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Three veterans set to guide the young Johnnies

Felix Balamou, Ron Mvouika and Durand Johnson will lead a young unit through the Big East.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it's high school to college or college to the NBA, adjusting to the next level of basketball is never easy.

In the case of the six new freshman, the transition will come under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Chris Mullin and the leadership of senior Felix Balamou, former Pittsburgh Panther Durand Johnson and former Missouri State guard Ron Mvouika.

Balamou only played 9.2 minutes per game last season, scoring 1.3 points, but he is one of three holdovers from last season NCAA Tournament team that battled off-the-court issues and drama for the entirety of the year. The 6'4" bouncy guard has not played a prominent role in college, yet he has practiced against talented players like Sir'Domenic Pointer and D'Angelo Harrison while also contributing on the glass and defensively in spot minutes.

While there are reports of Balamou playing power forward and moving around to fill a number of different roles, the veteran is not worried about his individual accomplishments, but instead he is focused on the team and being unselfish.

"I don't know who came up with that," the senior said at Big East Media Day Wednesday at The Garden. "I don't worry about that. I'm worried about the team right now because we're getting ready for the season. We are going to compete and we are going to go as far as we can."

Johnson, who very well may be the best player on the roster, played in the Big East during his freshman and sophomore years at Pittsburgh. Johnson had the opportunity to face top programs, Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Cincinnati, in the old alignment while also playing for one of the more well-known coaches in the nation Jamie Dixon.

"I'm a complete all-around player," Johnson said. I sat a year and I worked all summer just for this moment right now and I feel like I'm ready to go."

The versatile guard suffered a torn ACL before the 2014-15 season and was unable to play for the Panthers as they matched up against some of the top teams in the nation in the ACC. Now, he is hungry to get back and will show his leadership through action.

"Obviously his experience shows," head coach Chris Mullin said. "He has confidence, his energy is infectious in practice and he's competitive in the right way. He's a hard worker and he leads by example."

"Wherever coach needs me," Johnson said when asked about his role. "I'll do whatever it takes. I want to be the best I can be day in and day out but I also want to be the best leader I can be and the best person I can be on and off the court."

Speaking of hunger, Mvouika has plenty of it following a season where he also suffered a major injury that ended his senior campaign after two games.

"It was a tough situation," Mvouika said with intensity pouring out of his words. "I'm a fighter. I don't do anything but fight. I probably was a boxer in another life. I took that as another round that you have to go through. But I'm ready to get out there and keep working. Work is the number one goal."

While the 6'6" versatile guard hasn't had the chance to play college basketball in a "major" conference, his toughness, energy and fire is evident and is likely to pay off against physical powerhouses in the Big East.

"I'm sharing stories with (the young guys)," Mvouika said. "They will look at my resume and where I have been before and they are willing to listen. I played in France, Spain, high school, prep school, junior college, college, every level. It gives me some credibility when it comes to trying to talk to these guys."

While the Johnnies are very much an unknown in the middle of October, one thing we can expect is for the team to play hard-nosed basketball, a style that colleges across the east coast do not want to deal with.