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Preview: Phil Greene, growing into his role

John Alber

We know there's a subset of you that just aren't feeling St. John's junior guard Phil Greene IV's game.

He's not particularly efficient from the field, hitting 37% of his shots overall while taking 23% of the shots while on the floor - only fewer than JaKarr Sampson and D`Angelo Harrison. And many of those shots were taken early in the shot clock, from a good distance away from the basket yet still inside the arc (sometimes with one foot ON the three-point line), making his shots less valuable than they would have been.

But it's important to respect that an important part of Steve Lavin's scheme is controlled aggressiveness and not turning the ball over. Chicago's own PG-IV has a vital skill, the ability to get shots up. His aggressiveness means that Greene is a low-turnover guard for the Red Storm, and the team gets scoring opportunities when he plays so decisively.

When the shots are falling - like when Greene dropped 20 against Marquette or 21 vs Louisville - he looks like the kind of unconventional Russell Westbrookian kind of guard that's hard to hate.

When the shots aren't falling, he looks like the kind of unconventional Russ Westbrookian guard that is easy to hate.

Greene is a player who requires opponents to at least pay attention to him. His passing - assisting on 15% of shots last year - is in the solid combo-guard range. Now, if he could improve on the 23% 3-point shooting? He'd be a very intriguing player, especially in what seems to be his new role.

Despite starting 32 games last year for St. John's, it seems that he'll come off the bench, a fast-heating coil of scoring energy who'll provide some punch when the first unit starts to stagnate.

What Phil Greene did well

  • Greene was hard to restrict. He is quick and crafty enough to find spaces in the middle of the defense off the dribble and get his shot up. That's a dangerous skill, especially when complemented by shooters on the wing and players in the post who can score. (St. John's didn't really have those.)
  • On some of his poorer nights, he did look to pass successfully. In a 2/11 shooting game against Connecticut, he assisted five teammates' shots; against South Florida, while suffering through an 0/7 night, he assisted on 6.

What Phil Greene needs to improve

  • His results were hit and miss. He shot 50% or better from the field against Saint Joseph's and Marquette, but overall, shot 33% from the field in Big East play. He did go scoreless against NJIT, DePaul, and Georgetown.
  • His steal rate went down from 2.4% of opponent possessions to 1.1%. Was his defense markedly worse? Or just less risky?

On this site, we captured the vocal change in Phil Greene. "His progression," D`Angelo Harrison told Quinn, "he's gone from the freshman that didn't want to talk to being maybe the loudest person in the locker room."

Greene is experienced and tough, playing through a hip injury that required offseason surgery in the spring. Will a more vocal, more explosive Phil Greene IV improve the Red Storm offense, so inefficient last year and rated near the bottom of last year's Big East? Can he, coming off the bench, provide a turnover-free level of chaos that puts opponents on their heels?

Of note is the efficiency improvement from the Rutgers game (January 23) on. He increased his scoring average from 8.6 points/ game to 11.9 points/ game, showing a bit more consistency (here, displayed in points per shot).


His 2-point shooting percentage increased from 42% to 44%, his free throw rate inched up to 15% of his attempts, his turnovers went down slightly (as did his assists). And his three-point shooting took a slight hit (from 26% to 19%).

For Greene, Steve Lavin likes his game, so we will see a lot of him. But efficiency and consistency is key for the guard who depends so heavily on hitting runners inside the arc for scoring success.

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