Red Storm in Review 2011-12: D`Angelo Harrison

Chris Chambers - Getty Images

The team's returning star D`Angelo Harrison has to balance aggression, swagger, and smart play. And yes, we invented a new word for him - "Swaggression."

Under Steve Lavin - as interpreted by Mike Dunlap last year - on-court aggressiveness and attacking pressure was emphasized for the young Red Storm basketball team on both sides of the ball. Players were asked to attack decisively off of screens, to get their "nose on the rim" in Dunlap's words, to force the action. It's an exciting style, especially when the athletes St. John's has on the squad can get out in transition.

Even if sometimes the shots didn't fall, the team generally played hard and looked to put defenses on their heels.

D`Angelo Harrison, in particular, rarely had a problem with those directives. He rode aggressiveness to success, never backing down from a challenge, embodying the spirit of the sidelined Steve Lavin's attacking plan.

But did he ride aggressiveness to excess? At times, Harrison was thirsty to put shots up. He occasionally missed bunches of shots (for example: 4 for 15 vs Seton Hall, 1 for 12 vs Georgetown, 3 for 13 vs Detroit), trying to will the Johnnies to a win.

Then again, who else was going to get buckets for the Johnnies?

Despite being highly-rated by recruiting services, the rest of the team struggled to get their shots off and/ or were offensively timid. On a team whose style demands aggression, and on a team struggling to put points up, Harrison's aggression was a driving force for St. John's basketball - even more so than Moe Harkless' talented athleticism.

From our Baselines post on D`Angelo Harrison last preseason:

D'Angelo Harrison will be a bit of excitement for St. John's. How good he is will depend on:

  • his role, i.e., whether he plays point guard or plays off the ball. Harrison and Nurideen Lindsey can't both be hunting for their shot opening at all times if the offense is going to work.
  • how well Harrison's outside shot is falling.
  • Harrison's ability to draw fouls against Big East/ top-level opponents.

I'd predict:

  • Harrison plays about 20-25 minutes per game, since there are other guards to spell him.
  • D'Angelo struggles to hit shots inside the arc, something between 40-44% inside.
  • He proves to be a good passer (let's say assisting on 18-20% of his teammates' made shots while on the floor) and a generally competent defender, with the ability to get on others' nerves.
  • Sometimes he'll be a little fancy, or a little reckless, and turn the ball over a fair amount, especially early in the season.

Once Nurideen Lindsey left St. John's, Harrison saw more minutes on the floor - generally only leaving to catch his breath or for foul trouble.

I was wrong about other guards to spell him, and overestimated his passing numbers. But his ability to draw fouls was simply amazing for a guard who took almost half of his official shot attempts from behind the arc. Harrison averaged 6.4 free throw attempts in 19 Big East games, was never unwilling to attack the basket with crafty moves and a quick trigger.

He averaged over 3 fouls per game in Big East play, though; that's one aspect of the game where Harrison's aggressiveness can hurt the Johnnies. Without him on the floor, the Red Storm struggled to score. Harrison learned some lessons about reaching, and about offensive aggressiveness last season, hard-fought lessons against veteran squads and elite basketball coaches.

This year, he'll have new responsibilities including leadership and a more formalized point/ combo guard role. if he can stay on the floor, he is an impact player, a leader for the still-youthful Johnnies.

D`Angelo Harrison Essential Stats
Non-con
BE
ppg
15.3
18.2
rpg
4.2
3.7
apg
1.5
2.5
bpg
0.2
0.3
spg
1.5
1.7
3p%
34.2%
38.3%
2p%
40.8%
37.0%
ftr
43.9%
45.5%
ft%
82.4%
79.3%

The positives: deadly facilitations.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumD`Angelo Harrison can get buckets. Scoring 17 points per game overall as a freshman while being the only three-point threat - and drawing fouls on almost half of his shots? Harrison has potential to be an all-Big East player. He scored efficiently, and found ways to get buckets.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumBeing ready to shoot also meant that Harrison had few of the ball handling miscues one might think an active freshman guard would have. His turnover rate - the percentage of plays where he turned the ball over vs getting a shot off - was low, around 15% of his possessions in Big East play.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumHarrison was a good playmaker in faster games. With 7 assists against Providence, 6 assists against DePaul at Carnesecca, and 4 vs West Virginia and UCLA, Harrison has no problem advancing the ball with the pass and giving up the rock to make a play. It's hard to develop a causal relationship between his passing and the team's fortunes... but keep in mind that all of those games were wins. (He also had 5 assists in the loss to Syracuse and 0 in the win over Notre Dame, so those are your heavy grains of salt.)

The negatives: the delicate balance between aggressiveness and winning.

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumHarrison's two-point shooting needs improvement. His accuracy on runners, jumpers, and at the rim leaves much to be desired; D`Angelo's scoring at the rim in Big East play was in the bottom quartile of smaller guards. That 40% completion percentage ay the rim was third-lowest in the league, and was the lowest completion percentage at the rim on the Red Storm squad.

Harrison is solidly quick, and quick enough with the ball to find shooting space in traffic, but he doesn't possess elite athleticism; he's not going to posterize players. Still, he needs to connect better at the rim. Does that mean fewer quick shots? Or just getting better? How will those adjustments affect his foul-drawing effectiveness?

Rumble_icon_x-small_copy_mediumAgain, it's hard to evaluate good vs. bad aggressiveness on a very young team with few scorers. But at times, Harrison's shot selection came under fire from St. John's fans. It's great for him to be aggressive; but what could his teammates have done with a little more Harrison patience?

Outlook:

When the spotlight shined on the St. John's Red Storm last year - and that light didn't shine often, with the team muddling through a 13-19 season - the spotlight of media fell more on the NBA Draft prospects of Big East rookie of the Year Moe Harkless.

But next to him was Big East all-rookie team member - and St. John's leading scorer. D`Angelo Harrison has some small holes in his game, but he is primed for stardom for the Red Storm. This is the kind of dynamo guard that can carry a team on his back, if he can maintain the same shooting accuracy on deep shots that he did last year.

But how will he look when he's the primary ball handler for stretches? Will his teammates be able to find him in rhythm for shots?

Will his teammates be able to provide a second and third scorer to take the pressure off of him? If they can, and if the team can get enough stops to create the wide open chaos D`Angelo seems to thrive in, the Red Storm have a real chance to surprise their way into the league's top-10.

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