The best athletes in sportshave what is known as a “killerinstinct.”
Peyton Manning has it. Michael Jordan had it. Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera. Kobe Bryant. Tiger Woods. They all have it. LeBron James has shown flashes of it. Larry Bird mastered it. In fact, anybody who’s been in a Gatorade ad within the last 10 years has it. The list goes on and on.
You’d recognize the killer instinct if you see it. It comes out to play late in a close game, when the superstars look likeMichael Jackson during the middle of the “Thriller” video and do inhuman things on thefi eld. They want the ball in their hands. They itch for that at-bat, that inning on themound, that last possession. They want to be the one to take over the game and bringhome the win.
That said, no member of the St. John’s men’s basketball team has it.D.J. Kennedy might have had it. As the team’s leading scorer, at times he is everywhere at once and gravitates to theball at both ends of the fl oor.
Last season, Paris Horne may have had it. The guard upped his scoring output nearly six points and put on a shooting displayevery night.
In the past, Anthony Mason Jr. might have had it. He currently ranks as one of St.John’s all-time best three-pointshooters and is the face of themen’s program.
A week ago, we thoughtDwight Hardy had it.
Hardy grabbed steals on twoconsecutive possessions, gotto the free throw line eachtime, and made all four freethrows en route to the RedStorm’s fi rst conference win ofthe season against Cincinnati.
But none of these playershave it. We learned that Saturdayagainst Villanova.
St. John’s shot 56.5 percentfrom the fi eld in the fi rst halfand 60 percent from three-pointrange, taking a 38-37 lead intothe locker room and leading byas many as 11 thanks to Hardy’s11 points.
But in the second half, theWildcats shut each of theseplayers down on the defensiveend. Kennedy shot2-of-12 from the fi eld. Hornefailed to make a singlethree-pointer. Mason Jr.scored 10 points but stilldidn’t take over the gameoffensively the way he used to.
And Hardy was held to justnine second-half points asthe main target of Villanova’shalftime defensive adjustments.
The Johnnies wound upshooting 11-for-38 from thefi eld and 3-of-11 from three inthe second half. That equatesto 28.9 percent from the fi eldand 27.3 percent from three.The Johnnies maintained
contention in thisgame early because of theirability to put the ball in thebasket. With the game stillin hand at halftime, somebodyhad to step up toput Villanova away.
Peyton would have doneit. Jordan would have, too.And Jeter and Mo and Kobeand Tiger.And for Villanova, thatplayer was and always isScottie Reynolds, who hada team-high 19 points on6-of-12 shooting and was aperfect 6-of-6 from the freethrow line. Corey Fisher andMaalik Wayns may havecombined for 34 points, butReynolds consistently carrieshis team to victory. He’s got aninstinct for it. He has thekiller instinct.
This is not to say Kennedy,Horne, Mason Jr. and Hardy arenot talented players who canlead St. John’s through toughconference battles later onthis season. But of theseplayers, is there any oneyou’d trust taking and makinga big shot with the gameon the line? Or, in this case,someone who can carry the bulkof the scoring and put a team away? I don’t think there is. And if there is one amongthem, he’d better make himself known during a game pretty quick.
But even if it doesn’t happen, hey, at least we still getto see Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl next Sunday.