Along with the depth of St. John's - Steve Lavin mentioned during yesterday's media day that the team goes three deep at every position - the tale of yesterday's media day was Rysheed Jordan.
Or, the absence of Rysheed Jordan. Rysheed was not made available for interviews, unlike the rest of the team. Lavin plans on making him available to the media in December instead of throwing him into the limelight. Coach Steve Lavin and the team all said he was central to the team, gushed about his abilities, and praised his ability to pick up the offense in practice.
But Lavin wants to bring him along slowly (NY Post):
As a point of reference, Lavin pointed to Dwayne Polee II, who transferred out of the program after his freshman year three years ago. Polee joined a veteran team, as Jordan has, as the only freshman, and Lavin doesn’t want history to repeat itself.
"You learn about kids and pressures and people," Lavin said. "He’s really in a good place now. It’s a little like with your children. You have a sense, you have a feel. It’s instinct, teaching and coaching. You know what’s best for them."
And more, taken from CBS New York:
"We’re doing it for Rysheed," Lavin said. "His mom has had some health issues and he’s been so concerned over that. He had a close friend die this summer. He is experiencing being away from home for the first time, the separation from a family he is very close to and then there is the academic and athletic load being placed on him. That’s a lot for a kid and I think we can help him by doing this. Look at it this way, he will be a nice Christmas gift for you guys."
St. John's did release a video interview and quote sheet for Rysheed Jordan, where he says he can help the team by "attacking the basket more... Finding shooters and just pulling up mid-range instead of just driving straight to the basket and getting an offensive foul."
A lot to anticipate, with a player who comes in with hype and seems to be meeting it in practice sessions.
Other media day links
AP (via Boston Herald) // St. John's preparing for breakout season
"This is our year," junior point guard Jamal Branch said Thursday at the team's media day when asked to assess the upcoming season. "Not making the NCAA tournament, not making a run in the NCAA tournament, would mean we weren't successful and this team's too good for that."
Branch is one nine players returning from last season's 10-man rotation that went 17-16 and played in the NIT. Add in two offensive-oriented redshirt transfers and the future is brighter.
"Depth is a problem I embrace. It's a challenge I want," said coach Steve Lavin, who is starting his fourth season at St. John's. "I know none of our players has ever been to the NCAA tournament but we have upperclassmen — boy, that sounds good — and that experience is what we will have for the first time. These juniors were the only scholarship players on the roster when they were freshmen. Now there are 13 scholarship players.
"We probably win 23, 25 games last year if we have [Moe Harkless]," Lavin said, when asked about the team’s prospects and its performance a year ago. "He would’ve been the No. 1 pick in the draft this year, so we basically would’ve had the best player in the country on our roster. But you take those bullets and you move on. You got to keep recruiting and keep developing kids in your program."
"Last year, obviously, [going] 17-16, we didn’t anticipate Maurice Harkless would be [almost] a lottery pick."
Wall Street Journal // Rysheed Jordan: St. John's Is Aiming to Make Jordan-Like Leap
The Red Storm was 17-16 last year and 13-19 the year before that, so the returning players understand that a lot won't be expected of them, until they do something to change people's minds. As [D`Angelo Harrison] said, "We have a lot to show first."
Jordan is the kind of player capable of taking St. John's somewhere, but his new teammates are most pleased that he is doing his best to fit in. They offer advice—like, go shoot 10 extra free throws after practice, Harrison said—and Jordan does it. They serve as mentors.
Harrison, who spent time this summer in his hometown of Houston with former NBA star John Lucas working on anger issues among other things, can’t wait for the games to come.
"I’m just glad to be back on the team and it’s a pretty good team," Harrison said. "Any five guys can play and be good. You can’t load up on any of us. Our depth is crazy."
"D'Angelo, he came back like kind of a new man," junior guard Phil Greene said. "He got his anger under control, he doesn't cry about the stuff he used to cry about, he doesn't argue. He doesn't let little things bother him anymore. He's more focused, and it shows on the court."
Added Lavin: "He's been outstanding, in terms of showing the maturity that we expect from him."
"Minutes don’t matter to me. All that matters is winning," said Greene, who added he is back to 100% after April surgery to repair his left hip labrum.
"It’s definitely about wins now. . .It’s not egos," Branch said. "If we don’t make the tournament, (the season) wasn’t successful."
"[Phil Greene IV] is absolutely killing it this year. His progression - he's gone from the freshman that didn't want to talk to being maybe the loudest person in the locker room," said Harrison, who has shared the back court with Greene for two seasons. "Look, he has a smile on his face today."
If you look at Greene's statistics from last season, you'll find that he improved in almost every major category. He became a better player as a sophomore, despite having to battle a season-long hip injury that drastically inhibited his explosiveness. He underwent successful surgery to repair the partial tear of his hip labrum this offseason, and elected to rest it during the team's trip to Europe.
"[My hip] feels great. I'm not feeling any pain, so everything is better," Greene said. "Sometimes it would hurt whenever I elevated or lifted [my body]. But now I'm totally pain-free."