Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
French sniper Bourgault impressed when he scored 12 points off the bench on Saturday at Georgetown. He's kept his head up in practice, and may see more minutes while Jamal Branch recovers.
Steve Lavin had a feeling that St. John's would get an unexpected contribution before Saturday's game at Georgetown.
Many were surprised when Marc-Antoine Bourgault. who had not seen more than five minutes in any of the Red Storm's nine conference games, scored 12 points in 13 minutes. But Lavin wasn't.
"Marco had a great practice the day before the Georgetown game," Lavin mentioned on Tuesday. "It planted the seed for him to play well."
Bourgault, the Frenchman sharpshooter from Monroe College, hadn't scored in double figures in the 17 games he had played in since joining the team on November 16th.
But his best game - eight points in the Johnnies' loss to UNC-Asheville - came when he played the most minutes (19) he had all season.
And there he was, on the nationally-televised stage against Georgetown, keeping St. John's alive in a game that seemed hopeless.
"Naturally, I go back and wish I had gotten him some more minutes in the first half," Lavin continued. "We want to look to get him open. He has a cannon, a bazooka. He knows that he has the green light, but in fairness to him, he hasn't gotten a lot of minutes."
When you watch Bourgault's silky-smooth stroke, you can't help but wonder why hasn't a team that has struggled so mightily in halfcourt sets - and a team that shoots threes at one of the lowest rates in the country - utilized him more to stretch the floor?
"One of the things that hurt him in stretches was, in the limited time he got, as soon as he'd get in there would be a turnover. I told him: 'If you let them rip the ball from you the first time you catch it, it makes it hard on me to leave you in the game'," Lavin said. "He's kept a good attitude in practice. He hasn't ever been down in the dumps - the sour grapes or locker room lawyer, all the things that can happen when kids aren't playing,"
Lavin recognizes the potential in Bourgault and what having a marksman from deep can do for his team. Despite the limited playing time that he's received this season, Bourgault has green light, "like Emerald City", to shoot whenever the opportunity arises.
Clearly, Bourgault isn't the only perimeter threat that St. John's can present. D`Angelo Harrison (you know, that guy who is second in the Big East for points per game, with 18.9) can shoot from any spot on the floor. He'd shoot from the Avenue of the Americas if you'd asked him to.
"I think D'Angelo actually, in watching someone like Marco, can learn. What Marco did against Georgetown is what I want D'Angelo to do," Lavin mentioned. "[Harrison] often premeditates that, on the catch, he's going to put it on the floor, shot fake and try to get to the mid-range, or he's just going to pass the ball."
It's one of Lavin's favorite sayings, something he learned years ago from the legendary John Wooden. Whatever a player does, he can't take a good shot and turn it into a bad play (by not shooting at all). Though he may think he's distributing and helping teammates create their own shots, the result is often detrimental to the team.
"What we want [D'Angelo] to do every time he catches the ball is put his eyes on the rim and get locked and loaded to pull that trigger," Lavin continued. "Marco did that the other day. We actually need both D'Angelo and Marco to have that mindset when they catch the ball. If you pass those shots up, teams are already devising their game plans to shut you down."
When St. John's welcomes Connecticut to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, they will likely be shorthanded. Jamal Branch, who suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee on Saturday, isn't expected to play.
Thus, reserves like Bourgault, Felix Balamou, and Christian Jones could be expected to play a more significant role. After his performance both in Saturday's game and in recent practices, Bourgault could be the first off Lavin's bench.
Bourgault has an underrated feel for the game. He's smart with his decisions.
Perhaps D`Angelo Harrison will take a page from that book - the possibly-growing French legend called The Count of Marco Bourgault.