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A Post-Deadline Look at the Big East: St. John's Red Storm

St. John's was a deep, senior-laden team that finally lived up to the players' potential under first year Coach Steve Lavin. St. John's finished in fifth place in the Big East with a 12-6 record.  They finished the year with a 21-12 record and lost in the first (second) round of the NCAA tournament to Gonzaga. But you can pretty much throw all of that out the window as the Red Storm loses every single piece off of that team. Ok that's not entirely true, they do return one player off that team. That's right only one player. Steve Lavin will start from scratch next year.

Can St. John's compete in the Big East with a team of all Freshman?

Key Losses:

Graduating: Dwight Hardy (18.3pts, 2.9rbds, 1.9asts), DJ Kennedy (10.4pts, 5.6rbds, 2.0asts), Justin Brownlee (12.3pts, 5.2rbds, 1.9asts), Paris Horne (7.9pts, 2.9rbds), Justin Burrell (6.3pts, 4.9rbds), Malik Boothe (4.1pts, 2.9asts), Dele Coker (0.9pts, 1.2rbds), Sean Evans (3.6pts, 2.7rbds)

Early Entry: None

Transferring: Dwayne Polee (4.4pts, 2.5rbds)

Key Returns:

Seniors: None

Juniors: Malk Stith (3.3pts, 0.9rbds, 0.9asts)

Sophomores: None

Incoming Recruits:

Sir'Dominic Pointer 6'6" SF 41 Scout, 44 Rivals, 24 ESPN

Jakarr Sampson 6'7" SF 40 Scout, 51 Rivals, 31 ESPN

Maurice Harkless 6'6" SF 45 Scout, 41 Rivals, 38 ESPN

D'Angelo Harrison 6'3" SG 62 Scout, 40 Rivals, 63 ESPN

Norvel Pelle 6'9" PF 79 Scout, 23 Rivals, 76 ESPN

Amir Garrett 6'6" SF 80 Scout, 68 Rivals, 97 ESPN

Phillip Greene 6'2" SG NR

Nurideen Lindsey 6'4" SG #2 Junior College Transfer according to

God's Gift Achiuwa 6'9" PF #24 Junior College Transfer according to

St. John's is the hardest team to get a read on, since it's an entirely different team from last year. The Red Storm goes from the third most experienced team in the nation (first among major conference schools) to what has to be the least experienced roster in the nation.  There's almost no point in doing the normal they lose this percent of their scoring, etc lists, but I will because these numbers amuse me so much.

St. John's loses:

  • 96.3 percent of their scoring
  • 98.8 percent of their rebounding
  • 94.5 percent of their assists
  • 93.6 percent of their steals
  • 98.9 percent of their blocks

The one returning player Malik Stith is the only true point guard currently on the roster. St. John's may still add another recruit as they could definitely use a point guard since that is the one thing their incoming class of freshman is missing. They attempted to get Arizona transfer MoMo Jones. However, due to a new NCAA rule prohibiting players from signing with a school that has hired one of their high school or AAU coaches for two years after the coach is signed Jones cannot sign with the Red Storm.

St. John's brings in what is generally considered the third best recruiting class in the nation. It's a great class, it's very large and has six top one hundred players in it as well as two highly regarded junior college transfers. There are, however, several problems with this class that could cause problems for next year's squad. First of all, there is a lot of redundancy in this class.  There are four true small forwards, none of whom really have the height or bulk to play in the post in the Big East. They only have two true post players and then three shooting guards, none of whom are true point guards. The second issue is that while all these players are well regarded, none of them are consensus top twenty-five, five-star players that will definitely make an instant impact. It's not that they cannot or will not be great from the beginning, but there are no sure-fire one-and-done players in this class. The final issue with this class is that the majority of them are high-upside players and athletes. The issue here is that on the whole they don't have great developed basketball skills and have been getting by on their athleticism alone. That's not going to cut it in the Big East.

  • Sir'Dominic Pointer: Here's a word you're going to be hearing a lot in these write ups: Athletic. Pointer is a great athlete. He's long and a solid defender. He can finish in transition and has a decent shot, but needs to keep developing his basketbal skills as his handle is shakey and he needs a lot of time to get his shot off.
  • Jakarr Sampson: Pretty much identical. He's an athlete with high upside and potential but needs to develop a consistent shot and a handle. He's a good shot blocker and defender.
  • Maurice Harkless: Again pretty similar. High upside athlete. A better mid range shooter than the first two, but a worse defender. He needs to add strength and put forth more effort on the defensive end.
  • D'Angelo Harrison is a excellent three point shooter. He can also get to the rim, but his handle needs work for the Big East level. Not a point guard by any means. He like Harkless needs to put more focus and effort on the defensive end.
  • Norvel Pelle: Is the ultimate high potential little current pay off player. He's a bouncy ahtlete who can get put back dunks and block shots, but that's about it. He has no back to the basket game right now. He brings the ball down low and has terrible foot work. He is also not a great rebounder. The major concern is his attitude. He does not bring it every game and is often lackadaisical. You never know what you're going to get intensity wise.
  • Amir Garrett  Is the opposite of Pelle in terms of intensity. He's always going to bring it and hustle hard. However he's also just like the first three small forwards. Great athlete, but needs to develop perimeter skills: Shooting, passing, ball handling. He's a very good defender.
  • Phillip Greene bit of a combo guard. Not a great shooter, but good at attacking the rim. Needs to add strength.
  • Nurideen Lindsey: Reports are conflicting all the current rankings have him listed as a shooting guard, but prior to going to junior college he was referred to as a point guard. He's a big time scorer so if he can play point will still be a shoot first point guard. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.
  • God's Gift Achiuwa Will provided an experienced interior player for St. Johns. Will be the starting center from day one most likely as his post game is more developed than Pelle. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

St. John's will be an interesting team to watch. If nothing else they'll at least have an all-names team. The Johnnies are playing a very tough out of conference schedule that will throw these freshman right into the fire. It's impossible to say at this point if they will be able to compete at the Big East level from the beginning or if they'll struggle this year. One thing that is for sure is it will most likely be entertaining either way. St. John's could finish as high as sixth and as low as fourteenth. I tend to think they'll be towards the lower end of that spectrum. The Big East is the worst league in the country to be young in. It's more physical than other conferences and the coaching is better. Experience is huge in this league as St. John's learned last year. They're about to learn the counter point to that lesson this year.