Two days before the regular season opener against Wagner, Chris Mullin and St. John's received brutal news that will make the rebuilding process in year one that much more difficult.
Four-star freshman point guard Marcus LoVett has been ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which means he won't be able to play for the entire season but is eligible to practice with the team. He must complete a year of residency to compete in games.
The lefty guard has already appealed the ruling and now may hire a lawyer to further challenge the NCAA's ruling.
"The University disagrees with the NCAA's decision and the process it used in reviewing Marcus' initial eligibility waiver request," St. John's interim athletic director and general counsel Joseph Oliva said in a statement. "We have engaged in several conversations with the NCAA to express our concerns that their process may have violated Marcus' legal rights. Unfortunately it appears that the NCAA elected to disregard these concerns.
"We have advised Marcus and his family to consult with appropriate legal counsel about the options that may be available to challenge the NCAA ruling and the standards it applied in this process."
Mullin showed visible frustration with the situation following the Johnnies preseason win over Sonoma State, calling the timing "absurd." He even said "he would fly to Indianapolis" to talk to NCAA and "investigate himself" because the new head coach is convinced LoVett should be on the court this season with his teammates.
"Marcus and his family have been patient throughout this lengthy process," Mullin said in a statement. "Marcus deserves to play and has done everything asked of him. Our staff is here to encourage Marcus as he continues to work hard on and off the court to be prepared to compete next season."
While LoVett was not going to turn St. John's into a top five Big East team or a consistent winner, his presence would ease the rebuilding process, especially for fellow freshman Federico Mussini. The Italian guard has struggled mightily this preseason against pressure defenses and would have greatly benefited from LoVett's ball handling and passing skills as Mussini is at his best when he spots up for shots beyond the arc.
Felix Balamou, Malik Ellison, Durand Johnson and Ron Mvouika will each receive a bump up in minutes at the shooting guard position with the Johnnies expected to use "big" lineups to counter their lack of backcourt depth.
The Johnnies are still waiting on the NCAA's decision regarding Kassoum Yakwe, who was originally a recruit in the class of 2016.