There is excitement in the air about the St. John's men's basketball program late in January. Did that seem possible after a loss to UNC-Asheville at home, for a team that had one scorer, a shot blocker, and some raw players? A month's time has developed the Red Storm into a gritty defensive machine.
Fans are excited, our Rumble game threads are popping, and there can be cautious hope that the Johnnies could get into the NCAA Tournament (at least our friends at Big Apple Buckets think so, moving St. John's out of their NIT in their Bracketology.
Meanwhile, the women's team has run into the buzzsaw of the Big East, losing to Notre Dame, Louisville, and Syracuse, with UConn still looming.
Our weekly recap has a busy week behind and a week of anticipation ahead, chances for the Johnnies to make some waves in the Big East as the schedule down the stretch gets tougher. (An extra thanks to the Rumble team for handling business while I have been mostly away from keyboard.)
What you may have missed
The week started with another Big East Rookie of the Week honor for JaKarr Sampson, who has shaken off a poor start in Big East play to score with confidence and consistency. That consistency, as explained by the Rumble's Tim Dimas, is the key for the whole young Red Storm team's future as they strive for success. The Red Storm are leaning less on D`Angelo Harrison, with the other players learning to make plays.
St. John's got a second chance against Rutgers - the team that took a 2 point win over the Johnnies home to New Jersey just weeks ago. And the Red Storm took that chance with another Sir`Dominic Pointer (Sir`Dominant?) performance, knocking off the Scarlet Knights 72-60. Pointer posted 13 points, 7 assists, 9 total rebounds, 6 steals, and 2 blocks to be the center of the team's attack. Or Storm, if you will.
The other Jersey team, Seton Hall, had blasted St. John's in recent years, and the Red Storm were looking for a different result against the Hall. It may have taken the weathering of a run, but the Red Storm finished yesterday afternoon with a 71-67 win against the Pirates, with D`Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson once again leading the way.
The Red Storm has offensive firepower, but that scoring is still a work in progress; the Johnnies have made this Big East run mostly with defense.
St. John's recruiting
St. John's is heavily involved with Pope John XXIII's forward Jermaine Lawrence, a native of Springfield Gardens, a top-100 player, and an athletic inside-outside talent who could solidify the front line. His visit was delayed but he is expected to take an official visit to the St. John's campus.