April 16th – May 21st, 2008 are the dates for the late signing season for college basketball.
The St. John’s Red Storm still have two scholarships to fill for the 2008-2009 season, and many of the impact players are gone. If you follow the recruiting conversation as much as I do, you know that this is considered such a sad thing, an indictment of how crappy the Red Storm are, and another swirl of negativity that surrounds St. John’s.
But it's the on-court results that are the real problem, the severe beatings, the non-competitiveness in conference. And those results don’t correspond to who has the best recruiting class, it corresponds to what a coach can do with that talent. Last year's top-30 recruiting class won 11 games, after all. And it's those on-court results that have to change first, before any flashy recruits join the Johnnies. Combined with the fact that Norm Roberts’ extension hasn’t yet been announced, his recruiting ability is crippled by speculation and rumors.
Which is fine, when you think of it. The team is going to sink and swim with Malik Boothe, Justin Burrell, junior Larry Wright and senior Anthony Mason, Rob Thomas and DJ Kennedy, Paris Horne and Dele Coker. That's why Coach Roberts is coming back for the next year - to show flashes that he can coach 'em up to solid showings in the Big East. The sheer size of the 2007 class alone blocks playing time for most incoming players, besides point guards.
The players that St. John’s is looking at for this recruiting class include a pair of players who are rumored to be going to prep school to improve their grades (i.e., will be 2009 recruits) in Jordan Henriquez and perhaps Sean Kilpatrick; Pennsylvania high school seniors like sg Quincy Roberts (who can supposedly play point) and the diminutive p Karon Burton, local forward/ center Kyrie Sutton, and possibly former Harvard commit Frank Ben-Eze; junior college players like pg Stephan Bonneau, junior college big men c Krys Faber, Zvonko Buljan, and possibly c Jamie Vanderbeken.
What the team absolutely needs is a backup point guard/ ball handler, but that doesn’t have to come from the ranks of new players. The other guards on the Red Storm could make the team better by working on their handle (having one ball handler on the court is never a great idea), their passing, and court sense; distributing the ball shouldn’t be the province of one guy on the court. Good teams can pass the ball to guys with the same colored shirts on.
As far as the other recruit, the team could use a center who can play some decent minutes, since Dele Coker is still a work in progress, Tomas Jasiulionis hasn't improved (and in fact his defensive footwork was worse last year), Justin Burrell is ineffective playing the center position, and Sean Evans isn't enough of a threat on either end to justify extensive playing time yet.
All of that isn’t to say that Coach Roberts won’t pull a rabbit out of his recruiting hat in the next month. Last year’s late signing period brought in two players who earned playing time in Sean Evans and DJ Kennedy. Kennedy was bouncy and a great find as a rebounder, and Evans showed some potential and a lot of growth over the course of the year.
Wait 'Til Next Year?
But Coach Roberts might do better to shelve a scholarship or two for next year’s talented class with Omari Lawrence (whose comments indicate that SJU has a long way to go to convince him to commit, Tevin Baskin, Kevin Parrom, David Bruce, Sherrod Wright, and Russell Smith among local targets. Bringing in players just to get the fans and recruiting journalists excited may be less beneficial than simply pocketing the scholarships and bringing in a more impactful class in a year’s time to replace Jasiulionis and Anthony Mason Jr., and when the coaching status will be resolved one way or another.
Norm Roberts’ team has to sink or swim with the players that he has right now. And the players, coaches, and recruits know that swimming with the sharks has to happen this year. Any incoming player will not be of great impact. And with 8 sophomores, a junior and 2 seniors, other players will warrant playing time if the team wants to more than they did last year. Winning brings in the recruits; the time for moral victories and developmental losses is over.
PS 1: Connecticut Journal-Inquirer states that forward Kelvin Henry may try to walk-on next year at St. John’s. Some stats on him.
PS 2: Seton Hall and Providence have one more recruit each than St. John’s does. So for those who think Bobby Gonzalez is getting it done, perhaps he should bring a few more players into the fold before being canonized as a great recruiter on the Big East level.