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St. John's basketball: roles and competition

In most sports, coaches welcome competition among their players.

The ability to have strategic options (and sometimes, a little leverage) is a luxury coaches rave about in interviews. But having options that all believe they are good enough to get time can cause problems in getting players the time they think they deserve.

In that vein, here is a local Georgia article on Justin Brownlee, a JUCO forward signed by the St. John's Red Storm:

Brownlee who is now 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, expects to be a perimeter player for St. Johns. Brownlee said his intentions are to work on outside shooting, defense and conditioning this summer, and hopes to arrive in New York in tip top shape in the fall.

My own speculation was that a player of that height and weight would be signed to give some help down low. Rob Thomas plays forward at about that height and weight (though the weight is a little suspect, he looks bigger and stronger). The team, with the loss of two centers in the transferred Phil Wait and the graduated Tomas Jasiulionis, is a little weak in the middle - even if neither player was a difference maker on the court last year.

And on the perimeter, the team has Mason Jr./ Kennedy/ Horne/ Omari Lawrence/ Dwight Hardy/ Quincy Roberts at the 2/3, or the shooting guard and wing positions. With the possible exception of Kennedy in the hands of an imaginative coach, all of those players need to play on the perimeter, especially on defense. There are options there; Horne is a solid defensive player, Kennedy is aggressive, Mason has height and shooting ability, Hardy is a perimeter shooter... there are options, and ability for improvement from someone in the group.

Meanwhile, the three forwards, and center Dele Coker, will need to average 20 minutes apiece on the floor. That's a lot to ask, considering the possibility of injury, suspension, and ineffectiveness from the 4 players. Coker averaged much less than 20 minutes per game. Burrell had ineffective stretches (with the mask on his face). Rob Thomas has struggled with some injury. Sean Evans has been decent but can't play 40 minutes with his style of full-effort play. To top that off, the average in minutes played by each player last year:

PLAYER, MINUTES
Sean Evans, 27.5
Justin Burrell, 25.8
Rob Thomas, 13.6
Dele Coker, 10

To be fair, the team played with about the same rotation, but with Jasiulionis and Wait ready for emergency minutes.

Still, the team needs another forward option. Brownlee may be it; but if he is planning on (or has been asked to) play in the glut of players at the shooting guard and wing positions, I'm not sure that everybody is going to be happy. And sometimes, some player dissatisfaction is necessary to put the best complement on players on the floor. But with help needed up front, and a lack of options, it is going to be hard to play a 30 game season like this without some improved performances.