They push the ball up the court fast and it makes things a lot easier. Having [Boothe] on the floor makes me a little more comfortable.”
Keeping Burrell comfortable should be a top priority for Norm Roberts and co. The freshman is averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and has scored in double-digits in every conference win St. John’s has had this year. He is truly a player a program can be built around.
There’s a lot of basketball to be played this season. But with St. John’s in a three-way tie for the twelfth and final seed for the Big East Tournament, the Johnnies will need to pull even more magic out of its hat to make it to the post-season.
Barring any transfers, there will be eight sophomores next season. There will be eight guys with one more year of experience than the eight guys right now. Boothe, the set-up man, and Burrell, the scorer and rebounder, immediately come to mind when one thinks of the nucleus of this young team.
With the recent influx of transfers from the University (Qa’rraan Calhoun, Avery Paterson and Ricky Torres most recently), it’s vital that this young group stays together.
If St. John’s fails to make the playoffs this year, the Red Storm will have only played one post-season game in the Norm Roberts era, a loss to Marquette in last year’s Big East Tournament, which begs the following question: can Norm Roberts get this team to the
As of right now, that remains to be seen.
Without the help of Boothe and Burrell, though, the answer becomes clear.