The spring recruiting season opened yesterday, April 15th, while some folks were getting their taxes in at the last minute or protesting actually paying taxes (or something, it's still not clear to me).
The period from yesterday until May 20th (NLI website) is filled with last-minute pitches to recruits, coaches pressing young high school ballers to sign letters of intent before some other player takes the scholarship, a scramble for players who de-commit from their school if the coach they signed up to play for leaves for another job, and those pesky rumors, rumors, rumors about where players will commit on message boards.
This year, St. John's is at the heart of those rumors.
One player has already transferred - guard TyShwan Edmondson, who looked overwhelmed at the Big East level, but gave a game effort. His departure means there is a scholarship for a basketball player such as, oh, Lance Stephenson. Rumor has it that another St. John's player might leave the program, but so far there is no word on who that might be, and the reasons for leaving.
Though graduating 9 of 13 players in 2011 is a very bad idea for a college basketball team...
Here are 4 current targets of the Red Storm's spring recruiting efforts.
Lincoln High School phenom Lance Stephenson, one of the top remaining players in his class (and at one time, considered the top guard by the major scouting services in the 2009 men's basketball class) lists St. John's as one of his top choices. His recruitment has been interesting -almost alarming - for a fan. Lance seemed nearly unwanted due to perceived attitude issues and supposed grade/ academic problems. There seems to be a lot of drama surrounding Born Ready (talked about in this earlier post).
But St. John's and the University of Kansas were there, recruiting Stephenson even when it seemed no one wanted to. Maryland and Wake Forest popped in the picture, as well; rumors/ idle speculation also put some interest in Memphis, Kentucky, Southern California, and Arizona (with Book Richardson).
The motivations of Lance and his father, Lance "Stretch" Stephenson, Sr., are widely guessed at, but by the most experienced in the business, not entirely known. One would think that if they wanted Lance to play at Maryland or St. John's, the decision would be made. Both of those teams would be happy if Lance fell to them by accident.
Of great concern last year was the play at point guard. Malik Boothe missed a few weeks with injury; and even before and after, he could not score enough to keep teams honest, he struggled with turnovers, and seemed to have a hard time guiding the team's flow. His backups were the aforementioned Ty Edmondson, who struggled to make positive plays; and Quincy Roberts, who looked far more suited for the off-guard position. He turned the ball over a lot while playing the point.
Not a pretty scene, and turnovers have long been the bugaboo for the St. John's team (along with an allergy to scoring).
Malik Stith committed last year after the spring period; afterwards, either he or the coaching staff decided not to sign. But now the prep school point guard from Hempstead/ North Carolina/ Maine's Bridgton Academy is coming for a visit this weekend, April 18th. Stith is 5'11, and has a little bit of offensive game. He is also considering South Carolina and LaSalle; a profile of the player from ESPN here.
Armstead, a point guard at Florida's Chipola Junior College was often linked to the University of Iowa, but has canceled his scheduled visit this weekend and will be in Queens checking out the Red Storm. Originally from Florence, Alabama, the point guard has interest from Iowa, Rutgers, Wichita State, Cincinnati, Memphis, Charlotte, and possibly Alabama and Providence.
Malcolm Armstead averaged just under 5 assists per game, 1.5 turnovers, and 1.8 steals per game. And though he is a junior college player, he would come in as a sophomore, and would have 3 years of eligibility left.
Xavier coach Sean Miller has moved on to Arizona, and the point man in New York City recruitment, Book Richardson, is moving to the desert with him. Forward Kevin Parrom - teammate of St. John's incoming freshman Omari Lawrence in summer league and two high schools - is Xavier's only recruit, and he has not yet said whether he will still come to Xavier or if he will ask out of his signed letter-of-intent.
Supposedly new Xavier coach (and former assistant under Miller) Chris Mack is traveling to New York to speak to Kevin Parrom (Kevin's in town for the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game, where he will play on the regional team). The coach and player have to meet before Parrom can be let out of his letter. His teammate and close friend Lawrence would love to have his friend join him on the Red Storm.
Originally from the Bronx, Parrom is a highly-recruited baller currently playing for South Kent School in Connecticut. Like Lawrence, Parrom is close with St. John's assistant coach Oswald Cross. An ESPN write-up of his game here. A highlight video of Parrom, and a shorter video.
St. John's was tough to watch this year. Funny, they were tough to watch last year as well, and the 2008-09 team was actually a slight improvement - which I will go into in a later post. But it is widely understood that the Red Storm didn't have enough talent or enough depth to compete with the big dogs in the conference... or the big cats or the big birds.
With one scholarship available, and one supposedly on the way, St. John's could realistically get a combination of these players. Lance might just come to the Red Storm, and I dearly hope that a point guard comes as well. Malik Boothe makes some plays, but cannot thrive playing 35 minutes per game.
Parrom's toughness, passing, and ability to make dirty work plays could allow the team to play multiple quick, small lineups; both DJ Kennedy and Parrom look as if they can rebound and defend players taller than them. But I have no crystal ball. The recruiting will be clearer in the coming weeks. There is a scholarship free for next year, and a second one might come available. I don't know if there is hope, but there is the chance for more talent.