D'Angelo Harrison beginning to find his on-court swagger

His confidence never wavers. It was only a matter of time until that confidence translated to success.

St. John's freshman guard D'Angelo Harrison has been thrown into the fire since he stepped on campus. Just one of seven scholarship players on a depleted Red Storm roster, Harrison is forced to learn almost everything on the fly.

Luckily for the Red Storm, the pressure just doesn't seem to bother the young shooter. It has always been evident that D'Angelo is comfortable in his own skin, but the comfort is starting to turn into on-court results. In the Johnnies' two most recent games, Harrison has scored 21 and 25 points respectively. It is no coincidence that St. John's is 2-0 in those two games.

Harrison's continuing development as both a scorer and distributor will be a key factor for St. John's for the rest of this season and beyond.

More, below the fold.

Though D'Angelo Harrison has scored in double digits in 10 of St. John's first 12 games, he'd be the first to tell you that his overall performance could have been better. He has accumulated statistics based on the number of minutes played, but it hadn't been done efficiently up until last Wednesday.

Harrison shot 30% or less from the field in 6 of the 10 games before the Johnnies' victory over Texas Pan-American. The majority of his shot selection was well chosen... but there were instances when D'Angelo was guilty of some forcing. The St. John's coaching staff wants Harrison to shoot as much as possible, because they understand how important he really is.

Steve Lavin, who has been away from the sideline since November 19th, says that when Harrison passes up a shot attempt it is "turning a good shot into a bad play."

Mike Dunlap, who continues to stand in for Lavin, reiterates that he takes players out when they show reluctance.

That's something that St. John's never has to worry about with D'Angelo Harrison. It's doubtful that the young guard has ever been reluctant on a basketball floor, let alone in life. He's bold in just about every way.

In the Red Storm's close victory over UTPA, Harrison came through in the clutch in the waning moments. His deep, go-ahead three-pointer gave the Johnnies the lead they ultimately held on to. In Tuesday's win against Providence, D'Angelo carried the team offensively early on and set a pace that the Friars had no answer for.

With the amount of minutes and the experience that Harrison is absorbing this year, one would think that it would be possible for him to rack up impressive numbers in conference play. If this new-found efficiency and ability to come perform in crunch time are any indication, there isn't much reason to believe that this kid can't approach the Top-10 in league scoring and possibly even Freshman of the Year discussions.

But if you ask Harrison what is really important to him and the rest of the team, he'll answer in one word.

Defense.

"It all starts on the defensive end," he said Tuesday. "We go over defense every day so that's key. Defense helps us play better offense."

If the Red Storm sticks to that motto, they'll be successful playing in Lavin's system. Last year's team flourished most when it created scoring opportunities off forced turnovers and subsequent fast breaks. That is exactly what St. John's did against Providence, and Harrison was right in the middle of it.

Those not so close to the program (and even some very close) have been under the impression that D'Angelo is exclusively a spot-up shooter. His struggles from behind the arc in the first ten games were causing uproars among many who thought the scorer was less able to fill up the scoreboard than advertised.

But Harrison remained confident, improving his perimeter stroke and finding ways to help St. John's. His dribble-drive threat, with utilization of the pump fake, may even be his greatest scoring strength.

Not only is Harrison uncovering the methods of higher scoring efficiency, he's also showing signs of being a ball distributor. Since Nurideen Lindsey left the team, St. John's has been left without a player that solely runs the offense. Phil Greene has mostly been that man in the three games without Lindsey, but Harrison wants in on that party.

D'Angelo added 7 assists to his 25 points on Tuesday, and that may be the most impressive aspect of his performance. Harrison assisted on four of Moe Harkless' scores (3 at the rim and a three-pointer), a Sir`Dominic Pointer dunk, a Phil Greene three, and a Malik Stith mid-range jumper.

Until the Providence game, Harrison's season-high in assists was 3, a mark he reached twice. The fact that he doubled (and then some) that total against Providence exhibits why he seems to be getting closer to becoming a complete player.

Whether you call him D'Angelo, Dee, D-Lo, or just Lo, Harrison is going to react to you in the same way. His response is a smile and a burst of energy, mostly without fail. The way the freshman has played in his last two appearances, St. John's fans will be smiling a lot more too.

Along with the offensive emergence of Moe Harkless, Harrison's development gives St. John's fans a lot to be excited about. He and Harkless have quickly become the faces of a program defined by heritage and tradition.

But no worries. This guy could be the President of the United States and feel no pressure.

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