D'Angelo Harrison's behavior is fickle, but his performance isn't

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The St. John's star is silencing critics with stellar play.

D`Angelo Harrison can often seem like an enigma - too hot-headed and quick for words to be the unquestioned leader of his young and impressionable St. John's team. But on a roster with no player having slightly more than a year's experience, Harrison is the man.

Is he ready for the role?

After today's gutty 57-49 win over NJIT, Harrison has now scored at least 20 points or more in seven of the Red Storm's eight games this season. His one off-night - an utterly unacceptable 17 against Holy Cross (sarcasm). Without him, St. John's would have four losses to their name already instead of just two.

Despite today's win, St. John's continues to fight an inability to start games strongly in the first half. They often find themselves coming from behind, even after the halftime intermission.

Against Detroit and NJIT, it was Harrison's surging second half performances that charged his squad back from the possible depths of defeat. His shooting and spirited scoring play is unstoppable when he gets going.

"He brings a big spark because he's our leader," JaKarr Sampson said of Harrison after the game on Saturday. "We go as he goes."

Harrison is averaging 21.9 points per game thus far in 2012-13, up more than five points from his freshman campaign. Not only is he scoring at will, but he's scoring at will when it counts.

It's almost incredible how consistent Harrison has been able to perform this season despite the ups and downs in his behavior. As his maturity often seems stalled, his play develops each game.

On Saturday, Harrison and the Johnnies came out looking lethargic against NJIT, falling into a deficit that got as large as 14 in the second half. When Steve Lavin called a first half timeout, he noticed something in Harrison's body language.

"When we call timeout, the kids should be sprinting to the bench. If you're in the game, you should be grateful," Lavin mentioned. "I was disappointed because [D'Angelo] was frustrated with the score, and that's natural, but you're not going to solve problems unless you're locked in with the proper attitude."

Clearly, Harrison's (minor) behavioral mishap was a result of his unyielding desire to win. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, and makes it known.

Lavin continues to attempt to mold Harrison's attitude, but perhaps it's time to simply accept the peaks and valleys. You can't change someone's nature.

"After being jumped and we addressed it, [D'Angelo] responded for the rest of the game and was outstanding in his leadership," Lavin continued. "He played with a lot of poise and purpose in the second half, which allowed us to come back."

Lavin benched his star sophomore guard for the Storm's second exhibition in November and held him out of the starting lineup in the opener; he has benched him for being late to the team bus. Lavin wants accountability from his leader.

As long as Harrison is going to produce at such a high level, Lavin, his staff, and St. John's fans everywhere will take his leadership growing pains.

If D'Angelo isn't going to stop himself, no one is.

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