Young Johnnies embrace program's importance to New York City

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images

With trips to Ground Zero, FDNY Ladder Co. 12, and St. John's Bread and Life, the Red Storm is connecting with its community.

Being a part of a college basketball program might seem one-dimensional. Win games - that's the goal, and the only goal.

At St. John's, winning games is high on the priority list. In Steve Lavin's third year as head coach of the Red Storm, his team will strive to move up in the Big East standings, hoping to surprise some along the way.

But St. John's basketball is going beyond the on-court duties of the program, utilizing its high-profile resources for off-court service while learning the Vincentian values that make the University special.

This week, the Red Storm has taken time out of its busy schedule of school, practice, and physical conditioning to travel around the city. Wednesday's visit to FDNY Engine Co. 3, Ladder Co. 12, Battalion 7 in Manhattan and to the September 11th Memorial prove that the program is seeking to strengthen its ties to the city that houses them, cheers them, and itches for their return to prominence.

The team's second-annual Dribble for the Cure event two weeks ago and its trip to the St. John's Bread and Life food shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn on Friday are showing the Red Storm's five returning scholarship players, walk-ons, and seven scholarship newcomers what it means to be true New Yorkers.

"The remarkable spirit of selfless duty and sacrifice of the first reponders in an effort to save innocent lives on 9/11 will continue to inspire generations to come," said Lavin. "Our team is grateful for the time the FDNY and NYPD spent with us, sharing an invaluable perspective."

While visiting the site of the September 11th attacks and the beautiful memorial that has since been constructed there, the Johnnies listened to the inspiring words of NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Training James O'Keefe on embracing the city and becoming one with its fabric.

"I've always felt and always will feel that St. John's, the NYPD, and the FDNY are part of the fabric of this great city," O'Keefe told the team. "I know everyone in the city wants you to become a winning team. The heart of this city, the guts of this city, is on the table for the taking, and if you step up and take it this city will rally behind you because this city loves winners."

Sure, O'Keefe is talking about wins and losses on the basketball court. But what St. John's young athletes are quickly recognizing is that winning extends beyond the hardwood and the concrete enclosures of arenas. The city and the team feed off of each other.

Winning is what makes New York City thrive - it's the attitude on which it was built. As part of the city's fabric, St. John's must embrace that same philosophy. New York wants St. John's back in the national rankings and, though inexperienced, Lavin's young team will do everything it can to make it happen.

The season kicks off with Red Storm Tip-Off at Carnesecca Arena on Friday, October 12th. Free tickets become available the day of the event at the window at 2 pm.

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