The season is coming like the British in '76. Teams across the country are optimistic, and St. John's is no exception. Returning 35 7 sophomores, 2 seniors, and with 3 incoming freshmen, there is growth to be achieved. The players have been working hard all summer.
But so have the other teams.
St. John's invited a number of local media members to talk to team members about how they have improved and what they expect from the season; backup guard and scoring are the most obvious concerns.
I would say defense is another great concern; last year's teams was a turnstile in the paint and allowed too many easy shots.
Eugene Lawrence, though often maligned, criticized, and booed, brought strength, free throw attempts, passing, and steals to the team, and he will be missed; can Malik Boothe fill his shoes after a questionable and turnover-filled freshman year (albeit with excellent passing)? And the outside shooting was woeful... and then the best 3-point shooter left the squad.
So what did Coach Norm Roberts and his players have to say about the coming year?
- Coach Norm Roberts expects more from the team, now that they are mature and know what to expect from the conference - the level of play and the crispness of execution. His greatest concern is the backup point guard, where he feels his two freshmen have to step up.
- Senior center Tomas Jasiulionis mentioned Dele Coker's newfound quickness and confidence.
- Paris Horne talked about his shooting and strength as focuses in the offseason, and how his shooting will free up the slashers and post players to be successful. He sees himself as an energy player, getting into passing lanes, diving for loose balls, creating energy.
- TyShwan Edmondson thinks he's getting used to college ball; and plans to come in and protect the ball, along with being a defensive threat. He's been playing against Malik Boothe in practice.
- In a video interview on the same site (no direct link) Rob Thomas says he is working on his stamina, he felt tired during the games last year - he's working on his jumper and dribble... and he other thing he's working on is improving his psyche, his confidence in his knee and his ability to drive.
Note: TyShwan's going to have a bit of a rude awakening, I think; but he looks long and seems quick, so he might be a steal machine, which this squad could use.
Paris Horne did decently as the energy guy last year, taking on defensive assignments; here's hoping that with a little more strength he is better at that task and gets a few more steals (and converts them into dunks with his speed).
As stated a few months ago, I like Rob Thomas as an offensive forward threat with touch around the basket and some rebounding ability on both ends. If he is physically able to ball, he'll be player number 8 in the rotation, and a welcome addition.
- Lenn Robbins enters a short post likening the can-do attitude of President-elect Obama to the Red Storm, listing three keys to the team - Justin Burrell scoring double-doubles, Mason playing like a first-team all Big East player, and a freshman emerging as a viable backup behind Malik Boothe.
Coach Roberts joked that the team will have no more "Daddy Day Care". I guess coach is one of those people who saw the movie?
But this article has some other excellent nuggets -
- If players are not filling their roles, Coach Roberts will not hesitate to yank them out of the game.
- Coker will likely start the year as the sixth man behind Sean Evans, depending on matchups; Boothe, Kennedy, Mason, and Burrell will be the other starters, and Horne will get significant time off the bench.
- On expectations: "I don’t know if I can give you any significant numbers," Roberts said, "but I know we’re gonna be better. The expectations will be higher. They know how much harder they have to work now. They realize in the Big East that’s how it is.... when you haven’t accomplished anything, you shouldn’t expect to be ranked high."
The way the staff has been talking up Dele Coker, I would have thought he would start; but in due time, if he is capable, he will get on the floor to continue his excellent rebounding.
Zagsblog also posts some news and quotes:
- Anthony Mason Jr. thinks he played around 80% last year. Coach Roberts tells Adam Zagoria, "When you watch him play, he does a great job of making tough shots with guys hanging on him. The thing that he’s gotta get better at is making the open shot. When you’re wide open, just step up and stick it. Those are the shots he’s gotta get better at making. I also think he’s gotta score in different ways. He’s gotta be able to get to the free throw line. At 6-foot-7, long athletic, he can dunk any way he wants to. When you’re not going good, and the shots are not falling, you gotta get to the free throw line….He’s got to do those things to get himself going when the jump shot’s not there."
- Roberts would like to see Rob Thomas get more aggressive and help out with scoring. To add to what was written earlier in this post, I think Thomas can make the Red Storm look more like a team that belongs in the Big East. He showed some flashes of talent.
- Coach thinks Paris Horne may be the third offensive option with his athleticism and ballhandling: "He can jump out of the [gym]. His jumper is looking good. He got his handle down. He’ll probably help out Malik a little bit bringing it up the court. I believe all of them, but Paris will open up some eyes this year."
Note: I do hold some promise for Mason's senior year. His 3-point shooting was good in conference but his shot selection was garbage; he should be skying inside, hammering down dunks, and getting fouled. He has the ability. But he should hang out with Rob Thomas and they can both get aggressive with their drives to the hoop.
And Paris Horne looked like he had some diverse ability on the court last year; I would love to see him manning the point a little... if he gets his turnover percentage down and actually attempts to pass to the open teammate more often. So I suppose I don't really want to see him at the point; he actually hit some shots last year, so he might benefit the team by looking for his shot.
Lastly, Five Boro Sports on Malik Boothe and Sky Lindsay, who are friends from Christ the King High School in Queens. A quote from Norm Roberts on what Malik Boothe has to be:
"I have to be absolutely the toughest guy on the floor every single night."