I walked away from the Red Storm Tip-Off last Thursday a bit let down that the pep rally didn’t take place at Carnesecca Arena, home of the St. John’s basketball programs.
At the time, I didn’t understand why the St. John’s athletic programs would promote the start of the basketball seasons on court other than at Carnesecca Arena, albeit one located just next door, one used as the programs’ practice facility.
But after seeing the NBA preseason game between the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers held there the next night, their reasoning rang loud and clear.
The first event at the newlyre-opened Carnesecca provided theperfect venue for the University to show off the new renovations done to the arena.
The new videoboard overlooking the floor – one that looks slightly familiar to the jumbo board installed at the new Cowboys Stadium – was in full use, displaying the YES Network’s coverage of the game.
“To come back and see the renovations and where it’s at, I think it’s a beautiful facility,” Frank said.
Friday night’s NBA festivities gave St. John’s a rare opportunity to promote the Big East conference through the NBA spectrum at an arena celebrating the history of one of the winningest programs in college basketball history; the only event that could have opened the newly-renovated arena with the attention it deserved.
“The environment was super; there was a lot of juice in the building, a lot of energy,” Nets head coach Lawrence Frank said. “I remember coming to, it was then-Alumni Hall. I had a neighbor who used to come to all the St. John’s games, so it was great to be back here.”
The game was also the closest St. John’s athletics will probably come to a Red Carpet event, with basketball stars like Kiki Vandeweghe and Eddie Jordan in attendance. Sure, the big celebrities normally found at NBA games – like Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee – weren’t in attendance Friday, but New York Knicks point guard Nate Robinson sat courtside in support of New Jersey’s Terrance Williams, his friend and former high school teammate, and received cheers from the crowd of 3,284 fans as he signed autographs at halftime.
“[The event] was good, especially for the kids and the college kids that play, for them to get a glimpse of what the NBA is like,” Robinson said. “The atmosphere is good.”
The members of the St. John’s basketball programs were able to sit back and enjoy being fans of the game for a change. The men’s basketball coaches and players took in the game from the lower level of section 7, looking on as their basketball peers battled it out on their home floor for their enjoyment as they prepare for the upcoming Big East season.
“I think it’s a program that is going to be on the rise in the best league in America,” Frank said of the men’s basketball program.
But it was Williams, the former Louisville Cardinals standout, who stole the show with 23 points and eight assists. Midway through the third quarter, with the Nets already on their way to a big win, Williams broke away for a monster dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy and got Robinson up out of his seat, a dunk that obviously impressed the two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion. He also added an acrobatic pass to Courtney Lee for a dunk a short time later that made NBA.com’s list of the preseason’s top assists.
“It was good to see the floor with the Big East logo on it because I used to play on a floor that had the Big East logo on it,” Williams said after the game.
For one night, it was good to see the NBA on a floor with the Big East logo on it, too.