At the end of March when Chris Mullin accepted the head coaching job at St. John's, he knew he had to piece together a roster that was losing four seniors, including one of the best scorers in program history in D'Angelo Harrison. The pressure rose even more with the departures of shot blocker Chris Obekpa and point guard Rysheed Jordan, but with the help of assistants Matt Abdelmassih and Barry 'Slice' Rohrssen, the Johnnies landed nine new players in a matter of months.
Mullin's first class is led by five critical freshman that are excited to get the chance to work with a coach that has many impressive accolades
"The main reason I chose St. John's was because of Chris Mullin," shooting guard Malik Ellison said. "Obviously he's been everywhere I go and I just looked at it as a great opportunity for myself."
"Playing for Coach Mullin," big man Yankuba Sima said when asked why he chose St. John's. "It's an honor and not a lot of people can say that they played for a Hall of Famer."
"Mullin," point guard Marcus LoVett said. "He was a huge factor for me. Being coached by a guy who's been on the Dream Team is something I really couldn't overlook. For me I felt like I had to (commit). He knows the ropes on how to get to the next level."
Yes, St. John's hasn't even reached their first game of the season, but the players are already seeing a motivated coach who is capable of succeeding in the coaching business. Mullin grants his players plenty of freedom in his NBA, fast paced style of offense, which relies heavily on moving the basketball and attacking the paint when the opportunity arises.
This will give LoVett and Mussini, two players with great poise and vision, the chance to flourish early in their college careers.
"If we're playing free like that, it's going to bring us closer as a team," LoVett said. "Then we start finding each other, which is obviously a good thing. The type of style we're going to play is going to be good in our favor. He (Mullin) has a great game plan. We just have to listen to it and we'll be fine."
"I like to make my teammates feel comfortable," Mussini said. "I find them and I get them into a rhythm so they can knock down shots and help us win games. So Mullin makes us really confident. He's going to help us a lot."
Playing in the Big East is a lot different than high school basketball and Mullin is helping his new talents understand that they must transform their weaknesses and their bodies in order to play against stronger, more athletic college athletes.
"Coach (Mullin) is helping me with my shot and my free throws," forward Kassoum Yakwe. "I'm getting a lot better though."
"I'm working on my body," Mussini said. "I'm trying to get bigger because I have to play defense against bigger point guards and I need to be more efficient on offense."
If LoVett and Yakwe are granted eligibility by the NCAA, the five freshman could have a massive impact together within the Big East, but putting the work in and sticking together seems to be the first step in this rebuilding process.
"It motivates us," LoVett said when asked about the low projections given for the Red Storm. "But we're not going to look too much at wins. As long as we're in the gym and we're working hard together as a team that will say more than some rankings."