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St. John's basketball 2008 Year In Review Part III: Justin Burrell

Part 0 of the Series - Opening | Part I of the Series: Team stats | Part II of the Series: Malik Boothe

(stats taken from, Statsheet, Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Prospectus, and my own calculations)

2007-2008: Freshman
Position: Power Forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 235 lbs
Age: 19 (04/18/1988)
Home: Bronx, NY

Justin Burrell 2007-2008 Highs

High Points 22 (USF)
High Assists 2 (ND)
High Rebounds 14 (FDU)
High Rbds (Conf) 12 (SYR)
High Minutes 40 (USF)
High Steals 3 (CONN)
High FT Attempts 7 (SYR)
High Blocks 3 (VT)
High Turnovers 7 (GT, SHU)

The Shining Jewel of the Recruiting Class.

For St. Johns’ men’s basketball, anticipating the coming Justin Burrell was kind of like anticipating the presidential promise of Barack Obama. He was the receptacle for all of the fans’ athletic vision of change, of winning coveted recruiting prizes, of a positive shift in culture. He was going to be the inside presence that Mason and Lawrence would play off of. The man who would wipe 5 years of futility—and really, when you think about it, 15 years of mediocrity – off the map with beasting interior power.

Justin Burrell vs Providence hand slaps

But in 30 games, he couldn’t turn water into wine, pull the Red Storm out of the muck with his fellow frosh, or maintain in-conference consistency. In truth, he was never Obama. Besides the whole polished politician aspect, completely different circumstances, and the discrepancy in skills, Burrell is a raw and talented athlete with a wealth of talent, who wears his losses and frustrations on his face. To truly impress, he had to not only replace the steady Lamont Hamilton (now playing in Spain for Basket Inca in Mallorca, an island in the Mediterranean with, uh, sights), but to one-up him, running the court faster, and scoring more.

Justin’s first year proved a few things: Burrell at the hoophe is an ATHLETE.

- When he got free for a good dunk, the rim rattled.

- He can run.

- He gives a damn and gets frustrated with losing.

- He can even shoot a little bit.

- He has some developing low post moves and he is agile.

- He can play a lot of minutes.

- He eagerly looks to take a charge.

- His free throw shooting is very, very good for a big man at 73.5%.

Fans see him as the centerpiece of the team, and there is a lot to build on. But looking at the results, and not the potential, isn’t pretty business:

- His 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds come from a lot of minutes, not necessarily efficient/ dominant scoring or rebounding.

- He didn’t get to the rim enough (and that can be seen in the shooting percentages and the anemic free throw rate for such a high-usage player).

- His post moves are okay, but needed work. His shots need to fall more often.

- Justin’s defense – especially against Joe Alexander of West Virginia – needs work. Or strength. His defensive recognition probably needs work also.

- Those damned turnovers.

A deeper look, after the jump.

But It's The Team, Too.

In thinking about potential, we often forget that a scorer is often only as good as his delivery system. Eugene Lawrence seemed to inexplicably just not see Burrell establishing position in the post. More and more, entry passes to the post are a skill that players don’t have, because they were the star of their team or because they don’t have dominant big men. St. John’s as a squad has to get better at feeding the ball to the big man so he can eat, tossing him some alley-oops, and otherwise keeping him involved. That part of the game is not on Justin.

Burrell near victoryThe part of his game that Justin HAS to improve upon is his passing. Burrell often found himself double-teamed with no where to go and passed the ball… to a teammate no one could see. This team needs Burrell, but they also need to value their possessions – no more of these 10+ turnover halves. Justin, DJ, Geno, Mase, and Boothe were all heavy culprits, but it was a team effort. For his part, Justin has to see his man before the pass, because he ain’t handling the rock enough to cough it up that much. And with the way teams double him, he’s got to be able to find open shooters. Even if they’re not good at shooting.

Part of the doubling down is owed to the offense—the players looked out of sorts, slow to move the ball around, slow to recognize Justin when he had excellent position in the post. And St. John’s, admittedly, only had about 3 scoring threats at a time, and none of them was a deadeye from any part of the floor. But each player has to improve on his/ her game, and with the double-down, Justin has to make faster, stronger, more decisive moves.

High Minutes, Early.

Justin shouldn’t have been the focus of so many offensive sets. He wasn’t ready to credibly carry a team; he was best playing off of a slasher like Mason, who draws Burrell’s defender off of him for the jump shot or even better, the Cathedral Rocker dunk. He should have post plays drawn for him, no doubt; but also some off-the-ball action to account for his athleticism, minimize his ball handling, and make the SportsCenter crowd go DAAAAAAAAAAMN!

I do believe Justin wore down during the season. Justin at the hoop10 double digit rebound performances, but only 2 in conference. 17 double figure scoring efforts, but only 2 in the last 7 games. He needs another post player to take the attention off of him, and to spell him. Who that will be will be discussed in coming posts, for certain. But an offseason of continued conditioning, and a better understanding of the league will help. And practice. This man needs practice on his shots, practice on his post moves and counter moves, and practice locating and communicating with his teammates.

On defense… well, I hope he gets stronger, and I hope that allows him to hold his position and get better situated for rebounds. Some footwork training might help also. Everyone on this team has to play tough defense for the current coaching regime to have a chance at success.

As for the Hamilton comparison, Hamilton was a fairly low-turnover player who got to the line. He was a better scorer when Daryll Hill took up more possessions and took more shots. With a lot of work, that could be Justin, but unlike some of his teammates, the amount of work to become a spectacular player doesn’t look out of reach from what we’ve seen from Burrell. But he, and the team, have to get more easy shots.

All Conf
Minutes Per Game 31.5 31.3
Effective FG Pct 42.9% 40.9%
FG Pct 42.9 40.9
3pt FG Pct 0 0
FT Pct 73.5 75.9
FT Att/ FG Att 24.5% 23.7%
Points Per Game 10.8 10.9
Rebounds Per Game 5.9 5.2
Off Rebs Per Game 1.8 1.7
Def Rebs Per Game 4.1 3.5
Assists Per Game 0.5 0.5
Steals Per Game 0.4 0.4
Turnovers Per Game 2.8 2.9
Assist-Turnover Ratio 0.2 0.2
Blocks Per Game 0.7 0.6
Fouls Per Game 2.9 3