With Moe Harkless moved on to the NBA, all eyes turn to D`Angelo Harrison, the high-scoring St. John's sophomore and returning all-Big East rookie team member. The second-year player will be tasked with an expanded creative role for the Red Storm under head coach Steve Lavin.
D`Angelo Harrison will be expected to expand his repertoire on the floor while maintaining a leadership role. As he did with former guard Dwight Hardy, Lavin is pumping his current star up as the team's on- and off-court leader.
And the gregarious Harrison is looking forward to the challenge.
As a freshman, Harrison could get a little reckless on the floor. There was a lot of swagger, along with hints of youth and notes of inexperience. Harrison's innate scoring talent and self-challenging personality often distanced observers from the reality of his youth. But he knows that even after averaging 17 points per game as a freshman, there's plenty of room for improvement.
"I've been working on slowing my game down," said Harrison. "This offseason has been a lot about style of play, dribbling, and reading screen-and-rolls. Reading plays is going to be big for me this year."
Last year, Harrison often attacked defenses in transition, willing to put up shots from almost anywhere within the halfcourt line. He is learning as he rolls through his career at St. John's, some of the necessary intangibles are gained over time - patience and recognition. Harrison may not always play the part, but he's a bit of a perfectionist. He knows that sustained hard work will get him to where he wants to be.
"I worked with John Lucas down in Houston all summer," he mentioned. "So hopefully I have some new tricks up my sleeve."
With Lavin's intentions of giving Harrison significant time as point guard, the comparisons to former Red Storm guard Dwight Hardy naturally emerge. Like Hardy was in 2011, Harrison is a natural off-the-ball scoring threat that is being asked to be a facilitator. Someone is supposed to set him up.
"The staff has been showing me tape of Hardy, especially that game at home against Pittsburgh," Harrison said. "He is certainly someone I'd like to emulate."
What remains to be seen is how the St. John's sophomore will develop in his new role as court general. Lavin's decision to put the ball into Hardy's hands exposed the guard's strengths as an improvising offensive creator, and the hope is that this go-round will be similar.
Within months (even weeks), Hardy went from being a three-point specialist off the bench to a fully blossomed, well-rounded scorer that carried his team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years and obtained First Team All-Big East honors.
If you watched D`Angelo Harrison during his freshman year at St. John's, you know all about his unbounded potential. With fine tuning, an inch of added height that he gained this offseason, and an acceptance of this new role, Harrison could become one of the best players in the conference come January and February.
"Dwight Hardy is a great player. But I'm D'Angelo Harrison, so I'm going to do what I do."
Lavin is shaping Harrison into the go-to man for the young Johnnies this season, making sure the ball is in the hands of the Red Storm's most dangerous playmaker.
We've always known that D'Angelo Harrison is comfortable in his own skin. He'll reel you in with his smile and win you over with his killer instinct.
But on this team, he's responsible for more than himself. He's now one of the older guys. If he can add "leadership" to his prolific scoring, the Johnnies could challenge some of the Big East's best.