"We've got a team full of sponges. Everybody in here is trying to listen, learn." - Nurideen Lindsey
Smart hoops fans understand: young teams in a major conference does not usually mix into efficient basketball. There are exceptions that we will touch on in the coming weeks. But generally, articles like Luke Winn's Freshman Realism Project ring true - expecting to reach the top of the conference table is unreasonable with young teams.
St. John's Assistant Coach Rico Hines and the staff have been focused on conditioning and teaching, which is right up Rico's alley - player development.
Hines spoke for the coaching staff after the Tip Off, addressing the lack of bodies on the team. "We're definitely going to roll things back, manage guys more, and use a lot of dry-runs and five-on-zeros," he said. "We can't really afford to have injuries so we're going to turn it back as far as how we prepare them." The team's lack of depth will be bolstered by walk-ons in the coming weeks (try-outs were this morning), which will help them run full practices.
More on the players' expectations, below the fold.
Since the men didn't scrimmage at Red Storm Tip-Off, there's not a lot that can be said about how the players looked - except that in terms of raw athletic talent, this team has a higher ceiling than the large class that just left campus. Veteran Malik Stith agreed, adding "it's like a super AAU team because there are a lot of guys with different skills."
The young players are confident in their ability, with Nurideen Lindsey being the most introspective/ intense. He is confident that this young squad can play with the same tenacity as last year's roster, being "a pest on defense, a nightmare on offense." He downplayed any jealousy about who takes the shots or players' roles on the team. Unity and building cohesiveness has been the players' focus; though the first practice, the first games, and the first in-team beef hasn't come yet.
For Harkless, not having the missing recruits (Jakarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle, and Amir Garrett) is tough, but he is "thinking positive", and is focused on moving forward. The expectations aren't muted; Stith mentioned that the goal is to "win every game," as it should be for a competitive squad. Nuri, feeling more competitive, mentioned that the goal is "to win a national championship."
Unrealistic? Sure. But it should be a goal for every team going into the season.
As far as what he's seen so far, Hines was very positive about the team's talent level. Despite not having the players for full practices, Hones noted that unlike last year when the staff had to ride Dwight Hardy's scoring talent to victory, "there are three or four guys who can get 20 [points] on a given night."
Hines mentioned that Nurideen and Moe Harkless are talented scorers, D'Angelo's a talented shooter, and that God'sGift can run end-to-end very well. Phil Greene is fast with the ball and tough; even former walk-on Jamal White has a chance to get on the court and contribute to the team.
When asked to comment on their teammates, both Phil Greene and Nuri Lindsey repeatedly used the description "tough". Toughness and tenacity is emerging as a focus of the young Red Storm. There is a lot of talent, a tough coaching staff, and the competitive desire to win. They just have to buy in to the team concept, and in to playing defense.
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See the Baselines series - preseason looks at this year's roster