Say what you want about D'Angelo Harrison's first two seasons with the St. John's Red Storm, but you cannot claim they haven't been exciting. Even though sometimes for not all the right reasons. Harrison came to the program with Moe Harkless as Steve Lavin's first pair of big time recruits. Harkless, now off making a name for himself with the Orlando Magic, was clearly the best player in each's freshmen season. It wasn't that Harrison was not as good or talented as Harkless, it was just that everyone knew the Johnnies would go as far as the future lottery pick would take them.
Fast forward to Harrison's sophomore season and nothing seemed to change, not even the stat line. The volume-shooter was still in that 17 points per game area while hurling more than his fair share of shots towards the basket in each game. This time, however, fans and experts knew that it would be up to Harrison to take the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament. Sure St. John's had another super-freshman in JaKarr Sampson and a slew of returning quality players, but the responsibility for that team's success laid clearly on the shoulders of Harrison. That is why what happened during the season disappointed so many who rooted for Lavin, St. John's and/or Harrison in general.
Harrison was suspended during the team's final six games. To be fair as well as honest, the timing of the suspension could have not come at a worse time as the Red Storm were fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. Whether it was the seemingly continuing trend of Harrison's immaturity, an ignorance that comes with youth or some other unknown reasons Harrison let the coaching staff, his teammates and the entire program down -- something a team's best player cannot be doing under any circumstances. Instead of leading by example Harrison was harming by action.
It is a good thing, though, that maturity can come with growing older. While I can point out all the mistakes that Harrison made as essentially a kid, I doubt anyone one of us would want to be judged as people the rest of our lives for what we did in our late-teens and early twenties. No one has handled the whole debacle better than Lavin anyway. Even though it is a foregone conclusion in most people's minds that Harrison is coming back, he actually has to earn a reinstatement from Lavin to rejoin the team. In a way trying to punish Harrison for his mistakes as well as give him a good old fashion lesson through public punishment.
It is not all gravy and hope for Harrison coming into his junior season. Many feel that the expectations for the upcoming Red Storm team is the highest during the Lavin era and one that has the grace period of the coach coming to the school and dealing with cancer absent. With only "Lavin players" on the roster, a slew of guys all over the place that were highly recruited and the formation of the new Big East the atmosphere in and around the program is going to be more tense than it has been in the past. Especially for the apparent leader of the team, Harrison.
Some, but not limited to, of the following are pressures that will be thrown on top of Harrison's shoulders: Taking the Red Storm back to the NCAA Tournament. Make St. John's a player in the new Big East. Help the Johnnies become national players again. Force experts, fans and alum to realize that Lavin is the right man to lead the program in the long-run by playing basketball on an elite college level as well as showing maturity as a person on and off the court.
The not-so-funny thing about some of those pressures, a slew of them are unfair to ask of a student-athlete. However, Harrison's actions that caused him to be suspended helped change the perception of who he is as a person, making the expectations put on him even more unrealistic and unattainable. Even Harrison is completely aware of all the nonsense, hyperbole and hype surrounding the Red Storm and himself for the following season. The importance of this season to the program and his play as far as his draft stock and Red Storm basketball legacy goes will not be lost on him.
Still, Harrison can do more in the way of making a lasting legacy with the program than he can do harm. His reputation is already beaten down to the point that no one would be surprised if he were benched or tossed from the team all-together. While no one actually expects those things to happen, it wouldn't exactly make Twitter crash or have St. John's fans scratching their heads in disbelief. Rather, they would be Googling the player's name and wondering "what did he do now" that warranted such a harsh reaction from the otherwise level-headed Lavin.
By helping the Red Storm reach the NCAA Tournament Harrison can certainly make the Lavin era quickly become exciting again. Some folks are already trying to jump off the Lavin bandwagon despite people being close to the university knowing he is the right man for the job. Harrison, by default really, can quiet the small rumblings of people who think Lavin can't hang anymore by helping his team, showing his maturity, even improving his draft stock would all just help highlight all the reasons why Lavin was hired to begin with and how good of a coach he is with players when they arrive.
Unless Harrison takes St. John's on some other-worldly run in the 2013-14 season no one will confuse him with Chris Mullin in St. John's lore. That shouldn't stop Harrison, however, from trying to be the first Lavin recruit to make a special spot for himself in the history of the program. I mean, all he has to do is all the things above and change his perception as a troublemaker to that of a basketball playing Gandhi.
No pressure or anything.